I Don’t Want a Career Anymore

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 say that. Is there something wrong with me? 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?”

What If I Don’t Want a Career?

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 making 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’m 40 and I don’t want to work anymore. Could my thoughts be age related?

I Don’t Want a Career Anymore

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. Maybe I don’t want to work anymore at all.

I Don’t Care About My 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.”

I’m passionate, energetic, and ready to help the world, but that doesn’t mean I want a career path. I don’t care about my career anymore.

There are certainly perks of working, 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 Want a Job, Not a Career

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 make money without skills or talent.

Do I want a job without a career? Am I willing to give up time 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?

I Don’t Want to Work in Tech Anymore

I don’t want to work in the IT field. I don’t want a corporate job either. I worked as a software engineer for twelve years, and I don’t want to return. 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 a career to alleviate my monetary stress, fears, or anxiety. I want to make a difference in the world, and my old job didn’t do that. My software didn’t change the world, or a single life, for that matter.

I don’t want to work in tech anymore. I’m not passionate about learning new technologies, tight deadlines, or staring at a computer screen for hours on end. Should I search for a job that isn’t in tech? Should I focus on a career change?

I Don’t Want to Work Anymore But I Need the Money

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. This year made me realize how exhausted my work makes me. 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. “I don’t want to work anymore, but I need the money. I’d like to hand in my computer and stop being an employee, but how can I?”

My neighbor is in his mid-forties and doesn’t want to work anymore. He wants to stop working at his current job so he can pursue a less stressful side hustle.

Not wanting a career might sound strange or unusual, but many of us would jump at the opportunity if we had a chance to leave a draining profession. If you could quit your full-time job, focus on your mental health, work fewer hours, and create a better work-life balance, would you do it? How incredible would it feel to walk into work today and not return to work tomorrow?

I Don’t Want a Job I Just Want a Life

I could see the pain in my neighbor’s eyes. What if I don’t want to work anymore? What should I do? It’s a question many of us ask ourselves.

What can you do if you don’t want to work anymore? It’s not easy to quit your job or choose not to pursue a career in the first place. The first step is to decrease your expenses so you can save money. Learn to stop buying stuff you don’t need and to live simply with less. As your costs decrease, you won’t feel so dependent on a big salary. 

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 in the stock market so it can grow and support you. Passive income provides the path to financial independence, but you’ll need to find an effective way to build wealth.

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.

Many people don’t want to work anymore but need the money. Unfortunately, the only way to get rid of your job is to decrease the amount of money you require.

I Don’t Want to Work Anymore What Should I Do?

What if I don’t want a career? What should I do? Will I find a new occupation, a job that doesn’t force me down the career track, or an alternate way to earn money?

I am grateful for my twelve year run as a software engineer, but I’m not sure what should come next. My core values no longer align with a job in the technology sector of corporate America. Long term I would like to find a job I enjoy or pursue creative endeavors that make money. Do you have any suggestions for me?

88 thoughts on “I Don’t Want a Career Anymore”

  1. This is such a relatable post.

    I have been working in a company for the last 5 years and have realised that I don’t like the person I am whilst in the work environment – heavily stressing myself out and making silly mistakes are not helping my self-esteem.

    I’m so fed up however, like most people, responsibilities and I don’t feel as though I can leave without finding another role. I have felt stuck for a long time but am not really aware of what my skills actually are.

    I need something less stressful.

    I have realised that I need to work away from a desk and out of the office but am lost and it’s nice to see that other people are in similar situation.

    May we all figure it out sooner than later.

    • Hi Dami, Thank you for leaving a comment. As you can see by the comments on this post there are many people who feel the same way that you do including myself. I still haven’t figured out what I want to do next, but I am constantly searching for answers. I wish you the best of luck. If you figure out a new path in life I hope you’ll come back and leave another comment.

  2. This resonates with me a lot right now. It is not exactly related to your story, but it is something I am struggling with a lot. I am currently 2 months into university and I have no idea what I want to do. I have always done something that I thought I liked, I wasn’t good at it, but I’m not that bad either. I had this idea of going to make it into a career. But now, as I do, I wonder if this is really what I want to do. I feel that no matter what I do, I don’t feel good enough. I am scared for my future. All my life, I relied on my mother to tell me what to do.

