Working On Autopilot? Not Feeling It?

Bored black businesswoman in office
Bored unhappy young black business woman at desk in office

While my job as an Employment Counsellor brings me in contact with many who are out of work entirely, I’ve also become aware of lot of people who would love to change jobs.

For some, it’s a case of having done the job for so long, there’s nothing left to provide the mental stimulation of discovering anything new. The job they do has become monotonous, routine and they just feel that something big is missing. Many of these people are quite good at what they do and are paid well for their skills and experience; it’s just that there’s no excitement anymore, there’s no challenge. The work they perform is pretty much the same day after day, week after week; they sometimes feel they could run on autopilot and let their imagination drift into other things and no one would know the difference.

The easy answer is quit and move on to something new. Ah but the reality of course is this is so much easier said then done. Most people have mortgages, debts, bills, etc. that need attention and they’ve come to live in a lifestyle that they are reluctant to alter. The decision of what to do as an alternative and subsequent career keeps them from turning another chapter in their working life. Stuck. Immobile. Paralyzed. Choose your word, it’s pretty much the same no matter which you fancy.

Looking at things from a big picture point of view, it’s rather sad actually. So supposing you work until your 65 or 67, you calculate how many years you’ve got to go. With that number, you now multiply 46 weeks a year as an average x 35 hours a week. What number did you arrive at? This is how many hours you’ve got to go until you retire. Each one of those hours will be similar to the one you’re experiencing right now if the job is that routine. If you’re feeling little stimulation in the job, you’ve already learned pretty much all there is to know and you see no prospect of the role being expanded upon, well…yes, it’s sad. This is it; this is how it will end.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. And changing what you do at this point doesn’t mean you’ve had a mental breakdown or crisis of confidence. If anything, it’s you responding with courage and vigor to reinvent yourself; kick starting the process of bettering your well-being. While it can be daunting to walk away from something you’ve become accustomed to doing for so long, it can also be invigorating and hugely satisfying.

It costs nothing to think about what’s next. For some, the answer is to stay in the same field and transition your existing job-specific skills into a more enhanced role. A life-long construction worker might become a Home Inspector, a Site Foreman, work with a Manufacturer to design better tools used in the job, or look at passing on the knowledge they’ve acquired teaching others in a Trades program. Like I say, thinking of possibilities costs nothing.

For others, if they are going to do something new, they want a clean break from the entire field altogether. The Massage Therapist is exhausted using their own body to relax others, and while they don’t know what they’d like to do, they do know it falls beyond this career.

There’s so much good that comes from people moving on to other things. First of all, there’s almost always a number of people who are waiting for openings to occur so they can apply. The applicants-in-waiting are hungry to get started, excited and enthused about launching their careers doing what you do now. While they lack the expertise you have, they want to learn, they are eager and that mental stimulation they have is exactly what you fondly remember yourself. It’s not hard to feel envious.

It’s also good for employers to have a changeover in their staffing; it provides an opportunity to re-evaluate roles, move people around, promote from within or bring in outside help to infuse new ideas, best practices or reinvigorate some employees. Customers win too, for although many will miss you, they’ll come to appreciate with time those who replace you, just as they came to appreciate you when you replaced your predecessor. How long ago was it?

There is a danger too if you stay too long on autopilot. You may become disinterested in keeping up with new technology and better ways of doing the work you do now. You may actually become a danger to yourself, your co-workers and the products or services you offer may actually deteriorate if you’re not mentally focused in the work you do. I’d not want to have a Surgeon operating on me who has lost the enthusiasm for his work, nor work around dangerous machinery with a co-worker who isn’t focused on safely going about his or her day. One slip up and one of us could be paying for that lack of attentiveness for the rest of our lives – no exaggeration.

Save yourself. You’ve got this one life to live and time keeps ticking. You don’t get to flip the hourglass or get a do-over.

Need help exploring a next move? Consider some career exploration with a professional. Do it. The best know the answers aren’t in them but rather in you. The alternative dear reader is …?

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