Do you go to work every day with a feeling of dread? Do you wish or even pray for something better but have no idea what that would even look like? Do you think you were cut out for something more, or something different but then wonder if you’re just being delusional? If yes, you are definitely not alone. There are three types of people in the world: Those who are genuinely content in their jobs, those who aspire to more and are actively working to get there and those who wish things could be different but then let themselves be convinced that they can’t.
If you’re in the first group, congratulations! Take a moment to appreciate where you are and how far you’ve come and, most importantly, don’t let anyone burst your bubble. Misery can love company so my only advice to you is to seek out other happy and contented people and get on with making the world a better place.
If you don’t like where you are, or feel stuck here are 5 things that will be very helpful and 5 that definitely won’t be. These are taken from personal experience as well as that of friends, colleagues and others.
Take an objective inventory of the situation
This is not to beat you up, but to acknowledge the truth that ‘those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it’ * Yes, you may be in a terrible environment, but if you don’t look at your part, your next environment will likely be the same. I struggled mightily with a particular person in one company and within MONTHS that exact same person (in different form) showed up on the scene and I realized that until I learned whatever lesson I needed to about myself from my dealings with this personality, I’d keep encountering them. It took several years but almost to the day that I made my peace with this new version of the personality type, he got a new job, moved on, and I’ve not been plagued with him/her/it since. So do yourself a huge favor and fix what you can about your behavior or reactions before moving on. You may even find you don’t even want to leave after doing this step. But if that’s not the case, then:
Figure out what you want to be doing
The grass always seems greener in the other cubicle. It’s easy to fantasize about how happy you’d be at a different company, but we all know that there are problems in every environment. However, if you’re operating in your gifts and in your calling in a company whose values align with your own, then the problems won’t seem insurmountable. So how do you figure this out? I suggest you start with a list of your values and what’s important to you on an intangible basis. Then write down what you actually are gifted in; these are the things that come really easily to you but not to other people. Then write what you enjoy doing. Hopefully something will start to emerge. There are so many tools out there to uncover your strengths and connect them with possible careers that there is no excuse not to just do this as soon as possible.
Figure out if there is anything you need to do differently
Suppose you learn that your dream career is an airplane mechanic and you’re currently a hairdresser. Is all lost? Of course not! As before, you will never reach your goal if you’re afraid of the truth. If what stands between you and your goal is 10 years of school, so be it. 10 years is going to pass anyway. The point is to figure out exactly what it will take to pursue the new goal and then do a feasibility check and after that recalibrate and start planning your steps.
Create your new brand
Sometimes a career change is not as radical as needing to get a degree in a whole new field, but often people want to get out of one particular industry or field and into another and it can be hard to know where to start. There are many things that go into your ‘brand’. I suggest starting with your resume, networking groups and LinkedIn. This can get you exposed to people in your target industry and start connecting you to the world you seek.
Finally, own it. As I’ve written about before, it took me two years to own career coaching as a viable business offering just because I had built an “HR” box around my business. People are going to define you by the way you see yourself first and foremost so you have to own your new career and see it as a real possibility before others will take it seriously.
And now for the word of caution. I know it’s hard to be in a bad situation and it’s human nature to act out when feeling hurt, bullied or undervalued but trust me that no good will come from these behaviors.
Try to change the people, places or things about your current situation that aren’t in your control
It doesn’t matter if you’re right and your boss is wrong, or if your company owner is acting unethically. If you have done what is in your power to do and nothing has changed, you need to accept that the situation is what it is. A lot of great people waste a lot of energy trying to be the voice of sanity in a company dedicated to its insanity.
Do NOT Get bitter
This is hard. If you’ve been treated unfairly or unethically it can take years to get over it. Resentment is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die, though. Every single thing I’ve ever done because I was upset and wanted to ‘get back’ at the person who hurt me has come back to haunt me one way or another. Sometimes by inadvertently hurting innocent bystanders and other times by poking a sleeping serpent who didn’t deserve any more of my mental or emotional energy.
Do NOT Fight the law (because the law wins)
I’ll say it before and I’ll say it again. If your battle is with the owner of your company, put away your weapons because this is not one you’re going to win. Not only that, but allow for the possibility that you might just be wrong in your opinion. Earlier in my career I was tossed into a game of ‘pawn wars’ (I was the pawn) and manipulated into some pretty erroneous ideas about the company leadership. It wasn’t until much later and further observation that I was led to not only completely re-evaluate my earlier position, but also realize that I owed several people some SERIOUS (and very humbling) apologies.
Do NOT Gossip or instigate
It may very well be that you are in a terrible place FOR YOU. This doesn’t mean it’s the wrong place for everyone. There really doesn’t need to be a bad guy. It’s okay to move on and it’s okay to leave a company (or a relationship) that hasn’t done anything other than not be a good fit for you. It is unethical for you to try to convince people that they, too, should leave. This is not an expedition into the Arctic; you don’t need a team and sled dogs, just an updated resume and some confidence.
Do NOT Burn bridges
Along the same lines, if you really hate your current job you don’t have to go away mad, you just need to get out. You might be amazed at how much more you enjoy your former boss and co-workers once they’re former. There is no benefit in burning bridges unless your company is performing illegal activities (and if that’s the case you need to run far and fast).
So take heart, there is no economy in the world that is so bad you need to stay in a job that is sucking out your soul and there will always be upside to discovering and operating in your giftings!
Carrie Maldonado is the founder of Today’s Leadership Solutions, a Seattle-based consulting firm focused on helping organizations, leaders and job seekers to identify workplace solutions that work. As a certified executive coach, organizational development expert and resume writer, Carrie consults with small to medium sized businesses on OD, human resources and recruiting solutions in addition to providing career coaching to managers and executives in transition. Carrie can be reached for consultation at firstname.lastname@example.org
*George Santayana, most likely