    “Get a local diploma! If you don’t you will fail in life!”
    “Get a degree or no one will hire you!”

    Now when I say that this is probably not what I want to do. My mom answers, “Then why did you not say you want to do this when you were 17? We could have gotten a private diploma.” or “This is going to be automated? You sure you want to do this?”

    This is at the point in my life that I realised, I never figured out what I want. Like a child, I looked up to my parent and I just followed. For the past month, I have just been doubting and crying and wondering what has happened to my life, what has happened to me. I want an answer to be given to me, but that is not how life works.

    I want a career, but what career? I want to support my family, but the degree I go into will pay so little. I want this but that.

    I know I’m not the only one going through this. I just hope I figure out my next step in life.

    • Hi Lucy, degrees don’t always correlate to jobs. In fact, I once read that less than 30% of students receive degrees in their chosen line of work. I studied literature and then went on to become a software engineer. I’m not sure where you are located, but can you find an internship in your chosen field of work? I interned a ton while I was in school and took on a bunch of entry level jobs to test things out. I didn’t figure out what I loved right away, but I did find out what I didn’t like. That might help you get on the right track. It also helps after you finish school, because you have experience in various fields. In my experience, those jobs were more important than my stellar grades. If you can, search for jobs or internships to help you find a good path or at least figure out which path you don’t want to take. I wish you the best of luck!

  3. Hey Lucy, I’m at the other end of life but from what I’ve seen ANY uni degree will help get you in any field. I really think they see a U degree as proof you can work hard. I once had a boss with a degree in Marine Biology but he was Senior Manager for an Aluminum company! Try some on line personality tests to start you out. Hang in there, talk to people and you will be fine.

  4. First, thank you for giving voice to an issue so many of us can relate to. Second, as a man, I just wanna say this feeling is true for a lot of guys too. I’ll just say I work in the corporate space I can honestly say I don’t want to work anymore. Not one more day.

    Our society has become such that we’ve decided the pursuit of profit is more important than health and well-being. There are no boundaries between work and personal. To be successful at most jobs, you must work on weekends and after 5 to meet corporate expectations. An organization may say they care about its workers but at the end of the day, if you don’t produce, you are gone (and they constantly raise the bar).

    COVID has only made things worse, where the line between work and personal has become obliterated. Even when the pandemic ends, the dye has been cast.

    My plan is to put in 5 more years and I’m done. I wish it could be sooner but it won’t be. But when that day does come, I’m going to focus on self-care and involving myself in volunteer work. Maybe do some writing.

    Yes, I’m tired of grinding the sausage and I’ll be dammed if I give up the best years of my life to make some corporate shareholder’s dreams come true. Nope!

    • Thank you for leaving this comment and for providing your perspective. I worked from home 2-4 days a week for most of my career and I agree that the lines between work and home blur. I was a workaholic and spent ridiculously long days and nights trying to grow my career. I was rewarded for all of that hard work financially, but looking back I regret giving up so much of my time in the pursuit of money. I didn’t spend any time caring for myself or my health, even when I suffered a major medical crisis. As soon as I was cleared for work I went right back to it.

      It sounds like you want to live a value-based life, which is what I yearn to live too. I only wish I had realized that sooner. I wish you the best of luck in all of your future endeavors!

  5. As an educator and former teacher myself, my opinion on why we ask children “What do you want to be when you grow up?” instead of the more fulfilling questions you proposed above is because this money-driven profit system requires it. Any social system that requires jobs, supply/demand, and money as the means of exchange NEEDS the population to submit to employment one day, and the more the merrier for the system. That is what creates the very drudgery we all see today, because people in jobs spend very little to no time actually directly helping others as they had envisioned; they are merely performing mundane tasks for profit and cost-efficiency in the end. Virtually all of us are modern slaves submitting to more and more ruthless employers (no matter their intention), and the bottom line will always be profit and money-saving above human and environmental concern.

