Career Transition

How to Survive a Career Crisis

Career Crisis

Having a career crisis can feel overwhelming.

So much of our life – our stability, our sense of who we are, our ability to positively contribute to others – is tied to what we do.

I had a very real career crisis six year ago and it became clear to me that, despite the many years–and dollars–that it took to get my education, being a lawyer wasn’t right for me. In making an empowering change to find fulfillment as an entrepreneur, speaker and writer, I discovered several tools that have helped me to find fulfillment in my career and survive the crisis.

First, determine if this is a real crisis or simply a trying experience.

Not everything is a career crisis. All careers have challenging times. Just because your career is engaging, generally enjoyable, and personally meaningful doesn’t mean that it won’t have its challenging times. So before we look at major changes, first determine if this is a “crisis” or if it is simply a challenge. The answer will determine the steps we take next. A crisis could very likely lead to a career change. A trying experience is an opportunity to develop grit, courage and persistence. It is a character moment.

If it’s a trying experience then remember your why.

If you still love the career and you want to get better at it and progress to the point of mastery, then it is a trying experience. If this is the case then simply remember your “why.” Why did you get in this career in the first place? Expanding on that, what have you yet to accomplish in this career? What have you yet to learn? How can you improve and grow? What does success in this field mean to you?

If it’s a crisis don’t get discouraged, but know you’ll need to make a change eventually.

It may not be simply a challenge. It may be a full-blown crisis. That’s what happened to me in law. I knew without a doubt that law was not right for me, and I needed to do something else with my life. If you find yourself in the same position, don’t get discouraged. No one said you had to get it right on the first go (although it can feel discouraging to have to change, especially after you have educated yourself for a certain path). Stay positive: you can make a change, but know that the change is inevitable.

It’s a crisis if your values are not aligned with what you are doing.

What do you truly value? What is unique about you? Do you like to create? Do you value teaching? Are you a contributor? Do you uniquely value freedom? Does your current career align with your unique values? If no, then you’re on a dangerous path. Do a “personal value analysis” and see whether you get to experience your unique values in your day to day.

Take full responsibility, only you can create a solution.

I can’t stress this point enough. Resist the urge to blame. Don’t blame your boss, your current employer, or your parents. You are where you are because you made choices. You can get to a new place if you simply make new choices. You are the solution. If you blame someone for where you are, you are actually giving away your power. You are giving away the solution. If someone is to blame, then you have no power to change. But you do have power to change, and to accept the responsibility.

Be realistic in your expectations.

Being real is empowering. It is realistic to suppose that all careers, even ones that are aligned with your values, will have their challenging moments. It is realistic to suppose that if you make a change you may not initially make as much money as you were making in the career that you hated. If you’re leaving a secure salary to build a business, it is realistic that the business may take a little longer than you think to get going. But that doesn’t mean that you should quit on your business. It just means that businesses often take a little while to get going. Be realistic in your expectations. Take the long view. Are you willing to work for years to become great at this? If you’re only concerned about the short term, and the pay raise, then seriously consider whether you need to make a change in the first place.

About the Author

Ryan Clements is a business consultant, sales trainer, speaker and writer. He consults to companies and entrepreneurs on marketing and sales strategy, and is a frequent speaker and trainer in the areas of sales, marketing, entrepreneurship, productivity, leadership and motivation.  He also writes widely on these subjects and has published a book and given a TEDx talk on career fulfillment, a topic which he speaks often to schools and students about.  For speaking, consulting or training requests please visit his website at