It is a career crisis – now what?

If you know you must do something about your work situation, you’ve scanned the papers and websites for jobs, but you haven’t got beyond that, use your time at work to do some research. It may keep you motivated on days when you can barely haul yourself out of bed.

Speak to your manager

There are a number of reasons why you might balk at this suggestion:

  • You may feel that being unhappy and not making the most of your opportunities is a personal failing…it isn’t!
  • Superstition: if you get it into the open, it will become real…if you’re reading this article, it already is!
  • You may feel that it’s too soon to show your hand, or that you have to present your manager with a fait accompli … no, you don’t!
  • Your manager is the problem. The best thing you can do is to discuss it with him or her – adult to adult. Failing that, contact your HR department, if there is one, or another manager to discuss how you might approach him or her. You may be able to sort it out between you – then you won’t have to leave.

Do this before you do anything else. You need to bring your concerns into the open and out of your head, where it can fester. Another perspective can shed light on the situation. Ask about sideways moves, secondments, other opportunities within the organisation where you may be able to work to your strengths. Don’t wait for your appraisal or review.

Research project no. 1: analysing your daily activities

Build a picture of exactly what you want your future working day to look like by logging your current daily work activities and rating them. Divide the time into 1 or ½ hour blocks on a page.

For each activity, ask yourself

  • How much/little did I you enjoy it?
  • Would I like more of it, less of it or the same amount in a new job?

For example:

Time Activity Rating Less / more / same?
09:00 to 09:30 paperwork, emails 4 less of
09:30 to 10:30 tutorial 1 more of

This will give you a clearer idea of what you want from your work.

Research project no. 2: SWOT yourself

Use a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) analysis. This is a simple way of collecting information and analysing your position for a future possibility. Once you’ve generated a SWOT, you can use it to plot an action plan or make a decision.

  • First, be clear about the focus and purpose of your SWOT – otherwise it won’t work. You’re analysing yourself in a particular position; for example, your current position or a very specific job opportunity.
  • Draw a grid (see the example on the next page). Use a whole page.
  • Start with your STRENGTHS and WEAKNESSES. These quadrants are about you in relation to the position.
    • Get feedback. Ask colleagues, your manager, your team members or students for their ideas on your strengths and weaknesses. The results can be illuminating.
  • Next, list the positive OPPORTUNITIES, followed by the external THREATS that may block success. These quadrants are about the position relating to you.

Don’t lose focus – keep checking the purpose of the SWOT.


FE teacher, analysing her position in relation to a training job she’s seen.

SWOT analysis

SWOT analysis