“My Career Change Feels Too Daunting. How Do I Move Forward?”

Joanna's made some big life changes, but when it comes to her work, she's paralysed by how insurmountable it feels to make a shift. How do you plan the next stage of your career, when making the right choice feels so overwhelming?

What's your career history and current job?

I've been a teacher for my entire career.

I've taught primary school age children in different locations around the world, in both public and private schools. I've also taught English as a foreign language.

I took a leave of absence from my most recent role almost two years ago, and am not currently working.

How do you feel about your work?

I really enjoy spending time with children.

I love joking around with them, being creative, and introducing them to new ideas.

Teaching has always been a natural career choice for me. I even started my own babysitting business when I was 12 years old!

When I watch the children start to understand something they didn't know before, or get excited about something like a science experiment, it makes me feel happy and important – as though I'm contributing something meaningful to their development.

But I hate how much the education system has changed over the years. It's become harder and harder to maintain a good work–life balance. I gradually started working longer, unpaid hours of overtime that affected my home life – I would come home from work in a bad mood every day.

I felt that the focus had moved away from helping the children to learn, and more towards paperwork and record-keeping, or on wasted time spent in meetings.

I also began to feel that no matter how hard I worked, nothing I did was good enough. My work was constantly scrutinised, often by people with less experience than me.

After an extremely stressful year, I couldn't see that anything was going to change. I decided to take some extended time off to rest, recharge, and disconnect from the world for a while.

What would you like to be doing instead?

I've thought about things like teaching in a language-learning academy, instead of a school environment, or perhaps doing some educational writing.

That would allow me to stay in the profession, but hopefully in a less stressful environment than the one I was in.

But a completely different career appeals to me, too. I love the idea of being more creative with art and design, but I'm not sure how I could turn that into a job.

I'd also enjoy working with dogs. I trained my own dog from a puppy, spending a lot of time outdoors in the process, chatting to other people and having fun. I really enjoyed the sense of freedom that gave me.

What's the biggest obstacle in your way?

The idea of choosing a career direction, then actually making it happen, feels so daunting that I keep on dragging my heels.

I've done a lot of relaxing, de-stressing, and reconnecting with the people I love. During my leave of absence I got married, and I've found a new place to live.

I feel very lucky and incredibly grateful for the time I've had to make so many wonderful changes in my life. So much so, that I really don't want to make a wrong turn when it comes to work.

I'll always love teaching, but even if I worked in a different setting to the one I was in before, I'm scared I'll come up against the same schedules and stress.

If I choose to do something different instead, what if I end up hating it? I'm curious about exploring new paths, but I'm not certain how good I would be at anything other than teaching, as career-wise it's all I've known.

My friends and family say I was always meant to be a teacher, and that they don't think I'll ever find anything as fulfilling. But if that's true, why am I struggling so much with this decision?

I want to work hard and dedicate my career to something meaningful, I'm just not sure what that will look like.

How can I plan the next stage of my career, when I'm paralysed at the very start?

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

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