What's your Problem?

Has the recession trapped me in a career I hate?

by Jeremy Bullmore
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Q: For the past two years, I have been very unhappy in my job as a chartered accountant. It took me a while to admit this to myself, and to work out what it is that I'd like to do. I spent a great deal of time researching careers, eventually deciding to go into TV production. But then the recession happened.I've reached the end of my tether at work but now feel forced to stay because of how bad the job market has become - but is there ever a good time to change career?

A: Sometimes, being miserable in a job acts on people as a spur: they become determined and decisive and actively set about finding something else. But sometimes it has the opposite effect: the misery infects their whole attitude to life and they become depressed and defeatist.

This second response is the deadly one. Drive and energy drain away, to be replaced by pessimism. There are always plenty of excuses to be found for doing nothing - so time drifts by, ambition turns to apathy and personal performance goes into a steady decline. This is the classic vicious spiral.

You must be careful, therefore, not to use the recession as your excuse for doing nothing. You've been unhappy for two years already. That's long enough.

But once you have made the decision to jump, do think a little more carefully where that jump might take you. I worry a bit that you've 'researched' careers. Researching is an excellent thing to do when you're pursuing some existing, instinctive sense of direction, but it's unlikely to provide it. Check that your next career choice doesn't just tick all the rational boxes but fills you with real enthusiasm too.

Your decision 'to go into TV production' seems dangerously vague. What role do you see yourself playing: creative, administrative, marketing? It's a crowded and competitive market - so you'll need to be a lot more focused if you're to get to interview stage.

Finally, just because you've hated being an accountant doesn't mean that accountancy can't be of some further value to you - particularly when you're hoping to make that first, difficult transition to a very different career.

All professions and trades have some need for people who have numbers skills - but not necessarily as full-time accountants. You're much more likely to find an initial job in or around TV production (for example) if you were to highlight your qualifications in accountancy rather than disown them.

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