I had a cubicle job once. It was horrific. I’ve since concluded that cubicles were designed only because cages would not be tolerated in an office environment. Like a criminal yielding themselves to the police, I had turned myself in to be housed in the confines of drab gray walls. I chose that course. I got myself into that situation. I hated my work and I felt stuck, but why? It wasn’t the work’s fault. It wasn’t my boss’ fault nor was it my company’s fault. It was my fault and mine alone. I made the choices that led me to taking that job. I chose that path. I chose to be confined.
It is easy to take out frustration on a work environment. It’s easier to blame a lame boss, a soulless company or menial tasks than it is to own the reality that we got ourselves where we are. Look, you and I chose the course that led to the work we’re doing. Get angry at your job, sure, there will be those moments. But, don’t leave yourself out. Why do you work in a job you hate? Is it school debt that you decided to take on? Is it a house or cars you decided to take on debt to buy? Is it a feeling of this is what you should do? Is it fear of disappointing others? Is it more difficult situations like medical bills or family emergencies beyond your control? Is it because you lack clarity, direction or opportunity? What’s the reason?
I recall interviewing for a prison sentence (sorry, I mean job) years back. I danced the dance, answered classic interview questions like “What’s your greatest strength and weakness?”. I wondered to myself, “Am I really doing this? I don’t even want this job, it sounds horrible.” A month later an awkward group of coworkers gathered around my sadly decorated cell (cubicle) to wish me a happy birthday. I had accepted my sentence (taken the job). Why? Because it was easier to say yes to a miserable bird in the hand than to seek out work that interested me in the proverbial possibility of a bird or two in the bush.
Identify the reason you are where you are. No excuses. Just the reason.
There are a few very good reasons to take or have a job you dislike. But figure out a way to shorten your tenure.
- Maybe you’re in debt up to your ears and you feel stuck in your job or you need to take a job you dislike to quicken the path through debt. Work on two things:
- Get out of debt. Check out a course like Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University and be diligent about it.
- Replace your income with work you enjoy. While working through debt you can change jobs as long a you replace or improve your income it’s fair game to do something new.
- Maybe you have mouths to feed or are dealing with a family emergency/situation. Don’t jump ship on your work and leave your family eating ramen noodles or abandon a family member in need, but work through a book like Dan Miller’s 48 Days to the Work You Love , challenge yourself to discover work that matters to you. Check out Seth Godin’s What to Do When It’s Your Turn (And It’s Always Your Turn). Connect, network, read, grow. Begin the free, low risk steps to set yourself up for a transition. And save what money you are able. Put together an emergency fund that creates some mental and emotional freedom to explore possibilities.
Those are a few good reasons to stay in undesirable work and I’m sure there are others, but here are some not so good reasons, ok excuses, many of use to take or stay in jobs we hate:
- Change is hard (is that really new news to you?)
- I haven’t taken the time to figure out what I want to do (consider taking the time read the books noted above or many from the list on the right side of the screen)
- I’m afraid my parents will be disappointed if I change course (they might, but then consider that there may be relational dynamics in your parental relationships that need to be addressed)
- This job is safe, familiar and easy (it probably is. Might this be how you want to spend over 80,000 hours of your life?)
- I’m bored into submission and lack motivation to do anything about it (understandable, Might you seek out situations that challenge you to think and engage)
- Everyone else is stuck in their jobs (Is following the crowd is not a great argument for mediocrity?)
- It’s a stepping stone to something better (Just be sure it really is. Medical residency is a stepping stone to being a doctor. Is being a data analyst a stepping stone to something you really want to do?)
- It would take a lot of effort to find new work (it will. a lot of ups and downs, tears and prayers, but are possibilities on the other side life giving?)
- I need to stay here for at least two years (that’s a baby boomer rule. sorry, consider that maybe times have changed)
If you start working professionally right out of college at age 22 and work until you’re 65 averaging 3 weeks of vacation a year and a minimal 40 hour work week you’ll amass over 84,000 hours at work. That’s over 3,500 days. That’s the equivalent of nearly 10 years of your work if you did it 24 hours a day. How do you want to spend that decade, those days and hours?
Take a look at your situation. Do you feel stuck? Evaluate which aspects of your stuckness you control and take action. Even a small step can spark long-term action. Read Michael V. Pantalon’s Instant Influence and apply the steps to yourself.
Barring a few circumstances, you’re only as stuck as you let yourself be AND you have the capacity to change course!