Finding New Direction When Feeling Lost in Your Career

Most people grow up imagining a dream career that encompasses their passion, makes money, and doesn’t feel like, well, work. But then adulthood hits, and most people find the job search more than a little disconcerting. The realization hits that it’s hard (if not impossible) to know if you're in the right job at this very moment. And that can be a scary thing.

When you feel lostThe good news? That sense of restlessness, of feeling like you’re lost in the wilderness of all things corporate, can actually benefit you. Maxie McCoy, a career expert who spoke with Forbes about this very issue, points out this phenomenon of feeling lost forces you to undergo some deep self-reflection. Instead of keeping yourself distracted with projects and other commitments that don’t really mean much to you, McCoy encourages you to realize, “It’s only the truth of your lost feelings that will get you to look at where you’ve steered away from yourself and from the highest possible expression of you, to get to clarity and then to action.” In other words, this is your rock bottom. Now what are you going to do about it?

It might be easier (and less intimidating) to focus on ways in which you can anchor yourself in your current job role. Alice Tsang, a recruitment consultant, suggests writing down what makes you stand out from your coworkers in terms of skills and abilities. Whether it’s your technical mastery, ease in social situations, problem-solving wizardry, or something else entirely, pick out one or two main strengths, and lean into them. Aim to get even better at them so you can feel confident in whatever position you wind up taking down the road. You’ll be able to market yourself as a true professional, and sometimes confidence is all it takes to stay grounded.

If your current job just isn’t cutting it, it may be time to look elsewhere. But before stumbling into another role just to get out of the one you have now, consider taking a baby step toward happiness by translating your interests into a (paying) side job. Without the pressure of having to completely support yourself with what may amount (at this point) to a hobby, it can be thrilling to see progress from your side hustle. Work at it long enough, and who knows? You may decide to launch your own startup or transition to full time. But even if your business never grows beyond a small side gig, you’ll still be doing something you love—and exposing the world to your talents.

Motivation (or the lack thereof) can be a key influencer when you’re feeling lost in your career. One of the best ways to keep motivation going (or instill some in yourself if you’ve run out) is to get involved with organizations that include people you admire. It doesn’t have to, nor should it, be a group that relates to anything involving the job you have now. Instead, think about the issues, events, or subjects that fire up your passion—and find a group of like-minded people. Thrive Global suggests taking on a leadership role at a club or joining a board of directors for an organization you admire. Not only will spending time around people with shared interests prove invigorating, but it will also likely help you hone a particular skill set that might prove useful down the road. Perhaps it will even become the spark that leads you toward a path you never expected.

It may never be an ideal time to up and change careers—there will always be some event, some consideration, some excuse not to do it. But that is exactly why now is the time to dig in and do the work. This will help your present self (and your future self, as well) find your way back onto the path of a career that makes you happy—or at least to an acceptance that wandering in the woods isn’t such a bad place to be after all.

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