About the Author

Sarah Vermunt

Books by this Author
Career Rookie

Career Rookie

A Get-It-Together Guide for Grads, Students and Career Newbies
also available: eBook
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Find Your Way to Feel-Good Work
also available: eBook Audiobook
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What Is a Careergasm?


What is a Careergasm? Does it feel as good as it sounds?

You bet your ass it does. A careergasm happens when your work feels good. Like, really good. Like a groovin’ Marvin Gaye song. Like you and your work belong together. It happens when you feel connected to your work — when you choose it, and it chooses you — and when you want to keep coming back for more.

When you’re on the right career path, it feels like a vocation, a calling. You feel like you’re doing exactly what you’re meant to do and what comes naturally to you. Your work leaves you feeling happy and satisfied and full — not every day, but most of the time.

A careergasm happens when you want the one you’re with. You’ve got a hot date every Monday morning, and you show up over and over and over again because it just feels right.

It’s hard to describe a careergasm to someone who has never had one. All you can do is smile knowingly and say, “Just you wait. It’s amazing. And worth every bit of effort it takes to get there.” Because it does take effort. Like anything good, you have to work at it. This book will help you do the work you need to do to get there.

Maybe you’ve had a careergasm before, but things have fizzled out. You’ve lost that lovin’ feelin’. If your work used to be hot, and now it’s not, it’s either time to spice things up or time to move on. Some things aren’t meant to stay in our lives forever. That includes old passions that have burned out. Maybe it’s time to let go and move in another direction.

But how do you get your mojo back when you’re in a passionless relationship with your work? One step at a time, baby. Every day there are people all over the world doing just that — letting go and taking a bold step in a new direction. I’m here to help you take yours. It’s time to feel good again.


I QUIT: A Note from the Author


I had a breakdown in the middle of a crowded Starbucks.

I was working on my dissertation. I hated it. I had hated it for a long time, but on that day something in me just broke. I was miserable, and my capacity for faking interest — even mild interest — in something I hated was exhausted. I couldn’t do it anymore. Not for another second. I don’t know why it happened at that particular time on that particular day. I didn’t see it coming. Maybe I should have, but I didn’t.

I felt myself start to unravel. My stomach twisted, and I felt an icy hot flash of panic pulse through my body. To my horror, I made a scene. I cried. We’re not talking a quiet, single-tear cry. We’re talking the fast and furious flood kind, with a snotty nose and choppy, heaving breaths. I was shaking so hard I nearly spilled my coffee all over my laptop. I rushed to gather my things so I could leave and save myself the public embarrassment, but it was too late. I watched the whole affair unfold from up above, outside of my own body. I thought, So this is what a breakdown looks like. It was awful. And exactly what I needed.

The next day I walked into my Ph.D. supervisor’s office and told him I was quitting, four years into my Ph.D. and 93 pages into my dissertation. I’d keep my teaching job until the end of the year, but I was leaving. A career as a professor was not for me.

I was afraid of what people would think. I was afraid I’d look like a failure. I was afraid I’d lose everything I’d worked for. I was afraid it would kill me.

But I did it anyway. I listened to the little voice.

I am so proud of that decision. It’s the hardest decision I’ve ever made, and one of the best. Quitting was a gift I finally found the guts to give myself.

That happened four years ago, and since then I’ve devoted my life to helping people quit jobs they hate, to helping them get the hell out of Dodge when they just can’t take it anymore. I took all of that experience from teaching at a business school and spun it into something new, something that feels way better. That broken-down woman at Starbucks is now a career coach, helping other people to take their power back and choose something better.

If you’re lost or struggling or unhappy in your work, know that I know what that feels like. So do a lot of people. Gallup, Forbes, and the New York Times report that more than half of Americans are unhappy and disengaged in their work. What most of us don’t realize is that your breaking point is actually freedom calling.

In the following pages, it’s my hope to help you find the strength to turn away from work you hate and the courage to move toward work you love. I’m going to help you ask the right questions, dig deep, and figure out what you actually want. I’m also going to help you address your fear and resistance so you can say, Fuck it. Yes, I’m terrified, but it’s worth it. Let’s do this.



P.S. I changed the names and identifying details of pretty much everyone in this book. Because I’m not an asshole. May their stories, and my own, give you the loving kick in the pants you need to find your way to feel-good work.


Part 1: Looking for Clues: You’ll Never Find What You’re Looking for if You Keep Looking in the Wrong Place




People say one of the hardest things to do in the pursuit of a happy career is figure out what kind of work you actually want to do. I agree with that.

Kind of.

In fact, I’d say it’s something more like this: One of the hardest things to do in the pursuit of a happy career is admitting to yourself what kind of work you actually want to do. There’s a big difference between not knowing what you want and not admitting what you want.

