21 People Who Were Unhappy With Their Jobs Are Revealing Why They Changed Careers And What They Do Now, And It's Super Compelling

We asked members of the BuzzFeed Community who have changed careers and are happier now to tell us what job they left, what job they ended up landing, and what their journey was like. Here's what they shared:

1."I stuck it out working in public relations for about five years in NYC shortly after obtaining a bachelor's degree in marketing. I graduated in 2009 during the recession and somehow landed a job at a top PR firm. Most of the kids I graduated with could not get jobs at all, so I guess I considered myself lucky. The money when you start out in that industry is terrible, and you are treated horribly. It's a very frivolous and cutthroat industry. It relies heavily on the 'hierarchy model,' and you are made to feel lucky to even work in the field. If you're unhappy, you're told that someone is right behind you and is ready for your job."

"I bounced around through three different firms thinking the grass would eventually be greener. On one of my final days, I was getting screamed at in front of my entire office over a bracelet that I forgot to send out to a celebrity, and in my mind, I was like, 'People are dying, and you're worried about this?' It was then and there I got my ish together, moved back home to the Jersey suburbs, and started nursing school. I started right before the pandemic as an RN in the ER. I have learned so much, and the job is super rewarding. Hardest/best decision I have ever made. My friends always joke that my autobiography should be titled 'From PR to the ER.'"


2."I was a teacher and loved, loved, loved it! But, it was like being in a toxic, abusive relationship. Long hours, extreme workload, low pay. I was sick all the time and could never afford to take a vacation, even while having summers off. I still wanted to work with kids, so I became an occupational therapist. I make double what I did as a teacher and work half as much. I miss teaching so much, but I’m mentally and physically healthier."


An occupational therapist with a patient
Fatcamera / Getty Images

3."I got my degree in print journalism and promptly got a newspaper job. This was the mid '00s, and the industry started crashing within a couple of years. Seeing the writing on the wall, I transitioned to TV news. It was the absolute worst job experience of my life. Abusive management, horrible hours, worse pay, and unreasonable work/life expectations. I barely got out with my sanity. I now work for an amazing company in their marketing department. I still use my journalism skills, so my degree isn't wasted. But, after working more than 10 years of holidays, nights, overnights, and weekends, doing a 9–5, Monday–Friday job is glorious. Even more so now that my company made work-from-home permanent. I don't LOVE my job (though I do love my company); it's fine. But, the most important thing is that I also don't wake up dreading having to go to work. I'm content with my work life, and that's a win!"


4."I was really interested in medicine in high school, but chose to major in civil engineering. I worked for an engineering consulting firm for four years before realizing how unhappy I was. I liked the engineering part of the job, but unfortunately, I hated the business development and project management aspect. I found out about post-baccalaureate programs to complete pre-med classes, and enrolled while working mostly full-time as an engineer and volunteering at a hospital. This hospital happened to have a general practice dental residency program, and I asked to be placed there for a few weeks to check it out. I ended up spending a year there, and it was such a great experience that it led me to apply to dental schools instead of medical."

"Today, I’m so much happier as a dentist because I get to talk to my patients and provide guidance and care. Plus, there’s no late office nights or urgent emails while I’m out of the office. I learned a lot about what satisfies me as a professional through this process, and I’d encourage anyone reading this to figure out what you like, but more importantly, what you DON’T like in a job/profession, to guide your search."


Dental students in a class
Tom Werner / Getty Images

5."I worked in hospitality for over 16 years (a combo of waiting tables, bartending, and retail). I got a call from a friend one day who had their own automotive and marine upholstery shop, and they asked if I was interested in a job. I figured they needed a receptionist or something along those lines, so I was like, heck yeah! A pay increase, a set schedule, and weekends off? Sign me up! Little did I know, they actually needed a new industrial seamstress! I had never even touched a sewing machine in my life up until that point, but I was willing to give it a shot. I put my blood, sweat, and tears (literally) into learning the new skill. I then took a job with another upholstery company that taught me the actual upholstery side of things. Here I am seven years later, and I own and operate my own upholstery business from home, and I’m so glad I took the leap and was willing to learn a completely new skill!"


6."For most of my young life, I was very passionate about music and was a talented artist. I was in a performing arts group in my youth, then did musical theater and choir in high school. I also aced my arts classes, but I wasn’t quite as invested in them as I was in music. I had really wanted to pursue singing as a career, but my parents basically threatened to disown me if I didn’t go to college. So, I went to college for music, and honestly, it made me hate it. I didn’t feel like I learned anything relevant, as it was all rooted in classical music. I dropped out when I couldn’t get through some of the more difficult gen-ed classes."

"I ended up getting into office work so I could move out on my own and support myself (I am at least proud I was able to do that). It was fine at first, but after a few years, I felt like I’d lost my soul and sense of self just clicking away at a computer for corporate America. I'd always had an eye for aesthetics, color, and design as well, but I didn’t lean into it as hard, so I never thought to pursue it. It took me nearly dying in an unrelated incident to decide I needed to change my career path for my own wellbeing because we never know how much time we have. I chose interior design. I make more money than I ever did doing office work, and I have a chance to be creative, which feeds my soul."


