Tuesday, January 18, 2011


Over the last, maybe 4-5 years, I've looked at my career and asked myself, how on earth did I get here? I'm at that crossroads once again. What to do, what to do? I don't think I'm really and truly happy with my career, but what would I be happy doing?

Some background:
  • High school (1995-1998): Totally excelled at math, business courses, etc. Love all aspects of money, investments, etc. Logical choice – apply to business school for university.
  • University (1998-2002): Enrolled in the Bachelor of Business Administration program at UPEI. Love it, start to come out of my shell and see the real me.
  • Co-op placement at CIDA (2002): By some randomness and my ability to answer a question in French, I land a co-op placement in Ottawa (well Hull specifically) doing communications for an IM/IT branch. First delve into communications (and government for that matter). Enjoy it. Not 100% comfortable, but that's to be expected, it's new to me. But I think I did alright, my then boss didn't hate me, she kept me for a second term!
  • Contract with CIDA (2003): In fact I'm sure she loved me so much that she hired me the second I finished my degree! (ok I may be embellishing the love, but the fact is, she did hire me back!). So I'm back at CIDA, off in communications la-la-land. Telling people how to use new IM tools etc. It's fun! But I'm also fresh out of school and happy to have landed a well paying job, if not completely in my field, in a related field that I liked!
  • Multiple Communications positions at CIDA (2003-2008): So contract is only for so long, but turns out I'm able to be "bridged" into a full-time position without a competition because of my previous student status. Bonus!! Still working with CIDA but this time in the actual Communications Branch. Blah blah blah, this goes on for several years, by the end of it (2008), I'm sick of it!
  • Communications Community Office (2008-2010): But lo and behold, as my head is doing circles at my desk one day, the phone rings. A secondment offer! To work with a old colleague in a tiny office doing cool things. YAY! I'm there as fast as I could get my director to let me go for two years. This turns out to be the only position that I truly enjoy. I did a lot of writing (not what I would say is my forte, but hey, the bosses loved it) and a lot of event planning and outreach – talking to people about something I cared about (key phrase, I think).
  • Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (2010-Present): Realized I had to move on from CCO. Needed to progress up the food chain. Won a competition and landed at AAFC. Love the people here. Atmosphere is the most positive I've seen or heard about in a government comms shop. Work is familiar to me, as it is similar to what I had done at CIDA. But here again I'm stuck. Bored, I think is more the word. 
I'm doing a job where the work doesn't energize me, doesn't excite me. So my dilemma, is it this specific job? Is it communications? Is it government?

I've been thinking lately about doing a complete 180 and going back to school to do something else. Preferably something that wouldn't put me in school for years on end. But maybe an intense 1-year program. On the other hand, maybe I don't have to leave the government, maybe I need to find that perfect spot for me. I mean I was happy...

What do you think? Have you or someone you know ever done this type of 180 career move? Are they happier?


  1. Not only did we not hate you, we thought you were great - and a real asset for CIDA.

    Ah, the crossroads dilemma. You are actually at the perfect age to go back to school, if you want to and can afford to, and it will almost certainly increase your career potential. It can also revitalize you, but there is no guarantee that it (or anything else in life, really) will make you happier.

    But getting out of the non-energizing job? That is really important. It's not being in government that's killing you, it's the particular niche you're in right now, I'd guess.

    It'll be interesting to watch as you navigate this course.

  2. Rae,

    I love this post because you're thinking about what will make you happy and energize you - you realize that having a 'job' that pays the bills doesn't cut it and are doing some soul-searching. Bravo! Most people are not so brave :)

    I always come back to the Myers-Briggs (you know how much I love it!). I believe you are an ISFP or ISFJ...can't remember, but I recommend a refresher on this - might help you a bit in identifying some jobs/careers that you'd be well-suited for. At the end of the day, of course, you heart always knows best, but sometimes it is hard to hear :)

    As for taking a 180 - I can't say I was ever in the position you are in - I didn't dive into a career after university, as you know. I did the whole working holiday thing, but when I was in these various places I did end up working for the kinds of companies a business graduate would tend to end up - banks and insurance companies! Always liked the people I worked with, but generally didn't love the positions or what the companies I was working for stood for...

    I guess you could say I took a 180 when I decided to leave a decent job on PEI in 2008 to do my Masters in Environmental Studies. Was a leap of faith in response to my heart, which told me I needed to find some way to channel my concerns about the environment into something positive.

    Two years late, I'm done my masters and back working at UPEI! The job isn't my dream job, but it doesnt' matter - I know it's only temporary. What matters is that in those past two years, I was able to find my passion (local food & community development), and I am now in the process of shaping a future where I can live my passions. At first, it'll be in my non-working hours (already working on organizing some local food events), but I know i will eventually be my livelihood and what I live for.

    All I can say is that I am so very glad I listened to my heart, even if it didn't seem like a financially wise decision at the time (it turned out to be fine, seems there are many funding sources for grad students!) and even though I was doubtful my Masters degree would necessarily lead to a 'better job'. In the end, all that mattered was that it led me to my passion :)

    I hope you are able to find your passion!

  3. Hey Rae,

    My only advice is that since we spend almost a third of our life working at our jobs it is crucial to find something that you enjoy, something that energizes you. Something that you're passionate about. If you can wake up (even though you hate this part of the day!) and feel excited about going into work then you know you're on to a good thing. Good luck, I'm sure it will work out for you one way or another.