“I'm Trying So Hard, But I'm Getting Nowhere. What Am I Doing Wrong?”

Dean wants nothing more than to find work he loves. He feels like he's tried everything – making lists, talking to recruitment consultants, reading career-change books – but still hasn't got the clarity he's been looking for. Is it time to give up? Or is there something else he could do?

What's your career history and current job?

I'm a bid writer for a telecommunications company.

I never meant to get into technical writing, but it was the first opportunity that came my way after university and, once I'd fallen into this industry, I got stuck.

How do you feel about your work?

I feel bored and insignificant.

Maybe it sounds arrogant, but I want to be recognised and acknowledged for the work I do. I work really hard – I've worked hard for years – and yet I don't feel noticed or important. I just feel like a little cog in the machine.

Anyone could step in and do the work I do and nobody would notice I was gone.

I think I can do more than this, and I want the chance to prove that to myself and to my family. I want to feel inspired and excited when I wake up in the morning, and I couldn't feel further from that now. It's like Groundhog Day – the same people, the same work, every day, over and over…

I feel like my life is passing me by. I know I sound dramatic and depressing, but it's reaching the stage where it's really affecting the rest of my life in a negative way. I feel droopy and disengaged.

What would you like to be doing instead?

I wish I knew the answer to this question.

More than anything else in my life right now, that's what I want – even the tiniest drop of clarity about the answer to this question.

Quite honestly, I'd like to be doing almost anything instead of what I'm doing now, but I'm not on a terribly comfortable salary level right now and can't afford to take a big drop in income – not unless I know I'll love the job and it'll be worth it in that way.

What's the biggest obstacle in your way?

Nothing I try gives me any clarity about what I might want to do.

I've made a never-ending stream of lists: what I want from a job, my strengths, my skills, things I wanted to do when I was a kid, projects I've worked on that I've been commended for and enjoyed...

I've surveyed my friends and family about what they think I should be doing. I've spoken to recruitment consultants to hone my CV and LinkedIn profile, and to look at my experience so far and tell me what I might be best suited for. I've gone to careers events and networking events and spoken to professionals.

And I'm still feeling stuck.

I've read loads of career-change books and done all the exercises in them. I've done psychological tests online to tell me what career I should be doing, but I just don't seem to be getting anywhere. None of the things I've done have given me any sense of certainty, or clarity, or even hope.

How is it possible that I'm doing so much, and still getting nowhere?

Can you help Dean?

  • Have you been in a similar situation, or are you in the same boat right now?
  • What else could he try to find some clarity about what his dream work might be?
  • Do you know anyone he could talk to?

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