Feeling insecure about your career plans can be lonely and isolating.
What are you supposed to do when people around you talk animatedly about their jobs, and all you can think is, “no career interests me?”
This article is here to help you explore the problem. It will guide you through some soul searching, and help you to make a plan.
Why People Do Jobs They Hate
‘The three most harmful addictions are heroin, carbohydrates, and a monthly salary.‘Nassim Nicholas Taleb
Often, careers begin to derail before people even reach full adulthood.
As a child, you can happily cycle between wanting to be a doctor, a pilot, a dancer, a scientist. But then reality begins to set in. Even university students who think hard about what they want to study can find themselves towards the end of their degrees, scanning job listings for jobs they could get, rather than jobs that they want.
And this frequently begins an unhappy cycle. Even relatively successful people can progress quickly through the ranks, but then get to middle age thinking “how did I end up here?!”
The problem is that we all have bills to pay – hence the quote above. Lifestyles tend to expand to match incomes, leaving people trapped in jobs that the innocent child in them would never have foreseen doing.
If you’re saying “no career interests me” at the start of your working life, that’s arguably quite a good position to be in. At least you’re having the existential crisis at a convenient time! But wherever you are in your life, it’s not too late to start working toward something new.
Just follow these steps:
Explore The Issue
If you’re saying that no career interests you, there are a few different things that could be triggering it.
It’s crucial to identify which it is.
- Are you struggling to find inspiration or motivation for anything? If that’s the case, your career inertia could be indicative of a broader problem, related to your mental or physical health.
- Would you simply prefer not to have a career and to laze around watching Netflix? If that’s your reason then – I’m sorry to say – it’s reality check time! Your limited options include marrying into money or a lottery win – both are unlikely, and probably won’t bring you any long-term fulfilment.
- Do you simply struggle to slot yourself into the traditional “do one thing, work for a boss and aim for promotions” paradigm? If so, there’s plenty you can do instead, with good planning and plenty of hard work.
Working out why you’re saying no career interests me is really important. You should, at least, be able to think of a few dream jobs – those things the child version of you got excited about. If that flame has been completely extinguished, the next point has particular relevance.
Recommended Reading: Build Your Own Rainbow
Assess Your Mental Health
Mental health is obviously far more nuanced that simply asking, “well, are you depressed?”
But it IS a fair question, and something you should at least try to eliminate as a factor. I say that as somebody with decades of experience suffering from anxiety, OCD and periodic depression.
All kinds of mental health issues can impact your motivation and ability to make decisions. Depression, in particular, can rip the joy away from things that would usually inspire you. On plenty of occasions, my depression has reached a point where even that lottery win wouldn’t have made a dent.
One thing that is for certain is that you shouldn’t make life-changing career decisions when they’re clouded by mental health problems. There is help out there, and it’s wise to seek it if you suspect you may be struggling.
If you then decide that it’s your current job that’s breaking your brain, that’s the time to take some action!
Think About Your Hobbies and Passions
If you’ve been conditioned to think that doing a job based on something you love is a childish pipe dream, shake that nonsense off.
- There are fitness enthusiasts making money from personal training and creating fitness courses.
- There are enthusiastic home bakers with thriving cupcake businesses.
- There are introverted writers like me running blogs and working freelance.
- There are people who like to play video games all day making money from YouTube and Twitch channels.
I could go on, but hopefully you get my point.
If you’re saying that no career interests you, it’s WISE to start at the beginning and think about what does interest you.
And yes, there IS a possibility that whatever your interests are won’t form the basis of a lucrative career, but that doesn’t matter, as you’ll see in the next couple of points.
Separate Jobs and Careers
In many cultures, there’s a certain expectation that you’ll pick a specific career path. Depending on your background, you may find yourself under pressure from your family and peers. It’s not pleasant being seen as the “drifter” or the “directionless one.”
But fundamentally, there are no rules around how you construct your career. It’s good to remember you only get one life.
There are plenty of actors waiting tables, “struggling writers,” artists paying the bills by working on supermarket checkouts, and entrepreneurs bootstrapping tech startups by funding themselves with freelance income.
