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The FIVE reasons people stay in jobs they hate

Fear of failure or simply not knowing what you *do* want to do can keep you stuck for years.

Being a Career Counsellor, I am a magnet for people who hate their jobs. Some are stressed and overwhelmed. Some bored or under-utilised. Most lack the interest and sense of meaning which lead to job satisfaction. But curiously, many people don’t do anything to change their situation.


“If you don’t like where you are, move. You are not a tree”

Jim Rohn

We have choices and control over our own destiny though, granted, it often doesn’t feel that way and change is difficult.

So what is it that stops people from chasing the career that would ultimately make them happy?

In my experience, it comes down to the following five factors.

1. Being on auto-pilot

Several of my recent clients have commented that, prior to working with me, they simply hadn’t thought about what they enjoy. Their careers were on auto-pilot. They had chosen, or fallen into, a particular occupation and simply continued on that track without questioning whether it was what they wanted to do.

2. Identity

“But being a <insert current occupation> is who I am”. Our careers are a big part of our lives. Think about the first question you ask, or you get asked, when you meet someone new. It’s usually “what do you do?”.

Changing career can cause us to feel that we are losing our identity and, especially if we have been successful and attained a certain status, it can be hard to give up.

As social creatures we also often care too much about what others think of us, and dealing with potential judgement from friends, family and colleagues is something we’ll avoid.

3. Money

Money is a reality of life that can give us security and, ideally, freedom. There’s a common perception that changing career always requires some form of training/qualification or, at least, taking a pay-cut.

The thought of going backwards financially is a difficult barrier to overcome. In reality though, a career change doesn’t have to mean ending up worse-off so it’s always worth exploring and researching options to find out.

4. Fear of failure

When we make a decision to follow a new career path there’s a risk that we either wont be able to get the job we want or, if we do, it will be no more enjoyable than the one we left. If we choose to invest significant time and/or money into the change, the stakes increase. For some people this feels like a risk too big to take and they end up sticking with the ‘devil they know’.

5. Not knowing what you *do* want to do

There are unlimited options for the work you could choose to do, and having too many options (yes, even if they are all positive) causes stress.

As an example, I remember a TV advertisement from years ago that went “would you like, low fat, no fat, full cream, high calcium, high protein, soy, light, skim, omega 3, high calcium with vitamin D and folate or extra dollop…?”. That shows how overwhelming just buying a pint of milk can be!

So how on earth is anyone supposed to make a career change decision? We can’t try all the options out, or research every possibility. So we stay stuck in the overwhelm, searching the internet for answers, taking the myriad of online tests hoping that one will deliver on it’s promise to spit out our Dream Job.

The solution to all these challenges is to explore and find the best career for you. If you can get clear and excited about a new direction, it’s easy to overcome all the things that are holding you back.

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