Crappy Jobs and the Lies We Tell Ourselves to Stay
Quick show of hands for those of you who are currently in a job that you know you shouldn’t be in (and maybe even hate), but remain there because of any of the following reasons:
- Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t (aka, you already know what to expect from your current job, and the unknown is scary)
- You feel like you should reeeeeally give thought to what you’d like your career to be and don’t want to make any sudden moves (sudden being any at all)
- You think you’re unqualified for anything other than what you’re doing (a la the “Imposter Syndrome”)
- You made a career leap once before and it didn’t go as planned. (Fool me once, shame on - shame on you. Fool me - uh - you can’t get fooled again.)
- You have a great idea for a side business but you’re not ready to make the leap yet. (No sense in getting a new job if you’re just going to quit eventually.)
If I missed your personal favorite rationale, forgive me, but there are about 153 million potential excuses we give ourselves for staying in a situation we know is no longer right for us. If I hit yours on the head, we need to talk.
1. Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t (aka, you already know what to expect from your current job, and the unknown is scary)
I get it. You already know your coworkers, your boss, and the jolly security guard at the front who, without fail, has the same classic dad jokes for you morning after morning. Even if you don’t love these people, at least you know what you’re going to get each day, right? You might not be fulfilled, motivated, or challenged in any way, but hey, it’s a paycheck… right?
Ugh. This is depressing.
What if there’s a whole group of new friends just waiting for you at your next job? What if there’s a boss who just so happens to be looking for someone (you!) to mentor and shape into the next leader of the company? What if there’s a role going unfilled right now that you would absolutely OWN, that would make you feel valued, respected, and full of purpose?
The unknown is certainly scary, but it’s also full of untapped potential. Holding yourself back from uncertain opportunities will only keep you where you are, and if where you are is anything less than pretty good, then I’m afraid you know what you need to do.
2. You feel like you should reeeeeally give a lot of thought to what you’d like your career to be, and don’t want to make any sudden moves (sudden being any at all.)
I couldn’t agree more with giving a lot of thought to what you’d like your career to be. Hell, I teach workshops on that exact topic! What I don’t like about this rationale is that it’s one thing to say you’re giving a lot of thought to where you want your career to go, but it’s another to sit down and dedicate the time to actually think about what you’d like your next move to be, and then take action to get there. I’m really good at talking the talk when it comes to doing things I know I should do, but when it comes time to walk the walk, I can find 43 other things that are “more pressing” to do in that moment. It’s not easy to follow-through, but it’s always worth it.
The big screw up most people make in this situation is attempting to figure out their whole career in one sitting. That’s like finishing the first chapter of a book, closing it, and attempting to guess what each subsequent chapter is going to be about. Ridiculous. Instead of trying to guess what future you is going to want to do in your career (aka, creating a 5-year plan or beyond) focus instead on what you’re curious about exploring next professionally.
What about your job do you like right now? What are you interested in doing more of? Think about companies you’re a fan of - could you do your role there? Rather than trying to nail down where you want the rest of your career to go, focus instead on the next six months to a year, and take it from there.
3. You think you’re unqualified for anything other than what you’re doing… and maybe even that (a la the “Imposter Syndrome”)
I’m gonna go out on a limb here and guess that you haven’t updated your resume or gotten in on the job search in… more than a little bit. I say that because if you don’t think you’re qualified for any other role than the one you have, then you’re severely undervaluing yourself. According to Executive Career Coach Ben Brooks, most people don’t think they are half as qualified as they really are, and they often don’t take into consideration aspects of themselves that are the real keys to success. He has a video lecture about this that you can watch here.
You got the job you have currently, and unless you actively avoided growing and learning during your time there, then you’ve definitely improved your skill set and increased your net value since taking the job. Worst case scenario, you’re qualified to do the exact same role somewhere else, and in that case there’s always the option to find a company you’d be happier at that might have better benefits or a higher salary.
If you’re somehow right about being unqualified, then do something about it! There are more sites to learn new skills for free than I care to mention, on top of a ton of places to learn in person for a fee. Ok fine, here’s a solid list to start with (but just because I really want you to get out of this rut):
- Academic Earth
- Adobe TV
- Class Central
- Khan Academy
4. You made a career leap once before and it didn’t go as planned. (Fool me once, shame on - shame on you. Fool me - uh - you can’t get fooled again.)
There are few worse things than psyching yourself up to take a chance and make the leap only to have the net not appear. When it comes to quitting your job and taking a new role, there are so many variables involved that you can’t possibly plan for all outcomes. Sometimes all elements seem to be right - the job description is on-point, the salary is ideal, and you really vibed with the HR person who interviewed you. You feel like you asked all the right questions and really thought the decision through, but come day one on the new job you realize there’s a larger gap between your expectations and reality than you saw coming. It’s happened to me and it’s happened to tons of people I know, but it still stings when it does.
The obvious reaction for most people is to come to the conclusion that they made a mistake, and learn from it. For many people that means being far more risk averse going forward, potentially passing on great opportunities out of fear that it will be the “wrong” decision. I threw quotes around “wrong” because here’s the deal - no move is actually a wrong move. Every opportunity you take is still leading you forward, even if it feels like you’re going backward. Every unfulfilling job, horrible boss, annoying coworker, and “wrong” move adds up to the career story of you. So long as you’re taking notes along the way and using your experiences to make more informed decisions going forward, you’re growing and moving in the right direction.
Don’t let the fear of making a misstep hold you back when taking career chances. Knowing what you don’t want is equally as important as know what you do what, so look for opportunities to add to either list and don’t let a negative past experience get in your way.
5. You have a great idea for a side business but you’re not ready to make the leap yet. (No sense in getting a new job if you’re just going to quit eventually.)
Of all of these excuses this one is probably the most optimistic, yet it’s equally as damaging to your present day happiness. I usually fall into this category, and I can tell you from experience that choosing to stay in a job because you assume your side hustle is going to blow up so quickly that it’d be a waste to go through the hassle of getting another job is a highly-advanced form of procrastination.
Let’s assume you have a great idea for a side business. If you haven’t yet begun to pursue it, you’ve essentially placed a bookmark for your future career happiness in a chapter that you may never get to. Instead of focusing on your current reality, you’ve allowed yourself to dream up a scenario where you get to quit your job to focus on something that actually brings you fulfillment. I am all for creating situations that provide you with a greater sense of purpose, but they’ll remain dreams until you actually put pen to paper. If you’re suffering through your current role with the intention of starting up your own thing at some point, what you’re really doing is putting off finding a way to be happy today.
Even if you’ve begun the process of starting your side gig, it’s still important to focus on how you spend the majority of your day. If your day job is killing your soul little by little with each passing week, no joy you get from your side gig is going to silence that pain. You know how they say on airplanes to put your oxygen mask on first, before helping others? If you’re trying to grow something on the side, (aka the “other” in this scenario) make sure your oxygen mask is firmly in place first. Even if you take a new job and your side gig blows up and requires you to quit, at least you will have been in a position that allowed you to be happy and grow for a short period of time.
Regardless of which excuse is your personal favorite, make the conscious decision to find a way around it. Life is too damn short to be unhappy in a place where you spend 40+ hours a week. If you won’t do it for you, do it for the jolly security guard.