You tell yourself you need a career change. Maybe you’re forced out by a layoff or your industry has moved in a new direction, where they’re going east and you’re facing west or vice versa. Or maybe you just wake up every day, thinking, “I absolutely DREAD going to work.”
The most common ways I’ve seen clients sabotage their moves are crawling when you need to run, flying when you need to take a bus, and going native when you’re supposed to be a tourist.
Crawling When You Need To Run:
When you’re making a career move, time operates like a 747 flying over the wide expanse of a prairie. You feel like you’re not moving but in fact you’re plunging ahead at 600 mph. If you aren’t aware of your speed, you make mistakes and crash.
Some career changers take charge of their future as soon as they feel a quiet inkling. Others ignore the warning signs till they feel the pain: emotional stress, layoffs or financial loss.
Once you realize time has flown by, it’s easy to panic. You think, “Oh no! I’ve got to make up for the past 6 months (or 2 years … or 5 years) right now.” So you start …
Flying When You Need To Take A Bus:
When you’re feeling under extreme pressure, it’s easy to reach for short cuts and work arounds.
Sometimes that’s a good idea: you turn the corner and unexpectedly find a doorway to your dream.
But flying off (literally or metaphorically) comes with hazards too. I’ve seen frustrated workers move to a small town because they anticipate living cheaply. Or they move to a bigger city, anticipating more opportunities.
Sometimes these moves work miraculously; at other times, you’ve taken 2 steps back instead of 1 leap forward.
Even worse, it’s easy to sign up for one of those expensive programs that promise to find you a job, tell you exactly what you should do with your life, introduce you to prospective employers, or help you get a job overseas. I’m safe in saying, “These services will take your money and leave you stranded at least 99% of the time.”
You know you need time to find your dream career (or at least a job you won’t hate so much). So you take a job to pay the bills. It seems sensible and, frankly, it is.
There’s just one problem.
Temporary day jobs ultimately will drive you nuts and drain your energies. I’ve met so many people who took a job “just to tide me over.”
They were tired after a day of work. So they said, “OK, just today I will relax and watch some television.”
A few months later: “This job isn’t so bad.”
That’s like visiting a country as a tourist or anthropologist. It’s fun to visit so you decide to stay and live like the locals. You may find a new home and never want to leave. But if you do want to return, you’ve got a hard road ahead.
Sometimes you start a day job and realize you’ve stumbled into a career you actually enjoy. I just met a dog-walker who told me, “I make more money now than I did as a teacher. And I had a masters degree.”
Sometimes you enjoy the career while you’re young and energetic. Serving up burgers and fries can feel like a lark … until it doesn’t. Working as an adjunct professor can be challenging … until the years go by with no salary increase and no opportunities when your college faces cutbacks.
It’s all too easy to get detoured by company passions and politics. You get involved with projects that don’t deserve your attention. You turn down a job with breakthrough potential because, “It’s not exactly what I want.”
Almost always, it is better to have a job than not have one. In some ways, it’s harder to manage an interim job. The key is to do just enough to get by. Get known for being friendly and cooperative. And never forget you’re a tourist, not a resident.
Want to assess where you are and get some new ideas? Sign up for a Midlife Career Strategy Session.