Employed But Stuck

The earlier blog I penned had to do with feeling stuck. It focused primarily on both deciding between two or more options and the advice was to do something, do anything to get moving; and the focus was when you’re unemployed. I’ll stand by that.

But what about you who are already employed? I mean you’ve got a job and while it’s okay – possibly even good, you have become restless wanting a change. The question is really what could be next? A promotion? A change of employer? What other jobs within or beyond the company you’re with now would be possible and what’s stopping you from launching a concentrated job search campaign? In other words, even though you’re employed, are you feeling stuck in your career? Oh I know you’re not alone in this one!

The problem in a nutshell is you’re experiencing some motivation to change, but the level of motivation required to actually start looking beyond a casual glance at job postings hasn’t grown enough. You’ve got a steady income, some security at the moment, and the lure of something new is less than the status quo. Doing nothing is safe, comfortable, takes less effort and yet this small but growing feeling that a change is needed is there. So yes, at the moment…. you’re stuck.

Now this is different from when you’re out of work entirely and stuck deciding between two career options or stuck deciding what to do at all. It’s also different from having a job you enjoy in all aspects and just feeling a mild tug every so often. What makes this unique from those others is that the job you have now fulfills many of your basic needs, it’s got a good upside, but there’s this growing and persistent idea of something else wanted that the job doesn’t meet.

Only when your satisfaction with the present wanes enough that your wish for something more tips the balance will you actually find the motivation to explore change. The key is not to wait so long that the job you have becomes intolerable; that would be unfortunate, especially if you then find new employment takes considerably longer than you would have imagined.

The interesting thing is that sometimes other people recognize your need for change before you might. It’s true! You might have a change in behaviour; subtle at first, such as coming in on time instead of coming in 15 minutes early, or taking your full lunch hour away from work instead of donating some of your time to the job. Not big things, but signs of change if they become your new norm. You might also be quieter in office meetings, a little less vocal in promoting innovation and new ideas. What you may be doing is stretching and challenging yourself less and less because your investment in the job itself is ebbing.

Now on their own, like I say, these may not mean much. However collectively, they can indicate to others that something has changed in you. Suddenly people are asking you if you’re happy; is everything good? One person asking might be normal, but two or three people asking, or someone who knows you well, and you might realize those subtle changes they picked up on are cues you should address and think about.

The motivation to change then is worth addressing. What would motivate you to change? For some, the obvious answer is more money and benefits. However money is less of a motivator than you might think as the current job is already providing a consistent income. Feeling challenged, reinvigorated and mentally stimulated by the work you do might be more accurate. You might even be contemplating how to take many of your current skills and find a way to incorporate them into a self-employment option; especially if you see retirement on the horizon. Transitioning to a part-time enterprise, working on your terms and answering to yourself might be appealing as you wind down your full-time employment.

If you’re in your 30’s or 40’s, retirement might not be on your mind, but nonetheless, you could feel the urge to make a difference, give back in some way using your experience but challenging the conventional way of doing business that you’re in now, constrained by the parameters of the company who employs you.

Oh, and let’s not ignore the idea that you might just want an entire break from what you do now altogether and rediscover your passion through some other line of work. How many of you can agree that there’s a hobby or past interest you’d love to turn into your full-time job. Why aren’t you exploring that option? Don’t dismiss it quickly because you’re too old, it would cost too much to go back to school or you’ve got responsibilities! At least invest some time crunching some numbers and getting factual information to base your decision on.

In my previous blog, I advised you to do something; do anything. I’d suggest the same thing again if you feel stuck in your current job. Talk to people in Human Resources, take a night school class, update the résumé, put out some feelers. There is a lot you can do without going to the extreme of quitting or just giving up and feeling trapped in the present job for the next 14 years.

Yes, do something!

Are You Contemplating A Leap?

