“How Do I Turn My Rough Idea Into a Paying Career?”

Nick's frustration levels are almost at boiling point, and time is running out. He knows the broad area he'd love to work in, but narrowing down his options is much harder than he expected. How do you turn a vague direction into a solid path?

What's your career history and current job?

I'm an IT professional working in the finance sector.

I've been with my current employer for 14 years. I felt I'd gained all I could from my first post there, so I applied for another post internally. Since then I've just drifted aimlessly between roles. I've had numerous technical posts (programmer, database administrator) before moving into team leading and coordination work, such as project management.

At the time of writing I'm awaiting possible voluntary redundancy, which would give me 16 months' salary (and hopefully the push I need). If I get it my search will take on a lot more urgency.

How do you feel about your work?

I feel bored, frustrated and lonely, and I've felt this way for about seven years.

A lot of my working week is now from home. I enjoy the flexibility, and the work is varied, but a lot of my 'colleagues' are now in India, and even the more local ones are quite a long commute away.

My work is very isolated. I don't have enough contact with people and I don't feel part of a proper 'team'.

The work I do is now heavily admin based. I'm much more about taking action than writing things down or filling in forms, so this kind of work absolutely does my head in. I just can't be bothered with the hassle.

I just feel so bored and frustrated with how long things take and how hard it is to get anything done. The work is dull and really drags. 

What would you like to be doing instead?

I've always loved sport.

PE was my favourite subject as a kid, and I've always enjoyed watching sport. 

I started triathlon about five years ago and now train at quite a competitive level. I'm hoping to represent Great Britain as an amateur, and that's really sparked my interest in doing something sport-related as a career. My dream job would be being a full-time triathlete, but at my age that just isn't realistic.

I dropped down to four days a week in the main job to try a few things out. I've tried swim teaching and PE teaching, but decided, after the initial burst of enthusiasm, that they weren't for me long term.

I currently work part-time for an events company that organises triathlons. Working for them permanently could be an option, but since I only work for them on events, I haven't seen what the office environment is like during event preparation. To be honest, I'm not sure it's my dream role.

I really admire and love listening to Sir Dave Brailsford [coach and former Director of British Cycling]: working for a team like Team Sky would be right up my street, I'm just not sure what role I could do.

I know I want a positive work environment, colleagues, challenging work, variety in the role, and a mixture of short-term tasks with the opportunity to change and improve things. I think I'd also prefer a more active job than one where I'm sat at a desk.

What's the biggest obstacle in your way?

Other than knowing I'm interested in sport, I really don't have any idea what I'd like to do, or even how to go about narrowing it down.

This makes me feel so frustrated – I'm normally an incredibly decisive person! I'm impatient and itching to get going – it feels like I'm wasting my life not doing something I enjoy.

I've tried other roles, and I've worked with a life coach. Although that's all helped me to rule things out, I still don't know what I actually want to do.

There are so many possible directions. Maybe the problem is that I'm spoilt for choice. I'm not very analytical and I struggle to know what might suit me. Then there's my impatience – I just keep trying things without exploring in detail whether they're the right things for me.

Taking the plunge doesn't worry me so much, it's knowing which direction to take that's the problem.

If I get the direction wrong, then I'll be stuck again, but this time without the comfort blanket of a big salary. This is too important to mess up.

How do I get going on my shift when I just don't know where I'm headed?

Can you help Nick?
  • Have you been in a similar situation, or are you in the same boat right now?
  • How do you think Nick could move his shift forwards?
  • Do you know anyone he could talk to?

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