“I think I’m going to change career paths”, Tim said to me via Facebook Messaging. We’d been having a short, relatively detail-less conversation about how our lives had been going post-high school when he sprung the career switch on me. “What should I do?” he asked.
Without having a whole lot of information on Tim’s past except that he’d successfully earned a BSN from a private school and was now working at a hospital, I asked him why on earth he’d want to change career paths. Judging by Facebook status updates past, I thought he loved the medical field. “It’s been hard to work in this atmosphere ever since my dad passed away,” he replied. I stared blankly at the small message widget on the right hand corner of the screen. Thankfully, we were chatting online as opposed to in person; my facial expression would have been priceless, not in a positive or funny way.
Tim shared that he’d been the Clinical Care Coordinator of an ICU for a few years, and felt really confident in his job performance. He knew the field well and actually enjoyed performing his job duties, but mentally – and personally – he’d been having a rough time dealing with his dad’s death. “It’s really hard to come here every day – yet I’m here, 50-60 hours per week. When I’m not here, I’m trying to make sure everyone in my family is OK.” Quite a lot on a 29 year-old’s plate, I thought. I asked him how long it had been since his father passed – less than four months. A death caused by sudden illness left Tim and the rest of his loved ones in shock, and he described the hospital as a place that simply brings back bad memories.
I could relate to what he was feeling in terms of shock and sadness post-death of a father, but our circumstances – our lives – were otherwise completely different. I wasn’t comfortable actually lending personal advice, though I desperately wanted to suggest counseling. I stuck with the initial topic of discussion I felt most comfortable with: careers. My advice for him was this:
Don’t hit the job market unless you’re truly mentally ready. Tim was already incredibly stressed, and I just couldn’t see how a job search would help calm his nerves. Of course, it had the potential to distract him from the negative feelings he’d been having.
Consider staying in your field, but opt for a different atmosphere. I suggested seeking positions with smaller practices as opposed to opportunities in large hospitals similar to where he was now. He said he’d prefer to take a break from the medical field and go back to school. I asked him what he’d rather be doing.
He said he didn’t know.
I asked if he’d ever be willing to relocate. He seemed hesitate to answer, and I knew it was because he felt like his family – his mother, siblings, and others – depended on him. If he was acting as the light of the family, bringing positivity to a tough readjustment period, he certainly couldn’t leave them. He added that his current place of employment is “truly a great place to work”. In the end, I lightly suggested that he try to stick with it, find a trusted friend to chat with, make new, good memories with his co-workers.
This type of situation takes time, and the holidays are especially rough. My thought was that no matter where he was employed, he’d likely feel the same way. Everyone deals with the death of a loved one differently, so providing solid advice for Tim wasn’t possible. Besides, he asked me about changing careers. And I just don’t think it’s time for that.