Unraveling the Positive Impact of Career Goals and Change for Job Satisfaction

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Dissecting Job Dissatisfaction: A Stark Reality

According to statistics from the Pew Research Center, 30 percent of Americans are not satisfied with their jobs. A national survey from the University of Phoenix suggests that the percentage of dissatisfied workers is significantly higher: 59 percent of working adults and 73 percent of professionals in their 30s are interested in changing careers. Whether it is 30, 59, or 73 percent, it matters. Millions of people who go to work every day do not like what they do, and it doesn’t seem right.

Career change is associated with myriad challenges: losing something already familiar, a lack of job security, the possibility of a significant drop in income, the task of explaining one’s decision, and fear of failure. In fact, those who take the leap and change professions find it a useful step in discovering their own contentment. This positive experience allows them not only to evolve but also to increase their emotional and mental health. No matter what profession a person has, research and countless anecdotal stories show that change can make a big difference in reaching job satisfaction.

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Parental Influence: Guidance or Burden?

For younger people, parents are extremely influential when it comes to career choice. On one hand, this can have a positive effect, with the parent providing additional information and support to their child. However, there are definitely cases where parental influence acts as an across as a “pressurized demand for success.” In such cases, the child ends up following a career path more out of a sense of obligation than “true passion.” This environment creates a strong sense of guilt for the child if they don’t comply with the parent’s wishes and ultimately hurts them in career development since they cannot distinguish their own goals from their parent’s expectations and will not seek out a career that is suited to their own skills.

Salary-Centric Choices: Fulfillment vs Financials

Similarly, people tend to ignore their skills in pursuit of what they believe will prove a lucrative career, causing many people to turn to salary as their main reason for a job. Choosing a career with only salary in mind, however, is harmful. There is evidence that people who use their strengths in their work are “three times more likely to report having an excellent quality of life, six times more likely to be engaged at work, 8% more productive and 15% less likely to quit their jobs.” When money is at the center of someone’s career choice, personal skills, and emotional satisfaction are foregone in favor of financial stability.

Research done by the National Academy of Sciences showed that high-income jobs increase life evaluation but not emotional well-being. Life evaluation is how people see their life as a whole and is related more to income and education. However, things like health, loneliness, and caregiving are more tied to emotional health. The research concludes “that high income buys life satisfaction but not happiness.” Though “low income is associated with low emotional well-being,” in reality, pursuing a high-paying job solely for the salary will not provide happiness in the long run.

Mental Health: The Role of Job Satisfaction

When one chooses a career they aren’t suited for, they often find themselves frustrated with their work. Dissatisfaction with one’s job can lead to stress and anxiety at work, which impairs cognitive ability. There have been multiple studies that found a correlation between job satisfaction and level of stress, with higher productivity being linked to lower levels of stress. Clearly, choosing a career that will make one more satisfied is extremely beneficial to one’s mental health. University of South California’s Applied Psychology program claims that “Being happy at work and loving what you do is an overall productivity booster and enhances performance.

People who enjoy their jobs are more likely to be optimistic, motivated, learn faster, make fewer mistakes, and make better business decisions.” People working a job they hate have been found to have worse mental health than people who are unemployed, and work stress has been found to raise the risk of heart disease. Working a job you hate has significant negative impacts on your health, which begs the question, why do people choose to stay?

Mid-Career Pivots: Overcoming Deep-Rooted Stigmas

Though there is plenty of information that suggests a job that makes you happy is important to your well-being, many people struggle with making that step once they have already found themselves in a career. Career change comes with a stigma — many people believe they will receive lower pay or that they won’t be able to change jobs at all. Letting go of a job that has had a lot of time and effort put into it is extremely difficult.

Stephanie Taylor writes that “changed work tasks resulting from new information can trigger people’s hidden personal insecurities, such as fear of judgment or failure.” People are inclined to resist great change, as “previously successful outcomes” are associated with dopamine — the “chemical which causes a feeling of pleasure” being released in the brain. This biologically keeps many people from overcoming their personal barriers out of fear of disrupting their lives.

However, data shows that changing careers does not necessarily mean losing everything. People often assume that changing careers has a high risk of failure, but according to a study done by the American Institute for Economic Research (AIER), for people “after age 45, 82 percent of late-in-career changes were successful.” AIER also found that for 18 percent of career changes, “income stayed the same,” and half the time, there was an “increase in income.” Statistically, changing a career is beneficial for financial standing despite many people believing the contrary. The fear of great change is what truly stands in the way of people finding a new opportunity and leaving their comfort zone.

“Self-Efficacy” vs “Calling”: Defining Career Pillars

When it comes to figuring out the importance of personal goals and worth in a career, multiple studies have identified “self-efficacy” and “calling.” Self-efficacy refers to the belief in the ability to succeed and affects expectations and goals when it comes to a career. A calling, however, is more related to the urge to pursue a career that is important to fulfilling one’s personal happiness. A calling involves the meaningfulness one gets from a career, and the emotional interest one has in it. It is a more personal measurement. While “self-efficacy ultimately plays a stronger role in career-related goals,” a “calling relates to career interests.”

The two concepts are not only key to finding a job that creates long-term satisfaction and happiness but also prove that successful career choice comes from following one’s goals and emotional interests. By approaching a career as a calling, people are then motivated by a “sense of purpose,” which leads to “greater well-being and positive career development.” Career change, especially in pursuit of a calling, is a chance to re-evaluate one’s priorities, as well as start over with new motivations in a new environment that is better suited to one’s goals.

