In this guide we will discuss the dilemma of choosing the wrong career and the mental health issues- such as depression- that comes along with it. We will also discuss what could have led to this particular situation and what you can do about it.
What to do if you are depressed over a wrong career choice?
Some steps you can take if you are experiencing depression and stress over a wrong career choice include:
- Seek support from an occupational therapist or job coach
- Connect with loved ones
- Accept that careers are non-linear
- Get researching
Career choices or a job is a major part of our lives since most of our time and our life is engaged in meeting the demands of responsibilities of our occupation.
In fact, most of our major milestones such as graduating highschool, getting into college, building skills are all part of the journey towards getting a job and establishing a career.
Being in the middle of that journey- spending a few years of your life studying and preparing for the job, or dedicating years to a particular role- and realising that you have made a wrong decision in choosing this career path can be disheartening and stress inducing.
Especially when you have responsibilities such as providing for your family, paying off loans, and putting food on the table tied to the job, the idea of “starting over” or “switching careers” can seem incredibly hard.
Whatever your reason maybe to have realised that the present career you are working for is not for you and you find yourself extremely dissatisfied, the stress can lead to psychological issues and even full blown depression.
Depression is a mental health disorder classified under mood disorders which is identified based on various symptoms such as:
Fatigue and exhaustion even without physical exertion
Sleep pattern disruption
Thoughts about suicide
The disorder is also accompanied by rumination over negative issues about their lives, hopelessness, and a deep feeling of worthlessness. Depression is diagnosed when these symptoms persist for more than two weeks and causes dysfunction in one’s social and occupational life.
If the stress and dissatisfaction of your career path is causing depression, it could manifest in your being generally unhappy with your job, withdrawal from social circles such as your coworkers, the inability to perform your job related tasks.
The stress would also spill over to your personal life- tension within the family, with your romantic relationships, and your friends. You might not be able to meet the demands of these relationships and prefer to be alone most of the time.
If what has been mentioned above is what you are experiencing, you could be struggling with depression and it is advisable that you meet a professional to help you get treatment. A doctor- psychiatrist- and possibly, an occupational therapist can also help you understand the root of your depression.
Is it the job or are you dissatisfied with your choice?
If you are keenly aware that this is related to your career choice, it is important to understand whether it is the present job/role/academic journey that is causing your distress or are you dissatisfied with the choice of career.
While an occupational therapist can help you get to the root of this question, let us take a moment to consider a few points as well.
The first issue to consider is whether you are dissatisfied with your career choice or whether it is the current job you do not like. Workplace environments can often lead to burnout and depression.
WHO highlights that there are various work related issues that can prove a risk to mental health. They highlight that most risks relate to
“…interactions between type of work, the organizational and managerial environment, the skills and competencies of employees, and the support available for employees to carry out their work.”
The reason why you might be dissatisfied with your work place could be because of inadequate health (including mental health) and safety policy, poor communication amongst various tiers of management, you are not allowed to be part of any decision making or have control over how you do your job, inflexible working hours or inhuman working hours, unclear objectives within the organisation.
These issues can bring about tremendous stress amongst employees especially when the demand for productivity is pressing without support and care of the employees well-being, inputs, and unrealistic expectations without taking into consideration the skill set of the employees.
Now, if you think this is exactly what you are facing, which is making you regret your choice of career, the strategy you take to resolve the issue is different from if you are completely dissatisfied with the career itself.
Signs you may have chosen an ill-fitted career path
Sheri Jacobson for Harley therapy writes,
“It is important to understand if your dissatisfaction with your career is just a passing phase, or if it’s truly time to change careers.”
She highlights that to understand this is to reflect on what has made you choose this present career path that you are unhappy with. Some of your reasonings could be:
- You chose a career without enough information, that your decision was not informed and rather based on what was on the surface. For example, many kids choose to become doctors because of how “cool” it is, or how helpful they are to the community.
They are often not informed about how much prep work goes into becoming a doctor and how many health risks are involved in such a high stress career.
- Your decision was influenced by your family. Often family values are passed on through generations and you might have mistaken these values as your own- especially when the family environment does not allow for exploration.
You might have chosen this career to appease your parents or because your parents told you how financially stable it would be or how much of a respectable job it is.
- Similar to parent involvement, sometimes we choose careers without much self-awareness. This is a common thread in most people who are dissatisfied with their jobs.
You might have been completely unaware of what you wanted to do, or what made you happy, or what your values and perspectives about yourself, others and the world was (or is).
You might have simply chosen the job because everyone else is doing it.
- Personal growth.
Personal growth leads to different beliefs, new perspectives, and new goals. Your present career path or job might no longer fit you as you have progressed further.