A designer looking at blueprints
Nickylloyd / Getty Images

7."Former teacher here. I worked several teaching positions inside and outside of the classroom until I left the field in 2018. Managing student behavior was so stressful, and I felt like I was terrible at it. I switched to healthcare to pursue my goal of becoming a physician. My first healthcare job was as a receptionist at a multidisciplinary mental health clinic, and I stayed in this role for two years. About a year and a half after starting that job, I went back to school to take the science courses required to apply to medical school (my BA is in English, so I didn’t take the required science courses in undergrad). I'm currently a scribe at a urology practice where I have been for three years. I finished all the pre-reqs last year and am taking the MCAT next month. While this path hasn’t been easy, I’m happier in healthcare than I was teaching."


8."I was a bartender making good money in a tourist town, but I had no insurance, retirement plan, or overall stability. I loved it in my 20s, but it was wearing down my body and my mind. I have herniated discs in my back and an ankle injury, and dealing with people in that capacity post-COVID was absolute hell. Most customers became entitled, ill-mannered, and just terrible. Head to toe, I’d given it all I had and couldn’t physically do my job anymore. My mom went to the eye doctor and randomly asked the tech about her job and training, then told me about it. I had a couple of friends who worked in the industry, so I did my own research and decided that it could be a good fit for me."

"I quit my bartending job and started training as an ophthalmic technician. I love it! It can be challenging, like any job, but being able to help people is incredibly rewarding for me. I work for a top LASIK and cataract surgeon, and being able to be a part of a patient’s sight journey is amazing! I get goosebumps every time I see patients post-op because they’re so happy to see better than they have in years, or ever. I took almost a 50% pay cut for this job, but I have health insurance, benefits, a 401k, a regular schedule, weekends off, and overall job stability. My partner and I want to start a family, so it really made sense for me to do this for our future. I’m so happy I made the change. It was scary, but I’ve never been happier!"


An eye doctor adjusting a machine for a patient
Eyecrave Productions / Getty Images

9."Being neurodiverse, it’s fairly normal to switch jobs. I started as a journalist, then went into retail, then telecommunications, and then healthcare. At the beginning of the pandemic, I went on LinkedIn, found a gap in content, and created a post connecting job seekers to recruiters. In two years, it put job seekers in front of 5.7 million people and was the start of a 12k-person private community. I got hired by Amazon as a technical recruiter based on that. Oh, now I’m a professional speaker and DEI PM."


10."I switched from corporate management to an administrative/receptionist job with a very small family-owned business. It was honestly the best decision of my life. The pay may not be what it was, but it's enough for me, and I actually have a work-life balance that I didn't even know was possible. It's been two years now, and I've knocked four travel destinations off my bucket list (compared to the one trip I'd managed to take in the last five years at my old job). It also makes a HUGE (wild how huge) difference as a woman to be working at a woman-owned company versus the heavily male-dominated field I was in before. I'm thought of as assertive and forward-thinking, as opposed to a bitch."


A woman working in an office
Willie B. Thomas / Getty Images

11."I went to school for IT engineering and realized that it was not for me, but I couldn’t really change my major, so I finished that degree while figuring out what I really wanted to do. I ended up falling in love with design and got my master's. Now, I work as a product designer, and I am so glad to not be in a coding role. Being a designer just works so well with my personality, lifestyle, and goals. I would never go back to a coding job, but I learned a lot about myself through that experience."


12."I started as a high school math teacher and barely made it through a year dealing with the teenage monsters. I was also broke since teaching pays nothing, so I felt like garbage having to rely on my parents to make my car payments and keep me on their car and health insurances. I quit, went to graduate school, got a degree in engineering, and now I'm happily working as a data analyst making 5x what I did as a teacher, plus infinitely better benefits. I'm also way less stressed and far less likely to have a work-related mental breakdown. Plus, I don't have to deal with kids at all, and I don't even work directly with customers. I get to hide behind my computer and enjoy doing my work (from home)!"


A woman on her laptop
Nitat Termmee / Getty Images

13."I was a preschool teacher for 20 years. I came down with COVID, along with my husband. He passed away after seven weeks in the hospital. I made a full recovery. When autumn came around and it was time to return to teaching, I could only do it for about five months. I turned in my resignation and took a job helping people with physical and mental delays. The new job was a real change for me. I have never regretted it. I have been with my new job for a little over a year!"


14."I fell into working in corporate finance after undergrad. It was fine, and it paid decently, but it was dreadful. So boring and so much unnecessary work being done. Then, 9/11 happened, and I reevaluated what I wanted. I went back for my master's in library science. I had plans to take that back to the corporate world, but ended up in higher education. I love working with students and faculty and helping them make connections. I mostly manage people and services these days, and I find it incredibly fulfilling to help people find ways to work that are satisfying to them, while also genuinely making a difference."


