“My Mind Is Going Round In Circles. How Do I Find A Way Through The Confusion?”

Rachel's stuck in analysis paralysis. She gets no joy from her job, but she's struggling to work out if making a leap is anything more than a pipe dream. When you're terrified of getting it wrong, how do you figure out which way to go?

What's your career history and current job?

I've worked in communications for about five years.

I worked for a national charity, and then a private school, before taking up my current role as a Digital Communications Officer for a small children's charity.

While working toward my postgraduate degree I took on some work as a support tutor, working with undergraduates with dyslexia and autism.

How do you feel about your work?

I've always enjoyed the written word.

It's something that comes easily, so I enjoy the web copy and press release aspects of my work and some elements of design.

But I feel like I've spent the last few years side-stepping with no real progression. I've pigeon-holed myself in a career I was never meant to be in; one that is evolving quickly, and that I've never truly had the enthusiasm to keep up with.

I genuinely don't think office culture has ever suited me. I've always found it incredibly stifling and unnatural to sit staring at a computer for eight hours a day, surrounded by people who are often equally uninspired.

I'm fairly quiet, and being dyslexic I tend to concentrate a lot more on what I'm doing to avoid mistakes, so constant interruptions – which are becoming more common now that I've moved to a completely open-plan office – aren't great. As an introvert, I find being in high demand draining.

Looking at the bigger picture, an awful lot of my work is also incredibly repetitive. I feel very frustrated. I know I'm good at what I do, but I feel like I'm on a treadmill, churning out the same sort of material, day after day.

When I worked as a dyslexia tutor, I really enjoyed the fact that I was helping people, which is something that's missing from working in communications.

I've got a long work life ahead of me and I want to enjoy what I do. I don't want to be one of those people who just lives for the weekend. I want to feel like my work makes a difference to people.

Every Sunday I dread returning to a job I don't want to be doing.

What would you like to be doing instead?

The main thread through all the options I've been considering is the idea of helping people, which is what I'm missing in my current role and what I've thrived on in the past.

I looked into retraining as a horticultural therapist as I'm taking a part-time course for interest, but financially this could be suicide because I'd have to retrain, which would mean a pay cut, and then I'd be starting from the bottom on a lower salary than I currently get.

My partner who already works in horticultural management also assures me that I'd hate it!

I've thought about conservation, or education roles for something like a wildlife organisation – again, I'd need to retrain and take a large pay drop.

I've also thought about going back to train in specialist education. Working as a support tutor, with dyslexic and autistic students while funding my postgraduate studies, were some of my most rewarding working years.

Connected to what I'm doing now, I've thought about trying to go it alone, mainly because it's the skill base I've built up, offering marketing and communications support to small charities or organisations.

I'm scared of the instability freelancing could bring, though. In all honesty, it's not what I'm drawn to, but I know where I am with it, I know I'm quite good at it, and I know other people have made a go of it.

Freelancing would at least get me out of the office environment that I find quite draining. And while it's fraught with all sorts of issues, it would give me the flexibility that I crave.

In a way, though, that would be me 'settling' and I wouldn't necessarily have my heart in it.

What's the biggest obstacle in your way?

I'm trapped in analysis paralysis.

My mind is going around in circles with too many thoughts.

I'm fairly risk averse and I have a mortgage to think of, so if I'm going to retrain or take a salary drop it needs to be for the right thing.

But how do I know what the right thing is?

How do I know if I'll be any good at horticulture or specialist education, or freelancing? What if I'm not?

Where I have looked into other fields, jobs all ask for qualifications, training, or volunteering experience that I don't have.

Am I better off sticking where I am?

I'm scared of getting it all wrong.

Maybe I need to do some more research. Anytime I've tried on my own, the smallest obstacle that comes along stops me in my tracks.

I feel like I need someone to help me with a solid action plan, detailing what steps I need to take to work this all out, advising me what financial and logistical steps I need to plan for – that would give me the certainty I think I need to move forwards.

It might be that something completely different comes up, or that I find I'm better off where I am. At least I'd then know that I'd followed a process to get to a conclusion.

How do I find a way through the confusion?

Can you help Rachel?

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

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