Forgive me one of my favorite throw backs from the late 90s, but it replays in my head every time I speak to a potential client who apologetically admits in hushed tones that she has the “perfect job” — great hours, great pay, great boss, great benefits, great culture. “The only problem,” she whispers, “is that I hate it. But that’s crazy, right? What’s wrong with me?”
My job is to help people who know they want to do more with their lives than hold on to a job that doesn’t matter to them. But in most cases, the work itself conspires to help them get the courage to exit because they have a terrible boss, or they’re burned out, or their coworkers are petty and mean — the list is endless. It’s much easier to leave a job that sucks on both external and internal measures, because then you’ve got a “real” reason to be miserable.
But when people have “great” jobs – the kind of job that virtually everyone they know wishes they had – the shame and the guilt of not being happy in them are paralyzing. People in this position question their own sanity because they are constantly plagued with the thought that they have it as good as it gets in their field. They’ve got the job they are sure 200 other people would kill for in a minute.
Of course, the irony is that they didn’t get there by random chance. They were good enough at what they do to get that highly sought after job out of all the others out there who wanted it. Nine times out of ten, when professionals like this actually do try to leave, they are offered more money, more flexibility, more of whatever, just to get them to stay. They are really good at a jobs they don’t like. By the time they call me, most have actually just gone through this part. It was already “crazy” that they wanted to leave, but then when they tried to leave and were offered yet another awesome perk, well…how could they say no? They feel imprisoned in the “perfect job” and just don’t see a valid way to escape.
But the thing they know in their soul, that their mind won’t let them accept is: you don’t have the “perfect job” if you don’t like doing it. Period. You actually have a really crappy job for you if doing it makes you miserable.
It doesn’t really matter why you’re miserable in this “perfect job” — you just are. And accepting that fact without judgement is the best thing you will ever do in your career, because it gives you the chance to examine your own truth, your own values, your own strengths in a way that you cannot when you’re wracked with guilt and shame for not being grateful and fulfilled in the so-called “perfect job”.
What to do? Find and honor your own personal formula for career success. What factors make you feel confident, motivated, engaged and fulfilled in your work and which ones rob you of your energy, drive and creativity? The sooner talented, hard working and conscientious professionals get real with themselves about the work they are both competent in and actually love doing, the sooner they can navigate into work where they are finally able to contribute sustainable, lasting value in their career path, while feeling energized and fulfilled as they do it.
People who have landed “the perfect job” they don’t actually want not only waste their own time and effort, but take a job from a person for whom it actually is a perfect job. Life is short, and most of us are going to spend a lot of it working. If you’re hanging on to a job you don’t like just because you think you’re “crazy” not to want it, do what it takes to get the courage to admit it’s just not “perfect for you” and do the work to discover what is. A fulfilling, engaging work situation for you does exist and figuring out what it is and what it isn’t is the first step to making it happen. So please stop wasting your energy and talent in a job you’re just not that into. Use it to go get work you can really love — your soul, your family, your employer and the world will thank you for it.