    I’m tired of the drudgery and endless social conflict and problems all over the world, from poverty to hunger, war, homelessness, racism and bigotry etc. Politics will never solve these issues because they are simply extensions of business and corporations themselves, and hence they will never put the profit and money motive aside in favor of human and environmental concern. The illusion that electing the “right leader” will magically solve the world’s problems is false because we don’t even see any problem-solving on micro levels – like a principal of a school can’t solve all the school’s problems, or a town/city mayor can’t solve all the town’s/city’s problems, a grocery manager can’t solve all the store’s and customers’ problems. It is our outdated values and inherently corrupt system that is the problem.

    If interested, I encourage you to look up and read about a Resource Based Economy as proposed by the late Jacque Fresco. It’s the only science-backed, feasible idea I’ve heard of that actually puts human and environmental concern FIRST over profit and money.

    Please take care.

  6. I relate to your questions very much. When I returned to the workforce when my child started preschool, I started contracting as a software developer, which is what I have been doing for the past 15 years besides a couple of W-2 employee jobs for brief periods. Contracting has given me a lot of room to work part time and/or limited term projects. You can easily end up overworking in these positions, too, but you don’t have to. Here are a couple of lessons I have learned along the way, and maybe they will be helpful for you:

    1) You can make a decision to work part time and stick with it. Whenever I have worked part time, it has gone very well. I got my projects done, I satisfied my customers, and no one ever complained. In fact, I probably could have worked part time without even telling anyone. I was way more efficient working 20 hours a week than I was in 40+ hours/week.
    2) I used to be a workaholic. It required therapy to get past that, but I did.
    3) After struggling a lot *thinking* about what I wanted to do that would be satisfying and fulfilling, I learned that you only know what does that for you by trying things. This book makes that case very well: https://www.amazon.com/Find-Fulfilling-Work-Roman-Krznaric/dp/1447202287
    4) When you find yourself overworking, as a parent, this thought helped me curb that: “I am stealing time from my family”

    I don’t want a career anymore either, so in the next couple of years I’m going to “retire” and transition into doing jobs that I enjoy (thanks to a FIRE-ish lifestyle). I’m figuring out what I will do by volunteering with various organizations in areas of interest until then.

  7. This is a GREAT article.

    I’m 63 years old, spent 48 years of those working. I got a mechanical engineering degree many years ago and have spent a lot of years working in that field. And guess what, I really haven’t enjoyed it for the last 10 years. So, last year, I got certified as a Life Coach, specifically a Neuro-Transformational Results Coach. I found out, at 62 years old, that I love helping others discover their WHY. Turns out, it is one of my greatest passions.

    Congratulations on discovering that life is not what others expect of you, but what you want from you. So many people never discover this.

    • Congratulations on changing your career to something you love! Would you mind sending me the information on how you trained for your coaching job? You can send me the information directly through email. I love that you pivoted your career. I would like to search for something new and rewarding this time around too.

      • I would also be interested in that re-trainiing process. I’ve worked Customer Service and Purchasing for about 30 years and then was laid off. At 60 years old I would love to get out of corporate offices and the pressure. I do love to help people. I’ve looked at PSW, retail, but just can’t seem to find a ‘fit’. I’m interested in your journey.

  8. I stumbled upon this post while researching another topic (Google’s search algorithm apparently hiccuped–LOL!). But I stayed because I found the article–and comments–insightful and fascinating.

    Like many other commenters, I worked in tech (every company from Amazon, Uber, Dell, Cisco, Verizon and Intuit to tech startups. (Yeah…I job hopped a lot.) What I have found in working with the big tech companies is that switching jobs for greener pastures is futile; essentially, it’s just “same crap, different toilet.” The “crap” is inane meetings (OMG I hate meetings!), deadlines, intense workloads, non-creative co-workers, insecure coworkers who try to throw anyone under the bus who they think might be threatening…and on and on.

