I don’t want a career anymore. I’m not interested in vying for raises, bonuses, or promotions. After my layoff, I thought I would return to my former profession, but now, I’m not so sure.
It feels strange to make this declaration. My mind keeps swirling with conflicting ideas. Aren’t we supposed to covet our occupations? Isn’t that why teachers ask us what we want to be when we grow up and why every introduction begins with, “What do you do?”
As a child, I wanted to become a speechwriter, English teacher, professor, and author. In my teens, I added psychiatrist and social researcher to that list too.
I daydreamed about my future partner, children, and a small house out in the country. I spent a lot of time envisioning my future career too.
What Do You Want To Be When You Grow Up?
This September, my Facebook feed overflowed with smiling children holding back-to-school signs. The titles all looked similar; First Day of Preschool, First Day of Third Grade, and even First Day of Senior Year.
Many of the signs included the child’s name, grade, and future career. The first read I want to be a firefighter when I grow up, the next listed teacher. Others included veterinarian, you tuber, doctor, basketball player, park ranger, and ballerina.
What do you want to be when you grow up? Think about that question for a moment. How did you answer it when you were a child?
As I looked at those back-to-school boards, the question suddenly seemed small and narrow. Why do we ask kids about their future occupations?
Why don’t we ask, “What are you passionate about?” or “What do you love to do?”
Why Do We Focus on Careers at Such a Young Age?
Shouldn’t we ask open-ended questions that broaden our children’s minds? Questions like:
- What do you want to learn?
- What fills you with joy?
- Who inspires you?
- What makes you feel proud?
- Who do you want to help?
- What do you want to accomplish?
Why don’t we ask any of these questions? Instead, we emphasize a child’s future occupation. Staring at those back-to-school signs, it’s easy to see why our careers define us in adulthood.
By asking, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” we focus our children’s attention on earning money instead of creating a life they love. Why don’t we focus on who they want to be and what they value?
I Don’t Want a Career
This should’ve been the year that my youngest went off to kindergarten. I planned to walk into the classroom, hug my son, and then drive off to my new job, but COVID-19 threw a wrench into that plan.
In January, I was actively looking for work. By March, I stopped my search. At the time, we withdrew my five-year-old from preschool and began the arduous process of virtual school for my eight-year-old.
At the beginning of the year, I intended to return to my former career as a software engineer, but as the days tick by, I find myself changing course. The more I think about it, the more I realize, I don’t want a career.
I Don’t Need a Career to Define Me
After graduation, my career provided the external validation I craved. I needed others to tell me I was smart and capable. I defined myself by the amount of work I could complete in a day, and the number of times I could figure out a problem that no one else could solve.
The more my bosses praised me, the harder I worked. I tied my value to my job. When my salary grew, so did my confidence. I wore my work ethic like a badge of honor. I stayed later than anyone else and completed more tasks than most of my coworkers combined.
Do you know how people think it’s good to be busy? I was never idle at work. I began to correlate stress with success. A healthy work-life balance didn’t exist for me.
When I was first starting out, I needed to hustle and push. As the youngest member of the team, I had to prove my worth. The harder I worked, the more respect I received. The more business managers reached out and asked for me by name.
My persistence paid off both in salary and promotions. It also helped me work on the best projects with the best people. I rarely maintained the code I wrote, which is a software developer’s dream. As soon as I implemented features, I moved on to a new project.
I pushed myself, and I was proud of the work I produced. I still am, but things are different now, because I don’t need a career to define me.
As time passes, ideas keep swirling in my mind, and each time the conclusion seems to be the same. I don’t want a career anymore.
I Don’t Want a Career Anymore
Don’t get me wrong. There are benefits to having a career, significant financial benefits! If I hadn’t become a software engineer, I wouldn’t be living mortgage free or have the option to consider not working anymore. I wouldn’t be able to say, “I don’t want a career.”
There are certainly other perks, like learning new skills and working with fun and intelligent team members.
