“I Feel Like My Path Has Already Been Set. Is It Too Late For Me To Make A Change?”

Andi has a solid career history in an industry she knows inside out. So solid, in fact, that she can't imagine being able to move anywhere else. When you've put down deep roots in one area, how is it possible to make a shift?

What's your career history and current job?

I'm a Project Manager for a major supermarket chain.

I've worked in retail for the majority of my career, moving into operations about eight years ago. Basically, I do a lot of number crunching and data analysis, reporting to the senior teams, and then direct the rollout of strategic projects across the country.

How do you feel about your work?

It feels really strange to even consider that question.

It just feels like life. The same old hamster wheel on repeat. The projects all have different names and some of the details differ, and there are new teams to work with in new locations, but ultimately I'm going through the same motions over and over again.

I don't hate my work. I don't like it. There's nothing to say about it. It's just what I do.

I wake up on Monday, I go to work and I do what's asked of me, and then I come home, and the years roll by, and that's it.

It doesn't feel like anything. I think at this stage I'm just numb.

And that's the part that worries me. I'm 32. I'm not supposed to feel numb yet, am I?

What would you like to be doing instead?

Something that I'm interested in.

Something new, where I get to learn and grow and do new things. Something that makes me feel like my life is worth something, so that I might look back on my life when I retire and feel really proud of what I've done.

I can't even imagine what that might be.

What's the biggest obstacle in your way?

I don't actually know what else I could do at this point.

I'm a retail project manager. That's what I do; that's what I've always done. It's all over my CV, and it's all I really know.

When I try to imagine myself elsewhere, doing something else, I just feel like I'm floating; there's nothing I'm excited about, nothing that feels realistic.

I know that project management has lots of transferable skills, but transferable to where? And would I really be able to transfer what I do, in practice, somewhere else? Or would I just wind up out of my depth in an industry I don't know?

Beyond retail, I can't imagine myself anywhere else. I can't even imagine what there IS anywhere else. Of course people do all kinds of other work, but trying to transplant myself into these industries and places… I can't picture myself there, and I have no idea what I might be doing.

I think I've gone too far down one path with my training and my experience; by doing well in the industry I'm in, it's like I've blocked off my own way out.

I specialised too fast and too deeply, and now, who else is going to consider me?

But I really don't want to spend the rest of my life resigned and dead on the inside.

Is it too late for me? Have I sealed off my own escape routes?

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

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