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Stayed Too Long in Work That Doesn't Fit? Fix It!

Instead of generally feeling "blah," you'll have a picture of what needs to be shifted. And, over time, you'll have a lot clearer picture of how bad things are actually getting. That may motivate you.
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It breaks my heart when people tell me they don't like their work.

So, as a career and leadership coach, I always ask, "So, what are you doing to create work you truly want to be doing?"

Too often, the answer is, "Well, nothing."

They're paralyzed.

So a year, two years, five years later, they're still at the same company. Often in the same role.

If that's you, here are the real reasons you're staying too long in work that doesn't fit:

(1) You're holding out hope that things will be better
It's a very natural human tendency to have hope. That quality gets us through difficult situations. Generally, hope is positive.

But are you painting a picture of a future that's just unrealistically rosy? Is the manager you despise likely to leave in the next few months? Are the parts of your job that you detest going to magically change?

Write a list of the factors of your job that you're hoping will shift. And then do a reality check. How likely is a change? How soon?

Sure, change may be just around the corner. If you've been promised a promotion in a month and you get it, celebrate. But if that's an empty promise, face the music. It's time to move on.

(2) Better the devil you know...
Maybe you're staying because you think the grass must be greener in your current backyard than anywhere else. You tell yourself, "Hmm, if I join the competitor, I hear they have an uptight style of management. So I'll stay put. My manager is pretty good."

Beware of becoming beholden to an organization that drives you crazy.

The longer you stay in work that doesn't fit, the longer it takes to "detox" from the bad situation.

It's like you get attached to the very qualities you despise, and imagine that any other place must be worse. If you're engaging in that kind of thinking, be careful. As you start to look for other places to work, be sure to get a balanced picture, by talking to a lot of people, and keeping an open mind.

(3) You're holding on for the money
Yes, your job is helping you pay the mortgage or the rent. And maybe it's helping to put your kids through college. Or you're saving for a car or a vacation.

But please know this: Your job isn't the source of your income.
You are the source of your income.

You owe it to yourself to do your due diligence to see what other roles are paying. Check Salary.com and Glassdoor.com. And better yet, talk to people in the organizations where yo want to work.

I also suggest that you consider this money question: What is it costing you to stay in this job you don't like? Maybe not in hard dollars, but in the quality of your life.

How often are you coming home feeling so defeated that all you can do is curl up in front of the TV in the fetal position? What is it costing you to feel depressed? How are your feelings about work impacting your relationships?

(4) A job search sounds exhausting
Maybe you're stuck in your current role because you're convinced that looking for another role will tire you out. That depends on how you conduct a job search.

Instead of burying your head in the job search engines, like Monster.com or TheLadders.com, or whatever sites you use, how about a more personal approach?

Have coffee with alumni from your university. Go to some professional development events. Hang out at industry or functional meetings. Be with other people. People outside your company. And tell them about the types of problems you're passionate about solving. And ask who might need your help. That will get you out of your company, and get you in front of people who can uplift and inspire you. And maybe even help you land a new role.

How do you get unstuck and fix this situation?
It's easy to have tunnel vision, and think that your current role is the only game in town. When you think of going somewhere else, you forecast a negative future.

The bottom line: You're anxious about what's ahead.

The antidote to anxiety is action.

I advise three fix-it actions:

(1) Keep a journal of your drains and gains
Every day, write down what's draining your energy at work -- the people, processes, and activities that sap you and zap you.

And write down where you get your energy gains -- the things that thrill you and fill you with positive feelings.

Instead of generally feeling "blah," you'll have a picture of what needs to be shifted. And, over time, you'll have a lot clearer picture of how bad things are actually getting. That may motivate you.

(2) Go on informational interviews
Do whatever it takes to get away from your workplace and talk to people who may have interesting opportunities for you. It's vital that you start seeing more positive options, or your mind will be singularly wrapped around your current workplace.

(3) Get a coach or support partner for accountability and inspiration
If this stuckness has been going on for a long time, and is wreaking havoc on your life, it's time to get an outside perspective. You can ask a friend to support you in assessing your options and kicking you into action. Or interview and hire a coach to support you in making a shift into work that truly fits.