As we find our way through the COVID required limitations on social interactions, many professional workers are dealing with significant changes in their status. Job loss, furloughs, remote work are examples of the changed circumstances. Within the disruption, some have been able to use the time to evaluate the current work experiences and consider options for a career change in COVID-19 world.

Why do people stay in jobs that are unsatisfying?

Taking the time during a pandemic to reevaluate your life’s work may seem like a daunting task. But if you are one of the professional workers who are relieved to be reassigned to work at home or on temporary leave, it’s time for a change. Start by considering why you stay in a job that is not satisfying.

Expectation can be a powerful cultural force. Many accept the idea that career success is defined by rising steadily into the senior ranks of a chosen organization and retiring after 30 years of loyal service. This may have been true for the generation following the Second World War. However, it has almost no bearing on current career paths with their constant change and emphasis on individual strengths rather than long-term organizational affiliation.

Despite the changes in opportunities offered by the information age to work across cultures and continents, the cultural idea of staying in place year after year has a powerful hold on baby boomers. This is less true for younger generations who don’t fear being perceived as a less dependable “job hopper”.

One client in his fifties said to me “ I have hated my job for almost a decade and wouldn’t have left where I got my first job until they offered me a buyout. Now I have no idea about where to go.”

There are several financial reasons that midlife workers stay put in jobs that are unsatisfying.

  • First and foremost is a built-in conservatism not to rock the family’s boat.
  • Another reason is that they are totally unaware of the financial opportunities available in a different field.
  • Many are naturally conservative about risking the future financial security of what they have even if it does not seem particularly generous.

A client wrote to me “I couldn‘t believe that I made almost 50% more in my new field after the first two years. Their salaries and rate of increase in compensation were on a different planet than my old industry.”

The personal and cultural forces that keep people in jobs that are unsatisfying are legion.

  • “I didn’t think my skills were transferrable.”
  • “My kids are in high school and would kill me if I proposed a move.”
  • “I am not sure that I could keep up with younger people in a new field.”
  • “I cannot face having to prove myself to a whole new group of people.”
  • “I am tired of having to work through the political issues in my bureaucracy but the idea of starting something of my own would keep me awake at night.”

The shutdown is a great time to do some sustained thinking and develop a plan for a career change in the COVID-19 world. It’s an opportunity to maintain an optimistic perspective and find a meaningful assignment. Many people are finding second careers that offer satisfying ways to use their experience and talent for another ten to fifteen years. Things are changing quickly in our world, and we all face uncertainty, but your job satisfaction is essential. A career coach can help you sort out the real priorities in job choices.

I recommend my earlier posts about how to identify your ideal job and how to tell an effective story of your accomplishments.

Peter Sherer is a nationally recognized career coach who offers clarity and confidence to mid-career and senior executives in transition. His rigorous assessment tools enable his clients to identify a meaningful assignment that uses all of their skills and experience in just two short days. Learn more and get in touch with Peter today.