We often have certain expectations about jobs or careers. Sometimes this involves stereotypes, generalised information based upon limited knowledge and not grounded in reality. Other times, they come from when you feel like you have a vocation, that strong feeling for a particular career, where it seems more like a calling in which you display a higher degree of dedication. Maybe for you it's teaching, within the medical profession or policing, amongst many others. It is more than just being a job; you are in service to others and it is a privilege to do so.
When you are looking to go into these kinds of professions, I think you do so after doing more research than you would for other career choices. You might volunteer, participate in shadowing opportunities. Maybe you have a family member who already works within those sectors. You ask around, trying to gather as much information as you can. You feel that you're in a strong position if you have volunteered within an organisation to go for a paid position within that sector. And with all this knowledge you have garnered from a variety of sources, you know what to expect, right? But, do you really?
Let's look at a few statistics:
A fifth of teachers leave the profession within less than two years of starting, 40% will leave within five years, citing their reasons for leaving being workload pressures and 'excessive' accountability.
In the Prison Service, a third of officers quit within a year of starting with them highlighting chaos on the wings, and a lack of respect and support from management.
33, 000 nurses leave the NHS every year, an unbelievable number of staff, and of these, 17, 000 are young nurses; the future of our health care. The reasons, pressure and demands of the job leading to stress and depression.
In a recent study of 3000 social workers, 61% stated they were looking to leave the profession within the next 16 months, citing poor working conditions and a lack of enough resources to be able to help people.
More than 2400 police officers have left since April 2018. Within the Armed Services, 7500 personnel left in 2017 with them citing family and personal life, job satisfaction and opportunities outside of the force for reasons for leaving. Regarding the civil service, 25% of staff from Whitehall departments leave each year.
Whilst within these figures, there will be people who have reached retirement age, there are thousands more who have not. This raises the question that if people really knew what to expect, would they spend all that time studying and training etc to leave a profession after such a short time. Even if they stay within that profession, it might mean a significant change in circumstances, for example, moving abroad as many nurses or teachers might do. But many I guess are leaving the profession and starting a new career, which is nothing new if you've reached a more natural junction for change such as being in an organisation for a set number of years; for example, the Armed Services or the police force. But when you look at certain professions you wouldn't expect so many people to be leaving after such a relatively short period of time. I think people become disillusioned because when recruitment campaigns are in full flow, they highlight all the appealing aspects and never mention the realities of the role.
So whilst you thought you would be spending your time teaching children and helping to shape future generations, work with service users to turn their lives around, protecting the public by being out within the communities, providing care when people need it the most and making the difference you were hoping to make when you joined. The reality is your workload is unmanageable, the bulk of your time is spent at a computer, filling in forms and duplicating information in order to satisfy meaningless KPIs. The amount of time doing what you thought you'd be doing is a fraction of your daily working life. You're tired and stressed and when you get home after your day's work, all you manage to do is grab a bite to eat before going to bed. Only you don't get a restful night's sleep because your mind is active with the things you didn't manage to get done, worrying about mistakes you might have made, wondering if you had missed something and then thinking about what you have to do in the day ahead. Was this what you expected your job to be? Living for those brief interactions where you are making a difference? Loving those moments but then getting bogged down with the mountains of now digital 'paperwork'?
Maybe for some of you reading this blog, the job is exactly what you expected it to be and you're happy in your role. If that's the case, then great, I am all for pursuing what makes you happy. But for those of you that you feel you could be one of the statistics above, accepting that the profession you have chosen doesn't meet your expectations can fill you with dread, fear and sometimes a sense of hopelessness of what direction to go in next. Unless you have worked in these sectors, it is difficult to explain to others why you want to leave because the perception is, these are fantastic careers, thankless ones, but rewarding ones, nevertheless. And they can be rewarding but at what cost to you and your well being? Sometimes the reality is, leaving is the only choice. This is not a failing on your part, it is the greatest act of responsibility you can make. See it as an opportunity to channel your strengths and skills in an area where you can make an even greater difference.
We do not have to stay in a job or career which no longer meets our expectations. The probability of the job changing is slim to none, so you have a choice to make, is the role you are in, the one for you long term? Ask yourself what you are now taking from your job or career? If you remain in your current role, what will you gain and what will it cost you?
I know what it is like, I have been where you are, questioning what direction to go in, loving aspects of the role, despising others. Facing comments from other people as to whether I was doing the right thing. I can’t tell you what the right thing for you is but for me, I have always felt I left a role at the right time and for the right reasons. If the right time for you is now, and you feel you need help to figure out your next steps, then get in touch.