Are You Being Slowly Trapped Into A Mediocre Career?
Your career lasts a long time. So feeling trapped in a career that you don’t like, that’s pretty tragic to me. That’s why when coaching candidates, I tell them to differentiate between how well they do something and how much they enjoy doing it. And, don’t be fooled into thinking you have a sustainable career just because you do something well. Because if you don’t enjoy it, eventually, you’re going to want to feel more fulfilled and passionate about what you do. You’re going to want to do something that brings out your talent and full potential. Unless, that is, these things aren’t important to you.
So to avoid this trap, I ask people to answer a few questions. For each one, to answer seldom, sometimes, or often.
Do I fundamentally enjoy what I do?
Do I look forward to the place I go to work each day?
Do I feel engaged and challenged when I am at work?
Do I feel motivated to become very good at what I do?
Do I feel that what I do brings out the best in me?
If, seldom, is your answer to most of these questions, I’m sorry, but you’re facing a big, big problem. Especially if your goal is a happier, more successful career.
Are you living a slow death?
Because here’s the thing about being good at something you don’t enjoy. Your passion and energy get slowly sucked out of you, one day at a time. That’s why even worse than not being good at what you do is being good enough. In fact, it’s one of the biggest threats to your career, and life.
If you’re not good at what you do, it’s not likely that you’ll be doing it for long. You’ll decide to look for something else that you’re better at, or your employer will make this decision for you. Either way, this benefits you. Because a big reason you may not be so good at something is because you don’t enjoy it, or just aren’t that interested in it.
How you can get lulled into a life mediocrity
But when you’re good enough, or very good, at something that you don’t enjoy, you’re more likely to continue doing it. There’s no urgency to make a change, or even think about what you’d be much more motivated and interested in doing. And so begins your life of mediocrity.
Until you realize much later that what you do is completely uninspiring to you. Until you feel that this isn’t how you want to feel about what you do every day. Unfortunately, making a big career change now is much more difficult. There’s more risk. More sacrifice. So you settle for your so-so career situation, and end up living a so-so life.
Don’t end up getting trapped in your career
Actually, early in my career, I was fortunate to avoid such a situation. Growing up as an ABC, I was very good at math and science. So I graduated from college with a mechanical engineering degree and began working as an R&D toy design engineer. I’d hardly call myself talented at what I did, but I was good enough to make a decent living at it. I even got promotions every two years.
Unfortunately, I had no real interest or passion for what I did. I had little feeling towards my job or being an engineer. But for the first few years, I was comfortable. And that was good enough.
I was lucky though. It happened slowly at first, but after about five years, the feeling that I should be doing something that I enjoy started to overwhelm me. So I made a big, bold career change. I was 27 at the time. If it had been 2-3 years later, I’d have felt trapped, and even more unfulfilled, frustrated, and confused. I’d have felt that I’ve invested too many years into what I do. My salary and level of responsibility are too high for me to “start over” and pursue something new. I’d have faced a situation where, you’re scared to continue doing what you do, but also too scared to make a big change
Learn to recognize your actual career situation
Continuing to do something you don’t really enjoy is like going out with someone that you don’t especially dislike. Three things will happen. The first is, your relationship is eventually going to end. The second is, you hold yourself back from looking for someone you may really like. And the third is, your life will only be mediocre, at best.
This is why I’m a big fan of anyone who seeks a career that has passion and meaning. I’ll always encourage people to pursue what they care about most. Not necessarily because you have to have passion and meaning in your life (although these are two great reasons!). But because the most successful people I meet are doing something that they genuinely enjoy and are interested in.
有时候, 因为你有才华，你很聪明，你也很勤奋，所以哪怕你不喜欢一件事你也可以把它做得很好。如果你的职业发展现状跟这个状态一样, 你的工作可能会妨碍你去追求你更喜欢做的事情, 进而阻碍你在事业上获得更大成功。如果你觉得这些话听上去很耳熟，那我建议你早点面对现实，为时未晚。
Sometimes, you’re talented, smart, or hard-working enough to be good at something you don’t enjoy. If this describes your career situation, it may be holding you back from pursuing something else that you’ll like doing much more and be much more successful at. And if this sounds too familiar to you, I’ll encourage you to face this reality sooner, rather than later. Before it’s too late.
So do you have a story of a job you left that you could do well, but didn't enjoy? If so, please share with us how you managed to escape your mediocre, slow death situation!