But, equally important, is avoiding those roads that will lead to inevitable career unhappiness. Sometimes, they’re hard to spot. But I’ve found five that are clear, unmistakable danger zones. Take a look below and make every effort to avoid these traps.
1. “…but I’m good at this”
So, it’s not something you want to do, it’s something you can do. I get it. Sounds good at first. Take advantage of your skills and all that. But sooner or later, it wears thin. I see this quite often with mid-career professionals. They’ve been chugging right along, doing what they do, and suddenly they realize they’ve been sucked into a void of discontent. Don’t dedicate your energy to something just because you have the ability. You deserve to be at least somewhat selective. And if you desperately want to do something that you’re not naturally good at, you always have the power to grow your skills.
2. “…but I need the money.”
It sounds like such an obviously bad idea and yet, so many people fall for this one. Money isn’t enough to keep you happy for long. Yes, we all have financial needs that must be met. But, if that’s the sole reason you’re in your career, prepare for misery my friend. There are—literally—MILLIONS of ways to make money. Find something that offers another kind of satisfaction as well. Compensation comes in many forms and your paycheck is just one.
3. “Things will get better.”
Staying the course and hoping that things improve is a sure-fire way to waste time. If you’re in a career that’s making you miserable, it’s probably safe to say that things can’t change enough to make it worthwhile staying. Maybe they can. Maybe your awful boss will retire and you’ll be promoted and the company will be purchased by Google. But I like to encourage a proactive mindset. Do what you can to improve the situation and, if things don’t change significantly and quickly, start the process of moving on. Don’t stick with it just because you feel invested. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that things will just magically get better with time.
4. “I’m afraid.”
If fear is holding you back, you’re not alone. This is the number one reason people stay in careers they don’t enjoy. The unknown path is always scary. But be honest with yourself. If you never confront your fear, you’ll never know what could have been. You don’t want to look back on your life at the age of 70 and have regrets or questions. A few calculated risks lead to a life well-lived. Maybe not always an easy or expected life, but one you can be proud of.
5. “Nothing else would be any better.”
This is the kind of thinking that takes over when you’re unhappy. You just give up. And it’s my job to remind everyone—yes, everyone—that there are ways to find happiness at work. No one is cursed with the miserable career plague. It’s a temporary state, IF you are willing to do the work. Don’t ever believe you’re stuck.
The kind of thinking described above is normal and tempting. We all fall into these thought patterns on occasion. The good news is that you can snap yourself right out of it. You CAN find career nourishment.
Photo Credit: Y (Flickr)