In my December Study Break last year, I read a great book called “Escape from Cubicle Nation” by Pamela Slim. The author wittingly captures the fears that keep people stuck in a work situation that they have outgrown or are not suited for in the first place, like an ill-fitting shoe.
In my recent work as a Career Consultant and Transitions Mentor, I have had many conversations where many (and i’ve also been there too) are scared to death when they have to consider changing jobs.
We all agree that contemplating a work transition can be terrifying and overwhelming to say the least, but the points Pamela shares helps frame these reasons better, to understand why most people feel paralyzed at the thought of changing jobs.
So besides the obvious extreme fear of having no money, being homeless and sleeping on the street under a bridge in winter, here are four other reasons people stay stuck in a work situation that is no longer serving their growth and development:
1. Status – This is about the perception of self-worth. It doesn’t matter how much you hate Monday mornings on your way to the office, if you have a title or sense of importance e.g. if your title says Director, it immediately gives you a status in society. This sense of status is what many are afraid of losing, thereby ignoring all the alarm bells going off in their heads regarding your transition to the next season in life. If your confidence is tied to your title, you will struggle with moving on.
2. Routine – You know how you always sit in the same place every Sunday in church or cafeteria? You brush your teeth the same way every time? We are creatures of habit. The subconscious mind assists us to do many things on autopilot, like driving. You don’t think about it most of the time, you just do it. Our brains will resist the change, because it is threatening at first. When is comes to work, it’s understandable why you become afraid to mess up the routine that is delicately working for you. The fear of disrupting your usual schedule can be enormous.
3. Recognition – You may have been working for a while in a particular place and have developed some skills-set that allow you to be appreciated by your Peers, Patrons, Partners and those who have grown to know you as a genius in some sort of way. It can be very difficult to walk away from the perceived sense of value you bring. To start something new is to put you in a beginner’s shoe, which may feel losing that earned respect, especially when you have to begin all over on a new slate. No one likes fading out into the thin air.
4. Fear of Failure – It is the demon that confronts everyone at the threshold of every transition: “What if I fail?” “What if I’m ridiculed?” “What if I lose my position and I’m never able to find anything like this again?” “What if people don’t like me anymore?”Fear is nature’s way of telling us that there will be some risk involved, but it doesn’t always mean “Don’t do it!”. It is important to examine these fears and separate the rational from the irrational in order to make good choices.
From the points above and if you have to be honest with yourself, do you see your work as a prison that is holding you back or a platform to make a contribution to your life, your family and society?
Remember, you always have two choices when it comes to your work, as Guy Kawasaki says “Shut up and Suck it up or Step Out and Dare!” None of the options will be easy, but at least you get to own your decision.
What do you think? How are you navigating your career, ministry or life transition?