    What I realized is that there isn’t anything wrong with the employees who don’t want to work again; the deficiency lies with these companies. They all pride themselves on “fast-paced, Agile” environments with a “scrappy” (which, to me, is just crappy) attitude. Think about it: When was the last time you saw a job posting that read anything like this:

    “We’re looking for highly talented, quality-minded individuals with strong critical thinking skills vs groupthink. We’re more interested in doing things right than doing things fast. We give employees the quality parameters we’re looking for, and expect high-quality results. We have long deadlines, and short mindless meetings. We realize creative thinking requires some “stare-out-the-window” time whereyou aren’t tapping on a keyboard. We believe in long vacations, and flexible work hours. And, we are 100% remote.”

    I wrote that job description the last time I quit my job two years ago, as a mental exercise of the type of job I wanted.I had always (for the past 12 years) worked remotely–even before the pandemic made it commonplace. I always negotiated that as part of my job offer. But I just couldn’t take the other BS. (Fortunately, I have the skills to freelance and make just as good of an income than when I worked full-time, albeit without paid vacations and healthcare. I’m single, never married–so no spousal support as a cushion or fallback. I’ve paid off my mortgage and live well.)

    When I wrote that job description, I “knew” no such job existed.

    Except that it does. Just not with a large tech company, but with a small, well funded 53-person startup. My salary is the highest it’s ever been; ever two weeks we get four-day weekends, the company offers unlimited PTO and 100% healthcare coverage. It’s fully remote, and they allow flexible hours. And time off is sacred–meaning you are expected NOT to respond to emails or answer calls during your time off–and that includes evenings and weekends.

    The only downsides are that they do have meetings (darn it! Ha!) but they are kept brief and to a minimum. And they even have “No Meeting Mondays” and “No Meetings After 4 p.m.” every other day.

    When we work, we work. We’re all-in. Yes, there is the stress and ever-changing directions commonplace with startups. But I can honestly say this is the job with some of the best work/life balance I’ve ever had.

    So…chin up. It might take awhile, but you WILL find that job that suits your lifestyle. Oh..and this company contacted me via LinkedIn; I didn’t even apply to a job, as I didn’t even know the company existed. LOL.

    Is this my perfect job? No. Nothing is perfect. Everything in life is a tradeoff. But it’s pretty damn near perfect.

    Oh…and the last 4 tech jobs I’ve had, I landed while in my mid-50’s. I’m now nearing 60, and am still getting recruiting calls. So, age is not a deterrent if you have the energy and right attitude.

    Good luck to all.

    • Wow! That is an encouraging post. I’ve been using Linkedin, Indeed and ziprecruiter along with government jobsites. Lots of interest but no hires. Networking, some irons in the fire…. Just keeping one foot in front of the other. Practicing interviews, have the reference letters….trying to keep one foot in front of the other. Just … keep… going…. ugh

  9. I just resigned from my executive director position yesterday morning. I’m 37. No plan in place. Would love to chat. Honestly, it’s been on my mind since I got the job. And I really started to rethink much since my dad passed away two months ago (I resigned on his 2-month death anniversary).

    I am going to take my time to think how I want to move forward. I’m a single mother, but I’m also in a pretty decent spot financially. Wasn’t always. Used to struggle big time… which is what led me down the path to endless hours of work whenever my son was asleep, so many jobs at once, and climbing the ladder quickly. I had the motivation.

    But now I’m finding myself.

    I am grateful for this read. It’s literally everything I needed and more right now.

    • Thank you for your comment and I am sorry for your loss. I hope that your decision leads you in the best direction. My dad’s failing health and my own medical problems in my twenties definitely refocused my values and led me to make life altering decisions. Feel free to email me if you feel the need to chat.

  10. Ugh software engineer, no wonder you don’t have to work like the rest of us slaves because you made a great income, paid off your biggest debt and now you’re making money from ads all over your blog… I’m jealous of people like you admittedly. Unfortunately we can’t all make over $100k in salary. I want a way out of this horrible slavery. It’s miserable and I’m only 37 years old. Everytime I picture myself giving up 40-50 hours a week (work & traffic), I want to f*cking scream.


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