Most of the people who come to me for career coaching feel lost. They don’t know what they want. At least, they think they don’t know what they want. But more than half of the time — hell, most of the time — the problem has nothing to do with knowing; it’s the fear associated with desire.

There’s nothing more terrifying than admitting what you actually want — especially if you think you can’t have it.

For most, the problem isn’t that you don’t know what you want. It’s that you’re scared shitless to want it. Admitting that you want something means doing something about it. It means you’re either going to be on the hook for making it happen, or going to knowingly let yourself down. And I don’t even have to tell you which of those two outcomes is tougher on you in the long run.

Saying you don’t know what you want is easier because it makes you the poor schmuck who’s in the dark. But I would toooootally pursue my passion if only I knew what it was. Is that really true? I’d be willing to bet that on some level, there is a very wise part of you that knows exactly what you want.

Some people live their whole lives trying to hide from their own truth. Don’t go through life willingly playing the part of the poor schmuck.

Here’s what I’m talking about:


BANKER: I’ve got to get out of this god-forsaken profession, but I don’t know what I want to do.

ME: What kind of work do you think would make you happy?

BANKER: I don’t know.

ME: [activating stern librarian glare] Is that really true? You have no idea what would make you happy?

BANKER: Yes. I don’t know.

ME: [radio silence + raised eyebrow (the facial equivalent of calling double bullshit)]

BANKER: Okay. I’ve actually always wanted to be a brewmaster, but I can’t do that!



If this resonates with you, then, honey, your problem is not that you don’t know what you want. It’s that you’re afraid to want it. And those are two very different things.

Think the banker-turned-brewmaster example is far-fetched? Think again. A client of mine made that exact transition. And he did it several years into his profession, and while raising two young boys. He even took a crappy minimum wage job at a brewery one summer, so he could learn the industry. He was paying the nanny more per hour to watch the kids than he was making. If you’re afraid to let yourself want what you want because you think you can’t have it, just remember the banker-turned-brewmaster.

Consider the following question, and answer it honestly:


Are you really as lost as you think you are, or are you just afraid?


Maybe that question feels like a relief to you. Maybe you’re thinking, OMG, deep down I DO know what I want, but I don’t know how to get it. I’m terrified!

Or maybe that question really pisses you off. Maybe you’re thinking, Listen, lady, you have no idea how much I’ve struggled with this. I really DON’T know what I want, and I’m trying really fucking hard to figure it out. If this is you, hang in there. I’m going to help you return to the part of yourself that knows.

If you truly don’t know what you want, chances are you lost touch with your desire somewhere along the way. At some point in time, you pushed that desire waaaaay down to a place where you’re now able to tell yourself, convincingly, that you don’t know what you want. Maybe you did this after college, or when you started a family. Maybe earlier. Maybe you pushed that desire down when you were an anxious teenager worried about your future, or when you were an obedient child trying your best to show your parents love and gratitude, no matter the cost. You may have pushed that desire down so long ago that you don’t even know how to access it anymore.

But it’s there. And if you’re willing, I can help you find it.




Have you ever taken one of those aptitude inventories that tells you what you should be when you grow up? You know the kind. Based on this 10-minute survey, you’re destined to be either an accountant or a lion tamer!

These types of assessments can be comforting and are sometimes a good starting point, but without some more introspection they’re also often the reason why people get stuck in the wrong career. When it comes time to make a career decision, many people take the easy road and do what an assessment tells them to do, with little further inquiry.

Maybe you took that road, too. Maybe you picked your career based on what you were told to do by a career inventory, or an aptitude test, or a personality assessment . . . or a guidance counselor, friend, parent, spouse, teacher, or mentor. These people all probably had the best of intentions, but they had no real way of knowing what’s best for you. Only you know that.

On the one hand, that’s awesome! As Glinda the Good Witch would say, “You had the power all along!” On the other hand, Holy pressure, Batman. That’s why so many people cave to someone else’s career advice: It seems easier. But sometimes the easy road actually gets you lost, even when you follow directions and do everything “right.”

Have you ever done that? Followed someone else’s directions only to get lost? It’s infuriating. You probably could have done your own navigation and been just fine, but it seemed safer, more prudent, to get directions from someone else, just to make sure you’re going the right way. Then when you get lost, you think, WTF?! I thought these directions were supposed to get me where I wanted to go!

Sometimes you take direction from others and get exactly where you were supposed to go — only when you get there, it looks nothing like you thought it would. You think, This is it? THIS is the place I’ve been working so hard to get to? What a letdown. You want to get the hell out of there, but you have no idea which way to turn. You’ve “arrived,” but you’re also lost.

If you’re feeling lost in your career, chances are you’ll have to dig a little deeper to see which path is best for you.

When a highway is about to be resurfaced, first the road has to be milled — you have to dig beneath the surface and expose what’s underneath to make a foundation so the new road will actually stick. The milled road is kind of bumpy and corrugated, like corduroy. The old road has to be ground away before the new one can be laid.