A man working in a library
Ika84 / Getty Images

15."I was an RN. After traveling to California to help with COVID patients, I got diagnosed with PTSD. I switched to a desk job, and I’m happy I did. I have more mental bandwidth to focus my energy and talents on things I have control over and that make me happy."


16."I was a teacher for almost 10 years and entered the profession through Teach for America. 50–60-hour weeks are tough (yes, even with summers off) under the best of circumstances, but I never had the best of circumstances. As a young teacher, I was once assaulted by a student and then forced to allow them back to my classroom. The student was later expelled for making death threats. I was encouraged to pass students who had not turned in any assignments, including opportunities to make up missed work. I was expected to have students 'college ready,' but prohibited from assigning homework. My students were not allowed to bring supplies to school, and I mostly provided them myself with no financial reimbursement from my school/district (which is true for so many teachers)."

"I developed a severe anxiety disorder, as well as other long-term health issues because we were prohibited from taking restroom breaks during or between classes. I am glad I was able to support some of my former students, but none of those positive experience outweighed the negatives. This career choice was the worst decision of my life. As a former teacher, even though I basically project-managed and collected/analyzed data every day, I'm not viewed as particularly hirable in other fields. Even still, in my crappy call center job where I make $5,000 a year less than I did as a teacher, I know leaving teaching was the best and only choice for me. Now, I get to leave my work at the end of the day. If something doesn’t go well, I don’t worry that someone’s life will be forever impacted because of it. I can call out when I’m sick. Even on a bad day, I am not attacked at every turn. I don’t feel pressured to be closeted. All in all, I am so much happier now."


People working in a call center
Maskot / Getty Images

17."I worked for a long time at a large services company that painted a pretty picture of your future if you rose through the ranks. After nearly a decade of rising, I found myself resentful of the sales team, as they made it difficult on the service teams with the way they presented the truth to gain the sale. I worked at several locations in two different countries, and the sales people were the same everywhere. And, they were the ones making the real money. I became friendly with a sales team member and learned more about their compensation. It convinced me I needed to look elsewhere. I left to become a sales rep for a large company that provided a service completely new to me and to a market of people I didn't know."

"I quickly learned about the product and the real value of the sales rep to that industry. I treated all the customers like they were my best friend, and I made enough money in eight years to retire. I couldn't be happier."


18."I worked in the cannabis industry for over a decade. It was as fun as it sounds…sometimes. I learned A LOT, and I had some really cool opportunities come my way, but most of what I got was spending my 20s busting my butt and compromising my sanity while making a bunch of money for other people. I got laid off after developing a ton of IP for a big corporation (corporate weed is the WORST), and it left a really bad taste in my mouth. I’ve since taken all my operations management experience, drive, and passion to a nonprofit dedicated to children. I now have a work/life balance, and I feel really good knowing that the work I do actually matters."


A director working with volunteers
Sdi Productions / Getty Images

19."I spent 15 years in retail management. I totally drank the Kool-Aid and was all about sales, customer service, blah blah blah. I did great for the first 10 years, and then the burnout hit me hard. In retail management, they love to say, 'Where else are you going to be able to make this kind of money without a college degree?' Well, it turns out that all my time in management prepared me for a great position in benefits administration. I make the same money; however, I have a regular schedule, get to enjoy the holidays, and have so much less stress."


20."When I was working in television news, there was no work/life balance. I was working 10+ hours every day, and then turning around and doing it again the next day. I moved to the corporate world and now work 7:30–4:30 and have a very flexible position that allows me to take care of my toddler. That never would've happened in my old job. I'm happier now than I have been in a long time."


People in a conference room
Klaus Vedfelt / Getty Images

21.Finally: "I never really knew what I wanted to do and kept going for jobs that were way below my skills. With low self-esteem, I didn’t think I was worth more, even though I had a master’s degree and eventually a lot of experience in things from journalism to marketing. I ended up working as an English teacher, teaching adult learners at a private language school. It was a total dead-end job that was making me depressed, but I got comfortable. Also, in your 30s, it’s hard to do something you’ve never done before. When the pandemic started, I lost my job and realized they didn’t care about me at all. It was just about money, and once we couldn’t teach, we were all let go. I did some soul searching and realized I’d always wanted to work in healthcare."

"It was too late to try to go to med school, but I ended up starting a master's in public health in the middle of the pandemic. I got a job in epidemiology right after graduation. I’m not rich, but I’m making more than I ever have before. My job is super challenging (which I love), and I feel like I’m learning something new every day, which keeps me motivated and fulfilled. I’m so glad I did a total 180 and followed my heart, but I also wish I’d done it 15 years prior. I'd be further along in my career now that I’m about to turn 40."


If you've ever changed careers, what's your story? Are you glad you did, or do you wish you'd stayed in your original industry?

Note: Submissions have been edited for length and/or clarity.