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5 Reasons that Keep Competent People Stuck in Bad Jobs

November 7, 2018

I know what it’s like to struggle in a shitty job. From being undervalued, to dealing with micro-managers, to feeling overwhelmed with a crushing load or doing boring or meaningless tasks, it once took its toll on my self-esteem, crushed my creativity and sapped my energy. At one point I thought I was going to go mad. The pic is me at my desk in my last shitty job. Okay slight exaggeration. But pretty close... ;)


Although I made decent money, I felt miserable and didn’t know what else to do. Bills had to get paid and well-intended people advised me to ‘keep calm and carry on.’ This popular expression filled with self-resignation keeps many trapped in lives they later look back on and regret. Thankfully, I didn’t feel like settling. I wanted to wake up and not dread going to work. I wanted to feel like what I did for 75% of my life mattered.


The good news is that once we become aware of what holds us back from making healthier choices, we can do something about it. I did and I’ve never looked back.


While no job is ever perfect, dealing with a jerk here and there or a broken elevator or lack of clarity shouldn’t send us spiralling into resentment and anger if we feel that what we do is tied to a strong sense of purpose.


After spending a decade coaching clients in career transitions, I noted that there were 5 main hurdles that typically need to be overcome in order for someone to make a healthy move. 


Here are the top 5 reasons that keep many trapped in depressing jobs:



1. Lack of Self-Confidence – the feeling that we aren’t ‘space’ enough (insert applicable defeating descriptive, i.e. capable, smart, creative, educated, attractive, etc.)


2. Fear – we focus most on what we stand to lose rather than what we will gain and convince ourselves to stay put


3. Judgment – we care too much about what others (often our families and friends) will think and allow them to manage/dictate our life decisions


4. Hierarchy – we subscribe to destructive, antiquated social constructs that sap our energy and crush our spirits


5. A Plan – we don’t have one and don’t know where to start



If any of these reasons ring true for you, rest assured there is hope!


Here are 8 things you can do to overcome the above hurdles:


1. Buy a journal. Begin by writing down all of your current assets (strengths & skills). Next make a list of what skills you would like to develop and how you might go about doing that. Self-help books, workshops, therapy or coaching can also at times be effective supports in boosting your self-confidence.


2. Become aware of defeating beliefs you’ve adopted and likely repeat to yourself that limit you or drum up your anxiety. Keep track of them. I.e. ‘I’m too old to change careers’ or ‘I have bills to pay so I should stay put’. Next pretend you’re counseling your own child who has the same limiting beliefs and you have to help her/him replace them with motivating, empowering statements.


3. Make a list of all the benefits you stand to gain from making a healthy change to motivate yourself.


4. Learn assertive responses to gently shut down dream squashers. Remember that you alone are in charge of navigating your life.


5. Make a list of those people in your life who love and accept you unconditionally. Next share your vision with them and ask for their support. Sadly we often waste time trying to gain support from our critics than make time for our supporters.


6. Take time everyday to write down what you do like most about your current job and what you’re grateful for to help you avoid spiraling down into negativity even if you do plan to make an eventual change.


7. Keep track of what jobs/careers interest you most. Prioritize them by most to least passionate. Then check for feasibility by asking yourself:


‘If I could only do one thing to move in the direction of this job/career what would it be? Is this possible?’


That’s the start of a plan.


8. If you still feel stuck and directionless, seek support. Having a qualified, unbiased, supportive person in your corner can often help motivate you to put together and carry out a new plan.


Whatever you do, don’t settle. You get one life. Make it count.




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