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Why Actively Staying in a Job Can be Both the Hardest and Most Important Career Decision

Staying in a job you don’t want to be in is soul crushing. Yet, by actively staying, you potentially give yourself the best chance of moving on to career pastures new.

Feeling that sense of desperation that comes from being stuck in a job, especially if you don’t like your job but don’t know what to do, can be truly soul crushing. Yet, believe me when I say, you owe it to yourself to shake the malaise and begin to actively stay in the job you are in. Your future career success and happiness may depend on it.

I know I have felt the feeling of being stuck in a ‘dead-end’ job a couple of times in my career. One moment, in particular, comes to my mind and is still fresh many years after the event itself. It is also the moment when I actually made the decision to switch careers from being an environmental consultant to marketing. To be honest on reflection, my feelings of frustration and loss of morale had been slowing building for months. However, this one moment crystalized everything I was feeling and I made the decision to switch careers.

Here is what happened to me: I had been working until midnight the night before and was up early before sunrise (around 3am), to complete some work. So I had very little sleep. My boss at the time walked into the office, and then came through to check on the team. Unfortunately, the boss decided that everything that was happening in eyesight was incorrect, and became increasingly frustrated. One by one the boss addressed each person until it was my turn. Except when it got to me, the boss started shouting (not the first time this had happened). On this particular occasion, what I distinctly remember was how red in the face my boss was after they finished shouting at me. I mean like bright red. Needless to say, the mixture of little sleep and being shouted at in front of everyone, made me feel very angry and hurt inside.

Keep calm and career on – find a way to regain your focus on your future goals.

Immediately my thoughts turned to how I wanted to quit right there and then. How I wanted to walk out and make a statement. Fortunately, I quickly regained my emotions and common sense. Now I know that this is not the worst thing to happen to anybody. And I know that people stay in jobs and deal with far worse. But on this morning, this event crystalized my desire to switch careers. Right there and then I decided I needed to switch jobs.

It would be another six months until I was able to actually change professions and make the switch. And that time in between the events of that morning and me actually making the switch, was the longest and most desperate feeling of my career. There were days when I felt completely useless, days when I felt like I would never be able to switch jobs, and times when I even felt some depression, and certainly sorry for myself.

But I soon realized that these feeling were not serving me well. In fact, I was actually jeopardizing my chances of actually making a successful career switch by letting my energy and focus drift to these unproductive and sad feelings. I needed to get some context and refocus on my path ahead. I needed to re-evaluate how I was spending my time not on the job, and how I could better use it to serve my purpose and help me guarantee my future career success.

Creating a stay plan can help you refocus and more quickly deliver the career change you desire.

Despite my tendency to feel frustrated, useless and desperate at my situation, I managed to refocus enough to create a stay plan. This was not complicated by any stretch of the imagination. It consisted of a single piece of paper, on which I answered three questions (for details about how to answer these questions, check out the 3 Decisions Facebook page):

  • Which career / company / change am I trying to make?
  • What skills do I need to learn to be successful?
  • What skills could I learn on my own vs. education?

By answering these questions and creating my stay plan, I was able to better reallocate how I was spending my time, to better serve my new goal. I was able to not only actively stay in my job, but also improve my chances of making a successful switch to marketing. I was able to regain my focus and be productive towards a goal that would benefit me. All the while, I was also able to take on more of the marketing activities in my current job, and further able to practice things I would later do in my new career.

The thing is, if I had just walked out of the office on that morning, who would I truly have been benefitting? Not me, because I would have been without work, without the means to fund any education I might have needed to switch jobs, certainly the pressure of not having a job might have forced me into a path that was not the right one. Instead, I kept my job, shaped the role so that I could practice some of the skills I had started to learn about.

If you are ever in a position where you decide to switch careers, the best thing to do is keep calm and career on!

Originally published on 3decisions.com

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