The Seven Year Career Itch: what to do if you’re feeling disillusioned

Hannah Salton

Most people can remember the elation they felt when they got their graduate job offer. The excitement, the celebrations, and the slight concern that you’d got the wrong end of the stick and you weren’t being offered a place on a training contract after all.

As careers progress and salaries increase, levels of job satisfaction can fluctuate. After a few years on the daily grind disillusionment can kick in, and some lawyers reflect if they are on the path they want to stay on until their long-awaited retirement.

As a career coach, I push people to be honest with themselves about what they want from their career. Identifying your career values and motivators can help you decide if it’s time for a change.

Here are my top five tips for those questioning if it might be time to try a different path:

Invest time in working out what’s important to you

Everyone wants different things from their career. Some people want flexibility and autonomy, others want status and a high salary. You may value different things at different points in your career. It’s important to weigh up any potential career change against your own preferences and priorities, not the expectations of family, peers or colleagues.

It can be difficult to separate your true priorities from societal and other external influences, but carving out time to reflect and write down your priorities helps.

Reflect on how your current job matches that

No job is perfect all of the time, and everyone has highs and lows in their career. Given that we spend almost 900,000 hours of our life at work (probably a lot more for lawyers!) it’s important you’re getting the level of job satisfaction you want from your career – whatever that means to you. Write down where you current job is meeting the requirements you have for your career, and note down where it is falling short.

Talk to people in your organisation

If you’re considering leaving your current company or firm, or even your current career path, it’s normally a good idea to make sure you’ve explored all routes internally before you make the decision to leave. Many people are afraid to have honest conversations with their boss or others more senior than them for fear of reputational damage.

You won’t know unless you ask, so if you have an idea for an alternative role or working arrangement that might work within the structure of your current company, it’s wise to explore this before you do a runner.

Talk to people outside your organisation

If you’ve reached the stage where you know it’s time to go, continue to explore your options around what your next move could be. The best way to do this is through your network, so get in touch with people you know who work in companies and industries that interest you.

Be clear that you’re reaching out to find out more about their role and you’re not secretly hoping they can get you a job, and they will likely be very receptive and happy to answer any questions you have.

Keep taking action

Once you’ve started taking small steps towards a career change, stick with it. There will be rejections and bumps along the way, but don’t let that stop you. Create a plan with timescales; work with a colleague, peer or coach to help define your goals and keep taking action towards where you want to go. You’ll often find that the end goal will become clearer once you start taking steps in the right direction.

Hannah Salton worked in corporate HR for eight years before becoming a career coach and consultant.