As Seth Godin says in his fine book The Dip, winners know when and what to quit. I met a client today who is taking some smart risks in managing his career and life. Fred (not his real name) left a job where he had worked for more than 10 years. His position was becoming impossible, and a new boss was promising to make it even worse. At the same time, Fred and his wife are selling their house as well his mother’s house. Fred and his wife, who is employed, have saved some money. So instead of staying at a bad job while looking for a new one and trying to fix up two houses, Fred decided to take one thing at a time. First, he quit his job. Next, he will prepare both homes for sale. Finally he will focus on his job search.
Not everyone has Fred’s resources or time, but his story has value for anyone who is trying to find a new job or change careers – It takes time and focus. I’ve seen many clients who put so much into the job they hate that they don’t have the energy or time to find a new one. In other cases, job seekers have responsibilities to their families that pull them away from looking for work. Fred’s story should be an example of how it is important to give yourself the time and energy to conduct a good job search. Even if you can’t quit the job you hate, or even if you have a serious family obligation, find a way to put the time in you need to find the new job. It’s not easy, but it’s better than staying in a job that is not helping you live better or be happy.
According to a Gallup Poll cited in today’s Redeye, workers across the world are not engaged in their jobs. Only one in six people polled claimed to find meaning in their work. Results were slightly better in the U.S. and Canada where a whopping 29% called themselves engaged.
What do these numbers mean for us as individual workers? First, it indicates that much work available today is not stimulating or challenging. I would add as a second point that the people on the job help make it good or bad. When we work for a bad company or a tyrant boss, the type of work doesn’t matter. The job will suck, and we hate going to work. I’ve been there, and so has everyone I know.
Many workers in the U.S., especially those with higher education or specialized training, at least have some choices and options. I recommend that clients try to align the type of work they do to their gifts, the type of skills they most like to use. It’s not always easy to find such jobs, but the pay off is worth the effort. Here’s a first step: Don’t stay in a job that makes you feel miserable. According to Gallup, about one in three Americans are happy in their jobs. Do everything you can to be part of that group.