“Is My Job The Problem, Or Is It Me?”

Phil has been in the same line of work for most of his career. He's felt exhausted and tense for the past 18 months and is considering a career change, but how can he be sure that his career is the problem, and not just his mindset?

What's your career history and current job?

I've worked with at-risk young people for most of my career, since qualiying as a social worker eight years ago.

I've mostly worked in Young Offenders' units and with young people at risk of homelessness, and I'm currently managing a supported housing unit for 16-24 year olds in Manchester.

How do you feel about your work?

I've always gone through ups and downs at work; it's the nature of the job.

Sometimes it's the most rewarding, fulfilling way to spend my time, but other days I can hardly bring myself to get out of bed.

I'm proud of what I do, and the small wins we achieve with our young people can feel like Olympic achievements. I love that, and I love the energy that our service users bring to each day. It's not always positive energy, but it's not a boring place to work!

On the other hand, the kids are hard work, and I'm exhausted at the end of each day. My staff are great, but there's a fairly high turnover due to the stressful conditions we work in, so I try not to become friends with my colleagues. Plus, a lot of my job is about making funding bids and keeping the strategic side of the unit running; since the government cuts came in, it's been incredibly tense and I've had to make some really hard decisions.

What would you like to be doing instead?

I haven't worked this out for sure, but I took the kids to a day-long workshop on carpentry about a year ago, and haven't been able to stop thinking about it since.

I loved the feeling of having produced tangible results, and there was something really appealing about a simpler, less stressful way of spending my time. Maybe re-training as a carpenter and working with care-leavers or young apprentices would be a good way of combining what I do now with something more personally fulfilling.

What is the biggest obstacle you're facing?

Over the past year or so, I've really noticed my work taking its toll on me.

I'm constantly tired, my girlfriend takes the brunt of my stress when I come home irritable, and I often wonder what it would be like to do something less emotionally sapping. Thing is, I've felt this low before, and then felt better a month later, when a young person moves on or achieves something important.

I've put my heart and soul into my work so far, and I don't want to make a drastic, risky move just because I've had a tough run for a while. I don't know how to tell if my problem is the job, or just the way I'm approaching it.

Can you help Phil?

  • Have you been in a similar situation, or are you in the same boat right now?
  • How could Phil work out if a career change is the right move?
  • Do you know anyone he could talk to?

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