Break Out of Career Jail

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Bad careersThere’s nothing fun–or productive–about being in a job you don’t enjoy, especially if your job makes you feel like you are in prison.

Uninterested workers also aren’t good for the company. “Staying in a dead end job can squash creativity, especially if an individual is work-focused by nature. The bigger picture is staying in a dead-end job can cost the company millions. Disengaged employees are the difference between the stock going up or down,” says Elizabeth Lions, author of “Recession Proof Yourself” and “I Quit! Working For You Isn’t Working For Me.”

There are many downsides to staying in a job you hate. “Negatives of a dead-end job are plentiful and include stress, physical sickness, internal strife, challenges in personal life, lack of fulfillment, boredom, and lack of learning and growth,” notes certified professional coach Lori Scherwin, founder of Strategize That.  “It is so important to ‘break free’ to live a happy and fulfilling life. We all deserve to be respected, enjoy what we do and contribute value. We spend so much of our time at work – let’s enjoy it and see the benefits trickle throughout our full lives.

A dead-end job does not actively engage your mind and spirit in a way that keeps you growing. It doesn’t challenge you to expand your skill set and discover new talents and abilities. And usually, a dead-end job does not provide you with meaningful income increases.

So how do you get your “get out of jail” card? TNJ.com asked a roundtable of experts for feedback and here’s what they had to say:

What moves can you make within your current job position to help get yourself out of “career jail”?

–Look for an ally.
“Find a mentor. If you are uncomfortable talking to your direct manager, find another senior mentor you trust to confide in. They will likely have valuable tools to navigate the unique culture you are in,” says Scherwin.

–Try to figure out what is bringing you displeasure on the job as well as how you are coming across in your position. “Seek feedback. Understanding how your boss, colleagues and peers perceive you is one of the most important professional development activities you can engage in,” explains Teri Coyne, a certified leadership and career coach. “If you are perceived as not being management material and want to be a manager, it is important to understand why. Once you understand how you are perceived, you can either utilize that to your advantage to expand or change your role, or adopt new behaviors to create a different perception.”

–Remember what you initially liked about the job. “Remind yourself why you enjoyed the job on your first week. Pretend you are new again. This tactic often helps people remember the good and fade away what’s “wrong” while they sort out next steps,” says Scherwin. “Make a list of what is going right and what is going wrong. Get it out of your head and onto paper.”

–Learn new skills. It will get you interested and engaged again on the job.
“Take advantage of any skill-building learning opportunities. Most organizations offer some form of skill-building training, either e-learning, workshops or even tuition reimbursement. Take advantage of as many types of offerings as you can — this is part of your compensation benefits and not only helps you build new skills, but it sends a signal to the organization that you are engaged in your own development,” says Coyne.

–Communicate your intention.
Think about what you want out of your job; and tell the higher ups. “Get clear on what you want and communicate that intention to people who can help you get there. If your boss does not know you want to do more project management, they are not going to read your mind and give you more. Ask for what you want and be willing to do the work,” says Coyne.

–Take a look at the big picture.
“Look at your whole life. Does the job support your life, meaning: can you get out of work early and see a kid’s game? Can you take a class and have work pay for it? Are there other benefits that really help support your overall life? Is it worth leaving? Consider if you have a good, supportive boss or not. For all of the above ideas, move one out of victim thinking,” notes Lions.

If these steps don’t work, what steps should you take in looking outside the company?

–Get your job-hunting material together. “Get a solid resume together. Get a solid LinkedIn profile. Apply online and network,” says Lions.

–Meet and mingle. “Network, network, network,” advises Scherwin. “Get in touch with former colleagues and confidants. See what’s out there and figure out what you want.”

–Take solo time. “Take me-time,” Scherwin points out. “It’s so important and often forgotten. You want to “run to” not “run from” a job. If you are happy with yourself, you are more likely to find what you want externally.”