Career Changes: A Self-Discovery Journey

A change in occupation is not only an excellent means to reassess personal aspirations, but it is also a moment to examine one’s identity. Herminia Ibarra writes on the connection between identity and career, saying: “How do we work and rework our identities? By doing new things and meeting new people. By telling and re-telling our stories. And, of course, by taking the time that trial and error discovery requires.” Ibarra focuses on how one can learn from change and how self-discovery comes through this change. With career change comes a change in activity, community, and location. As Ibarra says: “making a major career change is not simply about picking up new technical skills and repackaging one’s image and resume.

It is also about finding people we want to emulate and places where we want to belong”. Career change affects all parts of one’s life, which is why it is so terrifying for most people. It is easy to imagine how, after a long period of time, a career chosen in the distant past can become restricting. Career change is an opportunity to work on identity and personal goals, especially if identity and goals have changed over time. In a calculated manner, it leads to satisfaction without hurting one’s resources.

Financial Strategy for Smooth Career Shifts

It is a common belief that transitioning into a new career will take a heavy toll on one’s finances, but with a carefully thought-out financial plan, this is not an issue. Changing careers takes time, and that time is necessary to begin an emergency fund in the case of carrying your own health insurance and paying for education.

Budgeting will be necessary, but financial aid may be available, along with grants and scholarships for education.7 By designing a blueprint and carefully planning out finances for several months, an individual can prevent being blindsided by changes in costs, insurance, and income. A change in career seems like a sudden fantasy, but it is a deliberate decision that often comes with careful planning and adjustment to a new life that requires new skills.

As the world around us changes, skills desired in a work environment begin to change as well. New work models will constantly rise up to adapt to changes in a political, social, and technological environment. It is necessary to adjust to future work, and a change in career is beneficial for new skill development.

An article by the World Economic Forum says: “If the half-life of a job skill is about five years (meaning that every five years, that skill is about half as valuable as it was before), you want to get ahead of that decline in value. Assess your own skills every two or three years and get started learning new skills sooner rather than later.” A change in career that has stagnated skill development can be necessary not only to remain competitive but also for constant evolution. While the idea of suddenly moving into a new environment that requires a different skill set seems daunting, confidence in one’s abilities can work wonders in planning for a career change.

It is key to remember that first and foremost, for a career change to be successful, one must be confident and have a positive outlook on their future. A study done by Sarah Archer and Julia Yates found that an increase in career confidence caused people to become clearer about their career direction and decision-making and become more engaged with their career change. By believing change was possible, people developed an optimistic outlook for their future and were able to develop plans, goals, and pathways. This readiness for change increased alongside their career confidence, which shows how essential a positive mindset is to begin a career change. The negative associations with career change create a negative mentality for the people considering it. That is why it is critical to be confident in one’s beliefs.

Success Stories: Inspiring Career Change Tales

Career change is an individual endeavor. Thus, self-confidence and optimistic thoughts are a necessity, as they help one think creatively and expansively about new career opportunities. Seeking out help to gain confidence in relation to changing a career, people can look to successful stories that can help them develop this essential positive outlook on their situation.

Career change is a stigmatized and rare occurrence. That is why it is important to look toward examples of people who took that risk to make a life-changing decision within their professional careers and succeeded. Carol Anguilla changed her career from a successful corporate attorney to an elementary school teacher. On why she made the career switch, she says: “I just got tired of pushing money around all day and started wanting to do something that makes a difference.” Anguilla abandoned a well-paying and prestigious career and instead focused on what brought her joy. After Columbine and other school shootings, Anguilla devoted herself to getting involved in school organizations and ultimately made the leap to an education career to make a difference.

In a similar way, Irene Krechetoff changed her career path from electronics manager to doctor. She wanted to dedicate her life to the medical field, a field where she could focus on care. On paths she could have taken from her old job, Krechetoff says: “They all seemed so uninspiring. I realized I did not want to devote my life to making more stuff that nobody needs”. It would have been easy for Krechetoff to pursue her career for money, though she would ultimately be unhappy with the work she was doing. By assessing her position in life and what her life goals were, Krechetoff overcame expectations and found a career that challenged and fulfilled her.

The unfortunate stigma around career change prevents most people from pursuing a new, stimulating experience. Career change is not something that needs to be associated with financial ruin and loss of stability. If more people become educated on the benefits of a career, change how it helps fulfill a calling, how it can re-evaluate one’s working identity, how it improves emotional health — it can remove the shame associated with it and push people to seek what gives them true contentment in life.

The new skills, perspectives, and experiences offered by a new career, especially at a midpoint in one’s life, are important to self-realization. As people grow older and get shaped by new experiences, it becomes imperative to re-evaluate their changes in interests and goals. New desires and expectations may require a new environment to truly explore one’s ambitions and, by extension, fulfillment of one’s own potential.


  1. Pew Research Center. (2020). Job Satisfaction in America: Trends and Statistics.
  2. University of Phoenix. (2021). National Survey on Job Dissatisfaction and Career Change. Phoenix, AZ: UoP Press.
  3. National Academy of Sciences. (2019). High-income jobs and their impact on life evaluation and emotional well-being. Proceedings of the NAS.
  4. University of South California. (2022). The Relationship Between Job Satisfaction and Mental Health. Los Angeles, CA: USC Applied Psychology Program.
  5. Taylor, S. (2020). Navigating Career Transitions: The Psychological Impact of Changed Work Tasks. Journal of Career Development.
  6. American Institute for Economic Research (AIER). (2022). Career Changes After Age 45: A Statistical Insight. Economic Perspectives.

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Unraveling the Positive Impact of Career Goals and Change for Job Satisfaction. (2023, Aug 28). Retrieved from https://edusson.com/examples/unraveling-the-positive-impact-of-career-goals-and-change-for-job-satisfaction

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