I think the number one reason you can get stuck in a career that is not suited to you is the comfort factor. It’s sometimes referred to as ‘Comfortable Misery’. Nice, huh?
You have a regular income coming in each month and no reason to jeopardise that, even if you are pretty miserable doing what you do.
Do you ever find yourself saying “I have a good job but I am not happy” or “Is this as good as it gets?”?
You’ve worked hard to get to where you are. You’ve gained a great amount of experience and learned some pretty impressive skills. You’re at the top of your game. Of course you feel some loyalty to your career, you’ve invested so much time and effort into it!
So, should you just ignore these silly feelings that you’re not really enjoying it and just push through to get that monthly pay slip?
I really hope I don’t need to answer that for you. The truth is, there is no definitive answer, some situations are more difficult than others. But there is a common solution for everyone that takes all needs into account.
The Employment Trap
Every moment of our early life seems to be geared towards ending up with a good job.
What is a good job? It’s usually defined as one that has as high a status as possible or as high a salary as possible.
No mention of what we would actually like to do. It’s always about what we would be good at.
They’re not the same thing!
Once you’ve embarked on your career of choice, you will often concentrate on the skills and experience that will get you ahead in that particular career. You will grow your network with people that are in your industry and you will immerse yourself in learning everything you can about your role, your company, your industry.
All of this makes you feel like the king of your career, but you are leading yourself into an employment trap. You are making yourself feel like this is the only career you can do and when you start feeling like you’re not happy in your job, you have no option but to carry on or move to another company in the same role.
Or so it seems.
You’re Not Ungrateful
The first thing you need to keep in mind is that it’s not your fault. You may have made all the choices that got you to this point, but the way we, as a society, encourage people to find a career path is quite flawed.
Tackling the subject of the link between education and work is a whole can of worms that we’re not going to open in this article. But, suffice to say, you’re not alone in finding yourself in a position where you have a good job but are not happy. This is so common, it’s tragic.
It’s easy to think you are totally ungrateful for the good job that you find yourself in, but would you say that about a relationship that is not making you happy?
We’re not robots, we change. We are not fixed as the same person throughout our lives. So, even if you find the perfect career from the start, that might not be enough to keep you happy forever.
But I think the main point is:
Who are you supposed to be grateful to for your job anyway?
Your career is yours. You don’t owe your loyalty to any particular industry, company or role. The moment you decide to be loyal to your chosen career path is the moment you shut down many opportunities in your future.
You’re not ungrateful, you’re simply becoming aware of your reality.
The reality where this isn’t the right job for you and it’s in everyone’s best interest to do something about it.
Avoiding Adjacent Traps
At this point, it’s a case of less action, more planning. You don’t want to jump into the next trap and find yourself in a similar situation a year or two down the line.
Find some support. Talk to someone close to you about it. Share the load. You are not alone.
That might sound like a string of clichés, but it’s really the best advice we ever give to people in this situation. Don’t let this feeling drag on and on, get someone else involved so that it becomes a real thing that you can do something about.
Then, take stock of what you have right now.
- Look at the skills you have acquired in your current career. Think broadly about these, don’t just think about the skills related to the specific work you do. What about your inter-personal skills, presenting skills, writing, selling, analytical skills. Don’t hold back, think of everything you can do.
- Look at the projects, people and environments you like to work in or with, as well as the ones you don’t.
- Make a list of all the positives and negatives of your current work. Again, go broad, think of your colleagues, your boss, the culture, the workload, the benefits, your prospects.
Next, try to project your current career into the future and see where you’re headed over the next 5 years. Does it look good at any point? What would a better next 5 years look like?
Sometimes it’s not a complete career change that you need, you might need to concentrate on the parts of your job that make you happy, rather than miserable. Other times you might just realise that no role in your current career is appealing and you need to find a new career.
But, either way, you can view your next few weeks and months as an experiment. Try out things in your current work that you think would make it better.
A horrible boss might be solved by moving to a new department. A high workload might be solved by introducing boundaries and working smarter. If you don’t like your location, are their options to move to a different office?
A career change doesn’t always mean a big change. Sometimes there are small adjustments that can be made. If you try these out and you still realise that you need to make bigger changes, then at least you’ve made things more bearable in the short term while you figure out what the bigger changes need to be.
As you make the smaller changes, you are adding to your skillset. You are doing things that will be applicable to any future career. You are raising your confidence and positivity by thinking more about yourself.
You’re not being selfish, you’re turning yourself into a better worker and that will benefit everyone.
Making Bigger Changes
If you decide you need to make bigger changes, then this is simply an extension of what you’ve been doing.
What have you been doing? You’ve been looking at what elements you want in your ideal career and finding ways to bring them into your work.
If you need to move into a completely new career to do this, then you will need to be looking for the careers that give you what you want. It doesn’t have to be a leap of faith, it can be achieved one step at a time.
Check out how we go about changing careers with our clients.
There could be a number of reasons why you are might be thinking to yourself “I have a good job but I am not happy.”
You can’t just sit down and figure it out.
You need to try things out. Experiment.
Become a scientist of your own career and continually make things better, rather than giving in to comfortable misery.
I think you know which of those sounds better!