We all get content at times, especially at a job that pays decently well and comes with a good group of co-workers. Maybe your job isn’t what you really want to do for the rest of your life, but you start convincing yourself, “This is fine—it’s not my dream job, but it’ll do for now.”
And there’s nothing wrong with feeling content or comfortable at your job.
But keep in mind that being “content” can easily lead to complacency—and that’s the danger zone. Complacency tends to generate excuses (“I’ll put up with this just for a few more months,” or “I just don’t have time to do a job search right now”) and leads us to settle (“This job will do for now,” or “Maybe I don’t need to be a VP [or fill in your blank dream job here]”). Worst of all, complacency will eventually lead to fear. And fear holds us back.
I have seen too many smart and talented friends and colleagues who have stayed in just-OK jobs. When they do decide to move on, they’ve been out of the job market for so long that they can’t even take that first step to update their resume—let alone apply for jobs. They’re gripped by fear of re-entering a different job market than the one they last recall. They have almost forgotten what it’s like to go on interviews. They feel inadequate compared to their peers and think the train has already passed them by. These feelings of fear can quickly get overwhelming, and the easy way out is often to postpone the job search, to ignore the matter at hand—and to spend more time in a less-than-dream-job.
So, if there’s one piece of advice I could give to anyone who wants to advance professionally, it’s this: Do not get complacent. In fact, make time to regularly check in with yourself about your career happiness and goals and consider whether it might be time to make that next move.
1) You can’t sleep at night due to the stress and thought of having to go into work the next day. The stress and lack of sleep really began to negatively affect my health.
2) You are not getting any feedback. If your direct manager doesn’t provide feedback on your performance—or the feedback is generic and thus difficult to take action on—it’s pretty tough to learn what it takes to move up within your organization or grow as a professional. The best managers are engaged with your career development and regularly offer advice and guidance—and if yours doesn’t, you owe it to yourself to look elsewhere.
3) The stress from the job makes you irritable and cranky around your family and friends. I was no fun to be around during this time. This job was so stressful that it started to negatively affect the relationships with my loved ones.
4) The job has zapped all the life out of you. You are tired all the time and lack the motivation you once had. This can happen when your company has no policy or no intention of ever implementing a work/life balance program for employees.
5) You are not learning. If your learning curve has flattened out or you’re really not feeling challenged, this may signal a need to move on. You may not be learning something new every day on the job, but you should be improving upon your core skills and picking up new ones. You often have to take this into your own hands, of course—asking to be involved in a new project, signing up for courses you’re interested in, or attending a relevant conference or seminar in your discipline, for example. But if these possibilities don’t exist at your current job, it’s a sign that the company is not serious about investing in your career development.
6) You don’t agree with the corporate culture or the direction the company is headed. In my case, the culture was a turn and burn environment. They had a high pressure environment, and we lived in constant fear of losing our jobs. There was no value placed in sales professionals, and the place was a revolving door.
7) Your ideas are not being heard, and your work is not valued. Many companies do a very poor job of recognizing their employees for their hard work and accomplishments. They don’t have any concept of the value in saying thank you.
8) You’re living the status quo. If you’ve been at the same company and position without any advancement or promotion for the past three years—and you want to continue moving your career forward—it’s time to look elsewhere. Even in a large organization where promotions are tough to come by, you should be able to make some sort of upward movement within this time frame.
9) You are the victim of verbal abuse, sexual harassment, or other types of illegal behavior. At the job I quit, I was bullied and verbally abused by my old boss. HR was no help and upper management turned a blind eye to it. DO NOT put up with this!
Given that many of us spend over 40 hours per week at our jobs, you owe it to yourself to regularly evaluate your career situation. Even if you’re perfectly happy at your current job, make it a habit to check in with yourself (or with a trusted buddy, if that’s helpful) at least twice a year. Not only is it a good opportunity to review your accomplishments (and get in the habit of regularly updating your resume!), but you’ll also force yourself to gauge the market conditions within your industry.
Best of all, going through this process will mean you’ll either find more satisfaction out of your current job—or you’ll discover new opportunities and move on to the next big thing.
-John White, Camilla Cho