Why are You Still in that Job?

Do you dread getting out of bed to go to work, but don’t know why? Do you have a nagging feeling of being “stuck” in your career? Do you feel burnt out? Your brain might be telling you it’s time to move on, but sometimes it’s uncomfortable to consider that option. Here are some signs that a change might be necessary:

  • You don’t want to go to work
  • Your work environment seems toxic
  • You’re not feeling satisfied or happy at work
  • You feel unvalued by your superiors

There are other signs, but you get the idea. If you’re not feeling good about work, there’s a problem.

“What are you doing, man? You hate it here!”

I struggled with these issues in a position in which I had been employed for over 10 years. I had gotten to a point where I was calling in sick as much as I felt I could just to avoid being in the environment. When I was there, I was easily-frustrated, negative, and impatient. One day, my coworker, also a good friend of mine, simply asked me, “What are you doing, man? You hate it here! Why aren’t you trying to do something else?”

It was revelatory. I hadn’t even thought about changing my situation.

I had gotten stuck. Once I asked myself these questions, my Inner Saboteur leapt into action, shooting holes in the idea of moving on. Saying things like, “You just gotta tough it out!” and, “Get through this and the promotion will fix everything!” and, “You’ve put so much effort in. You can’t leave now!”

My brain was working against me.

Our unconscious brains thrive on order, so when we try to do something different, it makes us feel uncomfortable by bombarding us with anxiety, rumination, and physical discomfort among other fun things. Our brains long for the “good old days” when we thought we had everything figured out. They’ve gone through the trouble of making billions of neural connections, and they don’t like when we come in and start undoing their work. That’s why change is uncomfortable.

There are a couple powerful cognitive biases at work here. Cognitive biases are ways our brain tries to fool us. In this situation, we are working against what’s called Status Quo Bias and Sunk Cost Fallacy. The Status Quo Bias tells us, “Change is bad” and, “This is fine” even if we have evidence to the contrary. The Sunk Cost Fallacy tells us “You’ve already out so much effort into this. Just stick it out!” Basically, our brains have grown accustomed to things and are hesitant to try something new.

Often it takes a conscious effort to shake yourself out of a rut. Make it a habit to check in regularly with yourself and trusted coworkers and friends about your career. Put it in the calendar! Consider how your job helps you meet your short and long-term goals and how well the company culture fits what’s important to you.

Ultimately, and I’m super grateful for this, my friend’s questions led me to heading back to school to finish my Bachelors and my Masters. While I am constantly evaluating my career and revising my path, at least I’m no longer letting my faulty thinking trap me in a position that was not benefiting me.

Photo by Samuel Zeller on Unsplash

Have you struggled with trying to determine “if” and “when” to make a career change? How did you work through that? Are you struggling with this now? What are you doing about it?

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