How fear keeps us single-minded.
Do you settle for a tedious job because leaving is too much risk?
Do you think things will get better if you stay the course?
When I work with men, one of the most popular subjects is:
"my job sucks, but I have to stick with it because..."
We can all imagine the types of responses that follow, but the most common ones are:
...I have a family to support!
...I'm too far down my career path to change my focus!
With my clients who are fathers, both these answers tend to come up simultaneously. I know they certainly did for me! I've had a successful career in the learning delivery industry for nearly 20 years. Despite being successful in various roles, I had gotten to a stage where I felt trapped and overwhelmed on several occasions.
When I say "trapped", I felt that I'd gone too far down a path in my career that I didn't enjoy. However, I told myself I had to stick with it because I needed to make a good salary to support my family. My self-talk was:
"I can't possibly do anything else as I would risk being able to provide".
My thought process was that a pivot in career would mean starting from scratch, having a pay cut, and I was scared of both.
When people are unhappy in their jobs, they think that going to a new company will solve it. Sometimes it does; sometimes, it's a frying pan into a fire. The feeling of discontentment follows us as we're still on the same career trajectory.
But what if we didn't have to take such monumental risks to be more content in our roles?
For my career situations and for many of my clients, it's about following your curiosity and not getting carried away with "how do I turn this into a career".
Let me apply this to my situation. The first was in the early stages of parenthood. I had a good job, but I felt underwhelmed with the work. I decided to spend time reflecting on questions like "what would I do if there was no risk?" or "what am I curious about learning?".
At the time, I loved photography, and I had relatively flexible working hours, so I followed my curiosity and did the odd day as a photographer's assistant. It then transpired that I fell in love with the creativity of post-production work. This consisted of tweaking photos and editing videos. It was fun for me, and I wanted to learn more, so I enrolled in a digital design course for photography and video. I did this in my spare time outside of work and achieved various certificates.
This alone made me feel more content. I was working towards something fun and doing my day job. I then decided to take a micro risk and see if I could integrate design work into my day job. I had a vulnerable conversation with my manager and ended up with some design responsibilities alongside my regular work.
Again, this made me feel more content as I was still earning my salary and cultivating skills I loved. In fact, I loved it so much that I eventually got a job in a digital studio, making 50% less than my original salary... and life was great!
Now, the point of this story isn't that you're eventually going to take a 50% pay cut. However, I also want to point out that because I was passionate about my job, in the space of a year, I became the manager of the digital team I was working for and ended up being on a similar salary to the one I had left!
So what am I trying to say? Many of us think we have to take extreme action when it comes to going after the things we want in our careers. We believe we have to risk it all, risk our livelihood, risk our family's safety, or risk being seen as a failure. It's simply not the case. We can take the pressure off needing to make an income out of something and be curious about what we're interested in or what's missing from our current role.
Let's distil it down into some actionable steps you can take if you're feeling risk-averse in your role. This is the process I take my clients through:
1. Clarity - Put aside time to look at what's missing. Start with the two questions I used:
What would I do if there was no risk?
What am I curious about learning?
Journalling, reflecting or working with a coach on these questions is where it all starts. It takes a while for you to cut through all the negative self-talk about WHY you can't do something. Remember, we're not trying to turn this into a career; we're just being curious.
2. Research - Now, spend time looking into these areas of curiosity. For example, the second time in my career, when I felt like something was missing, I was curious about coaching. I had received coaching, and I wondered what it would be like to sit at the other side of the table. I researched different courses in coaching.
3. Micro Action - Now it's time to do something about it. What step can you take that doesn't feel too risky? For me, with the example of coaching, I enrolled on a one-day taster course for a coach training company.
4. Fan the flames - Keep the momentum going and follow your curiosity. In my coaching example, I enjoyed it so much, I self-funded coaching certification, which I did in my own time. I then talked with my manager and started using my coaching skills as a service within the company.
When we feel cornered in our careers, the natural response is to jump ship. However, jumping ship comes with many risks, so we tend to stay put and hope things will get better, which leads to feeling resentment and overwhelm.
Let's take the pressure off and cultivate curiosity about what we want. When we get clear about this, we can take steps towards it, and opportunities eventually present themselves.
If you find yourself feeling stuck in your role and want to start expanding your horizons whilst controlling the risk, I'd love to talk to you. You can book a 30-minute complimentary call with me here.
Here's to your journey.