I am sure you have heard that “the definition of insanity is repeating the same action and expecting a different result”. In a 2014 survey The Conference Board reported that 52.3% of Americans were unhappy in their careers. I would suggest that many of these people are unhappy because they are trapped in what I would term as “career insanity” and don't know how, or are afraid, to get out.
Career insanity is the belief that your job will improve by repeating the same routine each day and hoping someone else engineers a positive change for you. This may go on for years without resolution leading to career dissatisfaction and unhappiness. Why are so many people reluctant to take action to be happier? Many have great resumes, a good work ethic and are bright, so it has nothing to do with skill, motivation or intellect. It has to do with fear!
This is normal. When you have personal and financial responsibilities the thought of walking away from a job and security is really scary. I know. I have twice resigned from C-Level positions and both time it was a scary process to go through. But, in both cases the need for personal growth and happiness trumped any fear that I was experiencing. Ultimately each change led to career sanity and more contentment.
Let me make the case for career sanity.
If you are waiting for someone to rescue your career or if you are waiting for a perfect job to land in your lap, you are going to be waiting a long time. You need to control your destiny and make a change as soon as you can.
Don’t be ruled by fear. By creating a good action plan, following up on it, and having a strong support group, you can overcome the fear and you will achieve career sanity and happiness.
Moment of Clarity
In his book “Repurpose Your Career”, Marc Miller describes the need for a moment of clarity to get you thinking about career change. He describes that moment of clarity as an event that “suddenly turns your perspective upside down”.
While a major event may be a helpful catalyst that you need for change it is not the only way to achieve clarity. Clarity may be the result of a slow realization over time that you have become disillusioned with your present job. Maybe you have outgrown your responsibilities and they are a poor fit for your current skills and creativity. Possibly you work for a supervisor or with coworkers you don’t like or respect. Or, maybe you are tired of working for a non-progressive company that doesn’t respect their employees.
If you have progressed to looking at on line job postings or updating your resume then you may have already decided it is time for a career change. Your moment of clarity probably has already occurred, you just haven’t embraced it yet.
With over 30 years of senior management experience I can say with reasonable certainty that if you have progressed to the point of asking mentors and colleagues for job related references you are definitely ready to make a change. You have already left your job in spirit so the sooner you take steps to physically leave the better for you and probably your employer. The first steps are the hardest but achievable with a plan.
How to do this?
You can start by making an action plan that will help you navigate the uncertainty of change. This was critical for me because I have always believed that “I can predict the known but I can’t predict the unknown.”
My action plan consists of the following:
- Financial plan to list resources and the rate at which those resources will be used to meet obligations while looking for a new job.
- A critical assessment of your work skills
- List of contacts for networking to help with the career change.
- Support structure of family, friends and mentors.
A spreadsheet can help track the first three bullets. The fourth bullet is the most important. Having a support group in the moments of uncertainty is critical and will help you stay on track.
If my experience is anywhere near normal there are a lot of people out there who are contemplating a career change that are having sleepless nights. This is why it is important to have a strong support structure. For me the most important person in my small support group is my wife Carolyn who is also my business partner. She understands better than anyone what I went through and what I am looking for in the future. I also included a close friend and a business associate in my group. Both added an outside perspective that I need as well.
Make the Change
Be proactive and take charge of the situation before your employer does it for you. By taking the step forward you are controlling your destiny and after the initial anxiety you will be empowered by the fact that you made the change and took control of your career and life. I cannot overstate the importance of this timing psychologically. The longer you wait to make the change the harder it is to get over the frustration that your present situation may be creating. And, the sooner you make the change the sooner you can be clearly thinking about what you want in your life tomorrow and the day after.
Remember, you are smart, motivated and talented and you have the support.
Now it is time for the business plug. My company can be of help to you in this process. I am not telling you to call me at 2:00am when you are in the middle of a sleepless night but feel free to email me at 2:00am at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will respond to you quickly.
The Pursuit of Happiness
Despite the Declaration of Independence’s claim that we have the right to be happy we have to get there pretty much on our own. I know a lot of people who are fundamentally unhappy because they are trapped in a "career insanity" and refuse to break the cycle. As the Conference Board reported there are a lot of Americans dissatisfied with their careers, creating a heap of sadness and unproductively.