Are you stuck in your job?

A friend told me that as a child he’d have a mini nervous breakdown every Sunday over having to go to school the next day. In fact, his Saturday was ruined too because he thought about how Sunday was coming and with it the upset of thinking about Monday. It was a vicious cycle.

As a grown-up, I went through a similar experience when I worked in an office in Mississauga, dreading going back there almost as soon as I’d get back home on Friday evening. The bus ride was about two hours in total (or three, depending on traffic) and the atmosphere while in the office was often tense. There was a general feeling of unhappiness and, overall, the whole thing was a mental health liability to the office. I quit, and it was the best decision I’ve ever made even though I spent a very uncertain six months after that trying to make it as a freelancer.

In the article How To Break Out of a Career Rut in a Month Forbes magazine offers a four-week career boot camp to getting unstuck (abridged with our suggestions).

Week 1: What seems to be the problem?
Is it the actual field you’re in, is it how much time you spend working, or how you don’t have enough to do? Is it your commute (as it was in my case with that Mississauga job)? Use this week to really pinpoint what it is about your current situation that makes your career life unbearable. One idea is to do a pros and cons table. You might think you know exactly what is wrong with the job but nothing makes it more obvious than being able to read it back to yourself.

Week 2: Do your research
This is where you really need to buckle down and figure out the sort of work that will make you happy. As the old adage has it, “do what you love and you won't work a day in your life.” It’s almost never too late to change your career path (some things you can’t control and becoming a professional athlete in middle age is probably out of the question), so spend this week pondering your future.
A less drastic approach to this step than retraining is to look at your pros and cons list, using the pros part for inspiration to find something that will let you use the experience that you already have. Start looking around job boards to see what sort of positions come up in your career sector — there might be something there that you haven’t even thought of. An example: my background is journalism but there was a time when I was looking for work under the “media” section of job boards and found a job in advertising (copywriting). This was something I had no idea I was even qualified for!
Talk to friends and mentors about your dilemma and see if they have any suggestions. We often think we know what’s best for us but it’s important to get others’ opinions too as they might have more expertise (and, sometimes, professional connections as well) than anything you can find on the Internet.

Week 3: This is how you do it
Now that you know what direction you’re going to go, figure out a way of getting there. Forbes divides this week into five sub points:
  • Evaluate your skills – are you ready for the job you’re vying for? Do you need to upgrade? Take extra classes to give yourself that edge?
  • Update your portfolio – this means your resumé as well as your online presence via such places as LinkedIn or anywhere else that showcases your experience and career trajectory.
  • Use your LinkedIn network to see if you already have contacts in the industry. Forbes suggests setting up some coffee dates to develop these networking contacts.
  • Start writing customized cover letters for each place you’re thinking of applying to. There might not be openings but it’s good to familiarize yourself with companies you’re hoping to work for and with jobs that might be on offer in the future. There’s absolutely no predicting when something will come up and it might come up soon, so you better be ready. Tip: bookmark pages and set up RSS feeds.
Forbes makes a very good point about this detailed game plan: “you can achieve almost any task — even ones as big as landing a new gig—by breaking it up into small, manageable bites.”

Week 4: Ready, set, go!
Now that you have your game plan in place, use this week to start fulfilling the steps you outlined in the previous week. Continue setting up networking coffee dates and start attending them now. Write out each day what you hope to accomplish and work toward fulfilling this goal. This is more or less a maintenance step of Week 3 but it also prepares you to be ready to constantly apply yourself in your search. Slacking off is enemy number one when it comes to job searching.

Your commitment to this step is your commitment to yourself — keep in mind that you’re doing this to improve your situation, not because somebody’s making you. It’s going to be tough to maintain the momentum once you get started and you’ll probably get discouraged along the way, but the end-goal will be worth it. Because, hopefully, with all this effort and commitment you’ll end up with a job that won’t feel like a job at all because you will love being at work.

Jowita Bydlowska |

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