Perhaps it might have been a good fit before, for example- you might have valued the idea of “pushing through, working hard, earning money” but life events might have made you realise that you prefer to “spend time with your family” or “help people” .
These changes in values can definieity throw you off especially if the job does not accommodate your new found values.
These few points, if you think that it fits your current situation, could mean that you are truly dissatisfied with your choice and not just a passing phase.
Career or job dissatisfaction, especially in the face of responsibility, can make you feel hopeless and stuck with no way out. You might think that because of your age that there is no way you can start over.
Or you might even think that the amount spent on your education will simply go to waste and your parents will be heartbroken, not to mention financially devastated.
While all of these fears are valid, let us take a moment to consider that there might be various ways to deal with this issue. Let us take a look at what you can do to overcome this.
Navigating your career path
When we talk about navigating, we are talking about taking control of your career direction in spite of what the road ahead might look like. Here are a few things you can do to help yourself and your career life.
- Seek support
First thing’s first- your well-being. If you are experiencing symptoms of depression for more than two weeks and it is negatively impacting your quality of life- it is time to seek support.
Get to a doctor who can help you figure out your health condition and if there is a possible diagnosis, they can help you get the correct treatment for you.
Get in touch with a therapist, when they are able to see that the problem lies with your career they will probably recommend you to a career counsellor or an occupational therapist.
A therapist will most likely help you develop insight as to why you are feeling this way- whether it is your current job or the career in general- and also guide you as you learn coping strategies.
- Connect with loved ones
Talk to your parents, your family, your partner, and your children about why you are struggling. By being open about it, it also helps your loved ones prepare for possible changes and encourages stigmatization of very normal human experiences that are often shunned.
- Accept that careers are non-linear
Most fears when it comes to changing careers is that we think we will be starting from scratch but that is simply not true. Your shifting job and careers does not disregard your learnings and skills that you have acquired over the years.
The field might be different and its applications a little new- but can still progress as you would otherwise if you keep in mind that careers do not progress in a straight line.
If you think that changing your place of employment will help you and your well-being, remember that moving to new places doesn’t mean you leave all that you have worked for behind. In fact, your experience can even increase your package even if it is for a new role.
- Get researching
If you think that you need to change your career and your role is not suited for you, the best thing you can do is collaborate with a career counsellor and research what alternate careers you can build from your degrees, your skills, and experience.
There is no hard and fast rule that says that if you have studied to become a psychotherapist you have to go for licensing, and see 15-20 clients every week just because that is the “normal” route.
You can choose to become a project coordinator for mental health programs, get into policy making, become a researcher, or a writer. You might have to take a few courses but usually these courses are not long and do not require much financial investment.
Researching and gaining awareness of the opportunities available for you can help you get moving towards the career that you want and that falls in line with what you believe in.
In this guide we have taken the liberty of discussing career path dissatisfaction by exploring the signs of wrong career choices and what you can do to get yourself moving toward a career you want to invest yourself in.
Frequently asked questions related to “Depression over wrong career choice”
What is the most common mistake when choosing a career?
Common mistakes most people make when choosing a career is focusing on the financial aspect of it, overlooking the trajectory of the career, and underestimating one’s own skills.
Another common mistake is over looking one’s own values and letting other people choose their careers for them and believing that careers are linear.
What are the biggest career mistakes to avoid?
Some of the career mistakes people make include putting your career ahead of their personal well-being and not networking. They also make the mistake of under-valuing their skill sets leading to poorer pay packages.
Other mistakes that often lead to shunted career growth is not updating their skill sets frequently by taking on programs and further courses for skill and knowledge acquisition.
What happens if you choose the wrong career?
If you think you have made the wrong career choice take a moment to reflect on these points:
- Make Sure It’s Your Career You Hate, and Not Your Job or Your Boss or colleagues
- Do Some Soul-Searching. Take a break to think things over
- Talk people who have gone through the same thing- connect with support groups
- Take to a career or occupational counsellor
- Start learning transferable skills
What are the problems of career choice?
The problems of career choice in the lives of most students or fresh professionals include Lack of Guidance and awareness building about a particular career instead of generic information. Peer and Parent Pressure to join a particular program, and Salary or status Driven Decisions.
How do I stop worrying about my career choice?
Few thing you can do to manage worries and anxieties about your career choice are:
- Talk to someone about it- a mentor, a manager, a career counsellor.
- Analyze the fear- is it realistic or is it exaggerated
- Analysis where the fear is coming from- is it because you feel inadequate or perhaps people do not support your choice
- Take care of yourself by being kind, giving yourself time to grow and learn skills.