Something interesting suddenly struck me recently and I wonder if you too have had a similar experience; possibly like me, you weren’t entirely aware of it yourself. Or it could be that I’m just realizing it myself and slow getting to the dance!

What I’ve become aware of is a large number of the conversations I’ve been a part of, and the musings I’ve read of others centers on men and women in their late 40’s and early to mid-50’s who are openly contemplating exactly what to do with the balance of their working lives. Now in retrospect it may not be a new phenomenon.

The difference I suppose is that historically there were fewer types of jobs to choose from in the past. With fewer choices available, most people who hadn’t reached retirement had a choice between the jobs they currently had and doing a similar job for another company or becoming an entrepreneur themselves. Most you understand stayed with companies for decades and it was the norm to retire from these employers.

Fast-forward to 2016 and there are more jobs being created than ever before. Technology alone as a single sector has created job titles that didn’t exist just a few months before. Go back a generation and there are even more jobs that didn’t exist because the environment was different. There were no Information Technology jobs because the technology hadn’t evolved to the state it is today, and home computers didn’t even exist.

The consequence of more types of jobs existing today is that there are more choices than ever from which to choose. Add to this that because we are living longer than in the past on average, we have more time to spend in retirement, and we may want to work longer in life to both pay for a longer retirement with less income, or just keep involved longer in our work lives.

Whatever the reason, my sense is that these conversations people are having about exploring employment or work options into their 50’s and 60’s  when they’re in their late 40’s to mid-50’s is becoming more popular. It’s not that people are always disenchanted with their current jobs and have lost interest; although I know of some who would say that is exactly their issue. For some, it’s a desire to do something different; a last chance perhaps to do something they’ve always wanted to do or they finally feel a now-or-never mentality.

Now when they arrive at this point of their lives where there is an urge to explore options, the options available largely are confined to whatever skills and experience the person has in their life inventory. Those of us who have worked in a single sector all our lives may on the one hand have less choices available than those of us who have worked in positions across several sectors. Those who have continued in their adult lives with upgrading their education may be more attractive than those who haven’t to potential employers.

Let’s also say that there are some people who are just more comfortable taking risks than others as well. If you have a conservative nature you may think the person quitting a stable, well paid position for some new venture is foolish, off their rocker, gambling with their retirement savings. On the other hand the person who leaps may be feeling they’ll die on the inside and live with regret wondering, “what if” throughout their retirement if they don’t find the courage to jump into something new and invigorating, mentally stimulating.

This isn’t where I’ll wade in on what is right or wrong – that’s for those individuals to contemplate and arrive at decisions they literally have to live with moving forward.

I do think as I say that the quiet musings or open discussions are just becoming more prevalent of late with the people in my network. Is it a restlessness of spirit perhaps; normal checks and balances that happen throughout our lives and nothing more? I suppose one might say that generally our teen years are about setting us up for emerging independence from our parents. Our 20’s are for exploring people, the world and ourselves, our 30’s are for establishing our futures, taking on responsibilities, finding roots to hold onto. Our 40’s enrich our lives and we reach our potential. Our 50’s we start looking at our work lives and see for the first time a window that’s just starting to close. In our 60’s we have far less compunction to re-invent ourselves and start anew; less willingness to gamble the nest egg. I don’t necessarily believe this work-related timeline is the absolute way it is for everyone.    

I’d love to have you weigh in and comment on where you are in your life at the moment and what musings – quiet or otherwise you are mulling over. Is there something stirring in your consciousness and if so, what’s driving those thoughts for something else? Are you afraid, excited or confused about the growing state of flux in which you find yourself more often these days? What considerations do you have to take to change?

Change can be liberating, threatening, give you your sanity back, put a smile on your face, fill your retirement with memories or empty your bank account. If you continue the course you’re on, will you be okay with the choice you’ve settled on?

What Would It Take To Pry You Out Of Your Current Job?

