Why A Perfect Job Becomes Stale (And It’s A Good Thing)

A phenomenon that happens often to many people I know may also have happened to you personally. This is when a job you once thought was the perfect job and you were thrilled to have it, becomes less appealing, less rewarding and sometimes downright boring. What went wrong?

In short the answer is nothing. In fact if anything, this can be wonderful news if you look at it from a different perspective, and I want to illustrate the positive side for those of you who might be feeling negative. You see what really has happened in the vast majority of instances is that the job itself hasn’t changed at all. However, with the passing of time from that first day you accepted this job as new, you have grown yourself. What was once new and challenging has become easy to do and the challenge has largely disappeared. And the challenge was your motivation.

So why is this a positive? Ah, well that’s because you my dear reader have improved in your abilities; your skills have significantly advanced to a degree where your mind is sending you a signal that it’s time for re-evaluation. You’ve heard that saying that it’s the journey not the destination that is important? You’re now the poster man or woman for that old adage. The journey to get where you are now was what you found stimulating and had you hungry to go to work everyday. But now, months or years later, you’re comfortable, complacent perhaps, and the job is not providing you with as much gratification because the journey is over; you’ve arrived.

This is precisely why people who often change jobs, or work from contract to contract are hard to fathom by those who stay in one job seemingly forever. Do you recall a generation of people who took a single job – maybe two at the very most for their entire lives? For those generations, it wasn’t cool to be so apparently self-absorbed in finding your job happiness, they worked to earn a living. But our generation and that of our children, is all about finding work that brings us meaning and fulfillment. When it wanes, look for another job and keep stimulated.

So in a practical sense, what to do? Well clearly, if you grow unhappy, you’ve ultimately got two simple choices – and it is simple. One you either accept your unhappiness and change nothing, or you change something and rediscover your joy and take on new challenges. Taking on new challenges could mean you look for a new job altogether with the same employer or a new one. But as many know, it can also mean having the same job title that you hold right now, but doing the job differently, more creatively, maybe with new responsibilities.

And this last option in a tight economy where you might be unwilling or scared to test the waters of job searching may be exactly what you need. The change in either option however has to start with you. (Well it doesn’t HAVE to start with you, it could be forced on you by your boss who isn’t happy with your performance, but let’s leave that one for another blog!) It is a fantastic time to listen to your mind and do a self inventory. By asking your colleagues, your boss, your subordinates, your peers and network of contacts, you should get an idea of how you are viewed by others. What do they value in you? What do you see as your own strengths and assets?

From that long list of skills and qualifications, what are those skills that you most want to use in the next couple of years? Nix a five-year plan…too long and too much could change. And think about what skills you have that are weak here too. Maybe you want to improve in certain areas.

Now armed with your skill inventory, think about where you get your buzz. What turns you on and gets you motivated to excel and fires your passion, your enthusiasm. Instead of looking for what you could do right now with ease, what would be challenging and just a bit difficult or require you to learn from someone else? This is the growth you might just be craving. Don’t bite off more than you can chew, but embrace that which is just a little out of your reach so when you achieve it and call it your own, you’ll feel great from reaching a new accomplishment.

Now it’s time to talk with your boss. Assuming you are performing your current job responsibilities to the satisfaction of the company, you’re looking to share your desire for new challenges, and want that person on board with your career development. It doesn’t mean you’ll be fired in the next two days just by having a conversation. My goodness if things are THAT bad, move on and stay mentally healthy!

This discussion with your boss shouldn’t be a one-time thing. Ask for 30 minutes or more and a few meetings. Your looking perhaps for their advice and counsel, and they’ll appreciate time to do some succession planning on their own if you move on via a promotion. You may find their flattered you’re seeking their mentorship. They may identify courses or training to acquire skills you’ll need to advance. You could also be given new assignments or co-author a new job description altogether.

As the ads say, “Stay thirsty my friends.”

4 thoughts on “Why A Perfect Job Becomes Stale (And It’s A Good Thing)

  1. Kelly, I would have to agree with you on this post. Sometimes it’s best to let the job go stale, and look forward to what is coming next.
    Last November, I got hired at the mall in a brand new store. We built it from the ground up, per se, unloaded the truck with the very first shipment, put the store together, nuts and bolts, shelves, and stock, while bonding with many of the staff. At first hire, there were 20 of us, along with 3 managers. Initially, in the interview, we were not told it was a “temporary” position, just that, as customary, we would be given a 90 day probationary period. Well, in January, sure enough, hours got cut down to one shift every two weeks, and when I went in for my final paycheque on Jan 27th, the store manager whom I’d worked quite nicely with announced: “I’m just telling people they are welcome to job hunt, since head office cut our hours down. I like you though, and want to keep you on payroll.”
    This left me in limbo. While I was never officially “released” from employment there, I haven’t received any R.O.E. in the mail or notification of my release.
    On a side note, it is a good thing that this has happened, because to be honest, once the holidays died down and there is minimal customers, I have to admit, I was bored out of my mind and not stimulated at all on the job! What are your thoughts?


    1. Rosalind I think it would be a proactive approach for you to request that ROE. This way you know the ties are severed and while it might have an official reason as quit on it, you could certainly justify your decision to any future employer should they ask based on the lack of hours. Being bored out of your mind is no way to spend your hours so you’re absolutely right to consider it a blessing and move on!


  2. I’ve reached this point at my job, which I actually love. I described it to my wife just the other day as having hit not only a financial but also an intellectual wall. I’ve found that my supervisor doesn’t really value innovation, which is actually fine, as I see it. Why rock the boat when so much of what you do depends on not fixing what “ain’t broke”? (I’m a data scientist by the way). But I’m acting as a data analyst but there’s that component of me that wants to do innovate and do things better since I’ve grown big time at this job.

    Also, this is one of “those” organizations that creatively finds ways to not give people raises, half-heartedly, half-assedly subsidizes health insurance and a lot of other stuff that leaves me scratching my head at times. I know I’ve reached a point in my career to where I should be making significantly more than what I’m making now in terms of salary. I’m worth more. And I have discussed a raise before with my supervisor, but no one I know at my organization has gotten a raise ever unless they were promoted and thereby tripled their responsibilities. (As it happens, I am essentially the leader in what I do at my work being a programmer and data scientist.)

    It really is time to be a bit fearless here (not foolhardy) and get back out there. I just didn’t expect it to happen quite so quickly. Maybe in February, when I’ve crossed the three-year mark, I might be in a better position lenghwise at my job as it will actually span four years on my resume. (That just looks good.) And it’s not that I don’t like my boss. We have a great relationship. But I think that the time has come. Having read this piece, in my uniquely long-winded way, I now realize that more than ever. Thanks for this because it has mattered to this reader.


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