I’m inclined to suggest plenty of those people are far more content than those mid-way through “careers” they stumbled into.
There are important decisions to make here:
- Can you sit with the discomfort of seeing your peers climb the corporate latter while you pay your dues doing something you have your heart in?
- Are you comfortable with having less (or inconsistent) income?
- Is doing something you believe in and care about more important to you than the (very real) societal or family pressure you may experience?
There are no wrong answers here – but you may find that the closer you get to a true “dream job,” the further you get from a stereotypical “career.” If you can’t live with that, it’s perhaps time to work out how close you can get, within the boundaries of a “normal job.”
Recommended Reading: The Pathfinder: How to Choose or Change Your Career for a Lifetime of Satisfaction and Success
Understand That You Don’t Just Need to Do One Thing
Nowadays, more and more people have portfolio careers. This essentially means doing more than one thing to earn a living. Those people are also sometimes known as slashies.
Thankfully, we are way beyond the days when this was a lifestyle dismissed as “doing a bit of this and that.”
What’s wrong, for example, with doing a traditional job a couple of days each week, running a thriving Etsy craft store, generating a little income with a blog or an online course you’ve created, and having time left over for some volunteering? (Obviously you can swap in endless other things here to form your own bespoke career).
This, to many, is an aspirational lifestyle in all kinds of ways: Minimal commuting, freedom over most of your time, diversified income, and spending at least the majority of your week doing stuff you actually enjoy. Add the things together, and you could also end up making more than you would with a full-time job. Plenty of people do.
Of course, there’s some oversimplification here. The Etsy store, the blog, the course – they all take significant amounts of unpaid upfront work. But how much do you want the lifestyle?
Only you can answer that.
Think About Learning and Training
If the main thing separating you from work you’d love to do is training, there’s always something you can do about that.
Cost is rarely a worry here, as there’s so much cheap and free online training available.
If you’ve got this far through the article and you’re still screaming that “no career interests me!” I have a suggestion.
Take a look through the vast catalogues of courses on these sites:
Keep looking until something catches your eye or sparks an interest. If, from literally thousands of courses, you don’t see some that interest you, I’m inclined to gently suggest you go back to the point about mental health. You shouldn’t feel that way.
In case you’re cynically wondering if I’m living in the real world, a word about finances.
As somebody with two young children and many bills to pay, I understand that total freedom to do the work you want is a lofty goal. To this day, I still take on freelance assignments that I don’t particularly relish – although I’m pleased to say that they are few and far between these days.
How long did it take to get to that point? Nearly 20 years!
The need to exist, eat and pay bills is the thing that leads many people into unsatisfactory careers. Depending on your circumstances, some of your working life may have to continue to be unsatisfactory for years to come.
Over nearly 20 years of self employment, I’ve experienced some seriously wobbly moments, and I’m sure there will be more. The important thing is that you’re spending at least some of your life working towards what you actually want.
Working a “dead end” job is one thing. Working that same job because you’re funding your way through some training, or doing it to create time for your art or your passion project is quite another.
There’s a lot to decide: How much “lifestyle sacrifice” are you actually willing to make? How readily can you rise above societal pressure and other people’s expectations? These are questions you will have to find the answers to yourself.
Recommended Reading: How to Be You: Stop Trying to Be Someone Else and Start Living Your Life
Make a Plan
After exploring all of these topics, the only thing left to do is making a plan for your next steps.
I personally find it hugely helpful to set realistic goals on a quarterly basis. You can find a video explaining my process here.
While You’re Here
A few more things that may interest you:
- An article to read if you don’t want to work in an office anymore.
- Details of my Freelance Kickstarter course – perfect if you’ve reached the point where you no longer want to work for a boss.
- A comprehensive list of over 50 online jobs.
Founder of HomeWorkingClub.com – Ben has worked freelance for nearly 20 years. As well as being a freelance writer and blogger, he is also a technical consultant with Microsoft and Apple certifications. He loves supporting new home workers but is prone to outbursts of bluntness and realism.