If you are like the majority of the people I talk to, your career is similar to the ocean. What I mean by this is that there is an ebb and flow of when and how often you are satisfied with your current job, or the career you are in.
Surprisingly, many people end up in a career they didn’t intend to be in. Or worse, stay in the one they don’t desire to be in. How does this happen? In a word. Life. Even the people who carefully plot out what they think will be the perfect career for them might not calculate this decision perfectly. If this happened to you, hang in there, as I’ll be sharing some ways to cope, and perhaps thrive again in your present or future and different career.
Speaking of thriving, no one signs-up for a career where the best they can hope for is to be in survival mode. Sometimes survival mode happens in one’s career sooner than they anticipate. If you are one of the fortunate ones and have not experienced this, congratulations! You are in the minority, and should consider yourself fortunate. However, a large percentage of people will find themselves in career survival mode at some point.
What does it mean to be in career survival mode? It’s similar to when you lose motivation about the very thing you are either passionate about, or never dreamed you would become less than enamored with. Other what I’ll refer to as ‘symptoms’, are lethargy, less patience, you can’t seem to think of other options, and you are feeling trapped without an exit sign anywhere in sight. Do any of these “symptoms’ describe how you feel, or have felt before?
Yes, generally, others will notice you are in career survival mode. Although some people are experts at acting as if everything is fine. In my opinion, the energy that it takes to do this isn’t worth the effort. I would prefer to see someone invest their energy into figuring out a better career for them to be in.
I professionally work with people and teams (e.g., work & sports) on helping them to leverage and harness their natural talents every day. Because of this focus, I would be remiss in not mentioning that I would want to see everyone focused on knowing and applying their strengths towards the career or careers which would best suit them. Unfortunately, not everyone has been made aware of the advantages of knowing what their top strengths are when they are making their initial career choice decisions. I certainly wish everyone did.
As a matter of fact, one of my own career passions is to have as many people I come in contact with learn what their Top 5 Strengths are. I know you are smiling right now if you know me, and have learned what your strengths are because of my passion for you to know them.
However, hang with me for a moment on this thought, and imagine if we started out with this knowledge at a much earlier age? I can tell you that I might have ended up in a different career, but the one I initially choose seemed to suit me for a number of decades. It was marketing, in case you didn’t know this.
If you are currently in career survival mode, as promised, here are some suggestions and thoughts for you to consider, and potentially take action on to get yourself out of being in this mode.
- Consider how you ended up in the career you are in. Was it by choice, or did someone steer you in that direction?
- If you were given the opportunity to pick a new career starting tomorrow, have you given thought about what it would be?
- If you could change your career, do you think you would?
- Be honest with yourself. Are you more satisfied with complaining about how much you do not like the career you are in, versus taking action to do something about this?
- Is it possible you are currently in a burn-out mode from not being able to, or taking any time off?
- Have you kept up with the educational demands of your career? This may not apply to everyone, but if it applies to you, perhaps you are in survival mode because you have not kept up with the knowledge and expertise needed to thrive in your role. Maybe you couldn’t afford to do this, either monetarily or because of lack of time and other obligations. Or, perhaps both and other contributing factors.
- Some careers are more demanding than others from a physical, emotional and intellectual perspective. Perhaps all three, or more! Is it possible to reduce the level of any of these factors to a more acceptable level?
- What if you looked at your current career from a different perspective? Is there a new lens you can look at it, and which would re-energize you to be in it? Make a list of the things you like and dislike about your job or career. Is one longer, or could if you had a different perspective add more items to the “like” category?
- Ask people in your circle of influence what other career they could envision you in. Make sure you ask people who know you really well, and can see you from a multi-dimensional perspective.
- Regardless of your age, and how long you have been in your current career, would it be possible to shadow someone who appears to be in your desired career? Or, perhaps to talk to them about how they ended up in this career, and why they made the decision to pursue it? You might find clues about whether this may or may not be the next potential career for you to consider exploring or aiming to be in.
As an eternal optimist, I can always see the upside of every situation. In the case of experiencing career burnout, I look at this situation as temporary. Life moves fast, and circumstances can change quickly. The trick is to focus on knowing this, and realizing that even though your situation may seem permanent, it isn’t. As my Mom likes to say “this too shall pass.” Hang in there, you will survive.
Kathleen E. R. Murphy is the Founder, Chief Performance Strategist and CEO of Market Me Too. She is a Gallup Certified Strengths Finder Coach, author of two business books (e.g., Wisdom Whisperer, Evolve! With the Wisdom Whisperer), and is a well-respected motivational and social influencer with a global following from her numerous speaking, print, radio and television media appearances. She also is the creator and Host of a TV Show and Podcast called Murf & E Unfiltered – Zero BS Biz Talk.
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