When your job isn’t right for you, what's next?

Our Netherlands-based contributor Loes talks about when your dream job isn’t what you’d hoped and the process of trying to change the course of your career.

Today’s newsletter is about career struggles and fears. I must admit that the days leading up to me writing this newsletter were spent in a frenzy of panic as I was contemplating my career. It's been a few weeks since I've finally admitted to myself and everyone around me that my job is bringing me down. So where do I go from here? How do you turn your career into a whole new direction?

As a little girl, I dreamt of a job that allowed me to wear a Fancy Pants outfit, high stiletto’s, a laptop bag, and bunned hair. To me, that was the picture of a strong woman, an independent woman. Now at 29, I have a good job. I represent the State Secretary in court in cases related to migration. I have a permanent contract, I'm financially independent, and I often rock the aforementioned look. 

I do enjoy working in the field of (forced) migration, but my legal profession limits me to legal provisions, directives and treaties. I feel stuck behind that computer, while I would much rather help streamline the process of resettlement, enhance shelter in the region, set up programs to protect vulnerable refugees in camps. I'm willing to hand in my stiletto's for a pair of rainboots. 

It seems to be the consensus that I should be happy with and grateful for my job, and that I should stick with it. Don't get me wrong, I'm grateful for my fortunate situation. However, do you stick with a job that doesn't bring you joy in exchange for comfort? At 29 I'm just not willing to settle. Would you?

So now what? I've gone from relief to panic, from panic to complete inaction, to excitement (I mean, who knows what I'll be doing in a year!), and returned to panic. I wish I could write that I have a detailed plan for finding a new job, but I am not there yet. I did invite several people (relevant to my profession) for coffee to discuss my situation. I have furthermore decided not to make any rash decisions, and to take my time to figure out what I do want to do. This seems like a logical thing, but I'm a bit (read: extremely) impatient. 

Ever since I've had the courage to admit to myself that something needs to change on the job front I noticed I had nowhere to go with all my thoughts, strengths, wishes and fears. There are friends and family, but they are not specialized on the topic, and I miss someone around me who knows my field and is as ambitious as I am. It feels lonely. That's one of the reasons I'm sharing it with you. I'm also curious to know what you think, and what your struggles and fears are when it comes to your career. How do you deal with them? Who do you talk to? Contact me if you'd like to talk about it. 

Loes is a contributor at Women in Foreign Policy