I didn’t love my job, but I didn’t hate it either. There were parts, like problem-solving, that I enjoyed immensely. I know a lot of people are miserable at work. I wasn’t one of those people. Work never became a drudgery for me.
I haven’t worked for nearly nine years. After such a long absence, it’s tough to envision going back to work. It’s hard to think about the time commitment and the lack of vacation days.
It’s not that I never want to work again. I just don’t want a career that pits me against coworkers or forces me to work long nights in the hopes of attaining raises and year-end bonuses.
I didn’t intend to walk away from my high-paying job nine years ago. If my employer hadn’t given me the boot, I wouldn’t have had the strength and courage to quit. It’s the reason I think of my layoff as a blessing in disguise.
Lots of people earn enough and step away, but I think I would’ve kept going. I would’ve kept climbing that corporate ladder even if my job didn’t make me happy.
I’m passionate, energetic, and ready to help the world, but that doesn’t mean I want a career.
I Want a Job Where I Don’t Have to Think
Why don’t I want a career? Quite honestly, I don’t want to feel stressed. At my old job, I suffered from a combination of bad management and short deadlines.
It was stressful to meet the demands of our business team while producing clean, bug-free code. If I return to work, I don’t want to feel that same pressure.
When I mentioned this problem to a friend, she said, “I want a job where I don’t have to think. Maybe you should get a mindless job where you don’t have to think either. You don’t need to feel stressed, and you don’t need to push yourself so hard. Pick something easy that makes money.”
I considered this for a moment, but I’m not sure I want to work on mindless tasks. That might be worse for me than the stress of working on complex problems.
Plus, an easy job won’t pay well. That’s why people pursue high-paying careers in the first place. It’s nearly impossible to earn a lot of money without skills or talent.
Am I willing to give up hours in my day for a job that doesn’t pay a lot of money? It’s a question I keep asking.
Some people don’t have the option to pursue a high-paying job, but I have the skills to attain one. Should I use those skills or ignore them?
A Job or a Pipe Dream?
Instead of returning to my old career or searching for a new one, I’ve considered looking for a high-paying job that doesn’t require me to climb the corporate ladder. Does such a job exist, or is it merely a pipe dream?
Over the last nine years, I’ve had time to focus on the things that matter. Can I find a job that allows me to exercise, get a solid night of sleep, and take care of myself? Can I find a job that won’t force me to deal with deadlines, commutes, or excessive workloads?
Financial success is no longer my priority. I don’t need to work to alleviate my monetary stress, fears, or anxiety. I want to make a difference in the world. My old job didn’t do that. My software didn’t change the world, or a single life, for that matter.
Should I pursue a passion that doesn’t earn any money?
I Don’t Want to Go to Work Anymore
I know I’m not the only one that doesn’t want a career anymore. If you stumbled upon this post, you must be feeling similarly.
COVID-19 is changing our work patterns and behaviors. It’s forcing us to question what we do for a living and whether or not we enjoy it.
My neighbor recently said, “I don’t want to work anymore. I don’t want to return to my old job when the building reopens. I never realized how exhausted my work made me, but now I see it, and I don’t want to feel run down like that ever again.”
“But, how can I quit my job,” he said with a sigh. It’s not easy to quit your career or to live a life without a career in the first place.
The second step is to earn as much as you can and begin stockpiling it. Take the money that you used to spend and stick it right into your bank account. Invest the money so it can grow and support you.
Most of us can’t quit our careers when we decide we don’t want to work anymore. We have to build our nest eggs, which may mean climbing the corporate ladder a little longer.
I know that’s not the answer you were hoping to find here, but it’s true. If you already have a successful career, you’ll need to downgrade your lifestyle significantly or hold on to your job while you save for the future. If you learn to live simply, you can quit your job much faster.
What Should I Do?
So what should I do? Should I look for a less stressful career, or should I give up searching for one altogether? Will I find a new occupation, an alternate way to earn money, or should I simply volunteer?
I am grateful for my twelve year run as a software engineer, but I’m not sure what should come next. Do you have any suggestions for me?