How To Get Un-Stuck From Your Job: Advice From A 40-Something To A 20-Something

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What to do when you can’t move forward in your job and you can’t quit your job. By Susan Alexander (Founder, Good Disruptive Change)

Dear 40-Something,

I feel stuck. I have on paper what looks like a great job. However, I am miserable. I feel very isolated. I feel like I do not use my brain. I hate feeling ‘stuck’ in my career. I have had conversations with my bosses about taking on more projects and responsibilities, but they have offered me more of the same unrewarding, unsatisfying work.

It has reached a point where I feel depressed at work and feel like I am presenting a facade to all my coworkers. I have stayed in it this far out of loyalty to my company and my bosses. But the longer I stay, the more I realize that I don’t think they have my back/best interests at heart.

I need to last 5 more months here (I work in politics and as a general rule you stick with the campaign until election day). I have been exploring other opportunities and I am also applying to JD/MBA programs this fall. However, 5 more months feels like eternity and I don’t know if I can take this lack of growth for another 5 months. HELP!

Sincerely, 20-Something


Dear 20-something,

Working at a job that’s not right for you is difficult. If you’ve tried unsuccessfully to change things about it, and you have to keep doing it (short or long-term), you can make it easier on yourself by altering your perception. In this case, you have 5 months left. One way to alter your perception is to see it as an opportunity to practice a very important life skill – one that it helps to be good at, since we’re all called upon to do it from time to time. The skill is this: gritting it out. In other words, it’s a skill to be able to do something you don’t particularly like or want to do, and turn it into something enjoyable (or at least bearable) through your own actions.

How do you do that? What are those actions? There are a lot of them. Here's one example: you could actively add things to your day that you enjoy and/or get pleasure from – simple things, like:

  • Lunch you particularly enjoy, either out or at your desk.
  • Connecting with co-workers you particularly like.
  • Thinking nice thoughts (playing back experiences in your mind that make you happy).
  • Listening to music, if you can (a tiny ipod shuffle with one ear bud in isn’t that noticeable to others, but it can make a world of difference to you).
  • Working out, either before or after work, or at lunch (you could pack a delicious lunch with you to eat at your desk once you’re back from your work out).

Another example: Stop telling yourself you don’t like what you’re doing, and just do it. Try getting into the flow of your work. Do it just for the sake of doing it. Notice things about it. Set up little challenges for yourself for doing it faster, better, or more efficiently. These are essentially mind games for getting through something that’s not inherently pleasant.

A favorite of mine is setting a time frame, like 1 hour, in which you tell yourself you’re going to do nothing other than the very thing you don’t like. At the end of the hour, take a short break. Go talk to a co-worker for 10 minutes, or check twitter or email. Get some coffee. Whatever. Just a short break doing something pleasant. Then do another hour. Keep going like this. It breaks up the day and makes it go faster.

Most of all, it’s key to reward yourself internally for doing what you’re doing. Tell yourself that gritting out for the next 5 months isn’t the easy thing to do, but it’s the right thing to do, and you’re doing it. That means you’re strong and you’re making yourself even stronger by doing it. It’s skill building, which is an awesome thing.

Keep this in mind: People who are good at gritting things out are people who have experience gritting things out. There will come other times in your life when you’re going to need this skill, and, because of this situation, it’s a skill you’ll have. How cool is that?

Work very hard on weeding out unproductive thoughts from your mind. Remember that the mind is very good at cranking out unproductive thoughts, so you have to take active steps to keep them in check. This is the machinebrain vs. gardenbrain analogy, which I wrote about here.

Sincerely, 40-Something

This post was originally posted at 40:20 Vision.

About the guest blogger: Susan Alexander is the founder of Good Disruptive Change. She is the creator of the “brain app” called app4mind, a memorable model you can store in your head and use to enable any change you choose to make in your life. Susan lives in New York. Follow her on Twitter at @SusanRPM4.