It’s the same for buildings. You have to dig beneath the surface to build a foundation. This is the most important step. If you get the foundation wrong, you can’t properly support what you build.

What do roads and buildings have to do with your career? On the off chance that you’re in construction, lots. On the more likely chance that you’re not, this: If you want to build something that will last, you’re going to have to dig deep first.

You need to get in touch with what you actually want. What you want will be different from what I want, and what your mother wants, and what your best friend wants. That’s why following someone else’s advice (whether it’s dispensed by your dad or a guidance counselor or a sophisticated career assessment) doesn’t always work. You are unique: Nobody but you can get it right.

We’re not meant to be pigeonholed: You’re one of a kind, and your career should be, too.



not shy about expressing their feelings. They can go from squeals of delight to a raging hissy fit in 10 seconds flat . . . and vice versa.

A new Spiderman action figure? Pure joy! But ask him to share it with his little sister, and you’ve got a miniature Godzilla on your hands.

Toddlers aren’t very concerned with social norms. They wear their feelings on the outside. They’re still relatively new to the planet, so they haven’t picked up all of the rules yet. And is that really such a bad thing?

As adults, we play by the rules and do what’s expected of us. We’re polite, proper, and professional. We don’t do a happy dance in the middle of a crowded street. We don’t cry and kick and scream in a vocal range audible only to dogs.

Well, aren’t you a little bit sick of that? Aren’t there times when you want to kick and scream and make a scene because you have to do something you hate? And aren’t there times when you want to squeal with delight and do a goofy little jig, but you don’t because you’re afraid people will think you’ve flipped your lid?

When it comes to your career — and, hell, when it comes to life — I think we’d be better off if we embraced our inner toddlers a little more often.

Now, I’m not suggesting that you call your boss a poo-poo head (if you must, please line up another job first), or pout and stomp around when you don’t get that promotion (okay, maybe in private). I’m simply suggesting that you notice what makes you want to throw a raging fit. Notice what makes you want to squeal with delight. These are MAJOR clues on the path to feel-good work.

A friend of mine is a business consultant with a big firm. They have lots of rules — even rules about her shoes. She’s allowed to wear pointy-toed high heels, but not square-toed ones. When I hear this, I think, OMG, kill me now. I would never survive there. That is just too many rules for me — not to mention ridiculous.

Stupid rules make me want to throw a hissy fit. Other things on my hissy fit list include pointless meetings, mindless small talk, annoying jargon, networking events, and boring research journals. All of these things make me want to throw myself on the ground and carry on like a toddler who’s just been told it’s time to leave the splash pad.

What’s on your hissy fit list? Think about it. What rules do you long to stop following? What do you wish you never had to do again? What makes you want to flop around like a fish in the candy aisle of a crowded grocery store?

Go ahead and make a list. Include things from your work life that you hate, but feel free to add other things, too. Non work-related things on my hissy fit list: wine (I’ve tried to like it for years, but I think it’s gross and I’m sick of trying to like it just because everyone else does) and messy spaces (the thought of curling up and watching Netflix in a room with yesterday’s dirty dishes within sight gives me hives).

Now, let’s look at the other side of the inner toddler spectrum: squeals of delight. What lights you up? What makes you feel like a kid with a bag of Skittles and a Kool-Aid-stained grin?

I’m talking about work things and non-work things. Some things on my squeals of delight list: bright nail polish, rivers and mountains, alone time, pretty stationery, writing, deep conversation, beautiful design, organizing, planning, nurturing others, problem solving, and working with delightful people one-on-one.

If you look at both of your lists, you’ll probably notice some themes. Don’t expect a specific job title to pop out at you. We’re not there yet. Just look at your lists and see if any themes emerge.

Need some help? I’ll show you what I mean. Let’s take a look at my own lists.

My hissy fit list tells me that I’m reeeeeally not into shallow connections or interactions. It also tells me that I’m not into traditional corporate stuff, and that doing something just because it’s conventional makes me feel like crap.

My squeals of delight list suggests that I like things that are fun and a little bit kooky. I’m also a visual person. Art and design matter to me. And space and nature make me feel good.

Return to your own lists and see what you can learn. It should be obvious, but I’ll go ahead and say it anyway: Put some distance between yourself and the stuff on your hissy fit list, and move toward the things that feel like pure delight.


But I can’t stop doing the things I hate! That would mean a total overhaul!


Uh . . . yeah. Maybe that’s exactly what you need.


And I can’t devote more time to stuff I love. It’s not practical! People will think I’m nuts!


Dude. Who cares? This is your life we’re talking about. You’re supposed to enjoy it. It’s time you took your life back. Embrace your inner toddler. Live a little. I’ll meet you by the splash pad.

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