Suppose for a moment you’re in your fifties, thinking more often than ever before about retirement that’s now a decade or less away for the first time in your life. Suppose as well that your comfortably employed and in no immediate threat whatsoever about losing your job. What would it take to pry you out of your current job?

It would have to be a job perhaps with stability, permanence, a competitive salary and of course match in some way the benefits you’ve been enjoying in your current job; benefits like the same number of weeks of vacation on top of health perks. That’s a tall order, but there it is.

If you fall into this mid-fifties category, you’re in a unique position from all other age categories. You’ve still got income coming in like those younger than you, but you’re in that last decade of employable earnings. When you finally hang up your work clothes for the last time, you’re expecting to live off whatever you’ve accumulated and whatever pension or benefit your country and employer may bestow upon you as a retired person.

Purchases you’ve been making up to now have always been augmented by your next pay to replenish the old bank account. Debts have been manageable because you’ve had a plan to pay them off through your earnings. Large purchases however, such as a new home require much more thought than in the past because of the nagging fear of being retired and carrying forward a mortgage you may not want to be burdened with when your employable income is gone.

It almost sounds like this blog is heading in the direction of recommending you sit down now with a Financial Planner; and while that’s not ever a bad idea, that’s not where I’m going. Look, you’ve got 10 or 15 years maximum left let’s say in your working life before moving into the next life stage. So my question remains, “What would it take to pry you out of your current job?”

Of course if the job you are in brings you great satisfaction, excellent pay and benefits and there’s no downside altogether, the likelihood that you’d change that for something else is less than it would be otherwise. If on the other hand, your current job has become mind-numbing, the pay is only average, the climate toxic, or the work itself brings you little personal satisfaction, you may be interested in a change.

The major concern people in this older demographic generally have is that they are becoming less attractive to new employers. So if they did take a chance and change jobs and for whatever reason the new job didn’t turn out as expected, the odds on a successful job search in their late 50’s aren’t as good as they’d like, and their afraid of being out of work altogether. This unexpected unemployment might use up savings, exhaust a retirement fund, crippling their ability to live whatever style of retirement they envision.

The downside of course is you may still be facing these next 10-15 years of employment in a job that is not really fulfilling your sense of satisfaction.  You’re conscious of becoming stale, stagnant, mentally disengaged; you know that if you were 15 years younger, you’d definitely be looking for greater challenges and more stimulating work. But the mirror in the bathroom each morning shows you’re exactly who you are – nothing more, nothing less.

Ah you’ve become so responsible haven’t you? Yes, you with your mortgage now that’s almost paid off. You’re down to your last 2 or 3 new vehicles, you’ve accumulated all the, ‘stuff’ you wanted at some point and have found yourself telling the family just last month, “I don’t NEED anything for Christmas; really.” A younger you wouldn’t have settled for riding into retirement safe and secure but unfulfilled. You ponder more and more often, “Is this it? Is this all there is? Have I made a difference?”

So you are left wondering if when you retire, you’ll leave your working life having been happy. What if you pondered for a while, a different retirement than the one you’ve been picturing up until now? Instead of the standard, “mortgage free, a few trips a year, time with the grandkids, golfing” picture, what if you envisioned something more unique?

If your view of retirement changed, would that make risking a new start with a new employer now in your mid-fifties more palatable? Getting out and starting anew would stimulate your creativity; challenge you in ways you haven’t been of late. You’d be invigorated anew and whatever struggle to excel and establish yourself again you’d feel would come as a welcomed relief. Instead of playing it safe and secure but losing yourself in the monotony, you’d risk that security but feel like you’re alive again, with a renewed purpose. Retirement would still be looming of course, but you can always adjust that envisioned lifestyle and do things now while you’re in the best health you’re going to be over the remainder of your life.

What would it take to pry you out of your current job? Perhaps some courage, a sense of urgency, a feeling of not wanting to write yourself off just yet and wanting to do what you’ve always wanted to do before it’s too late. In short, maybe a leap of faith that proves you’re still young at heart.