We spend at least one-third of our time at work. We derive part of your identity from our career. When we hit a career roadblock, we privately question ourselves whether to stay on the current job. Yet, we are uncertain if we should give up the comfort and seniority that we have built up along the years. If you find yourself displaying these signs, let examine deeper.
- You dread going to work, especially on Sunday night and Monday morning.
- You feel undervalued and under-appreciated at work.
- You keep telling to yourself that this job has “no prospects”. Yet, you stayed on for years.
- You deliver the bare minimum. However, you are not prompted to go for the extra mile.
- You keep trying to find reasons to stay on your current job.
If you agree with at least three statements, my bet is that you are considering to leave your current job. Interestingly, what is holding you back from leaving? Read about what might unconsciously sabotage your decision.
An unexamined life is not worth living – Socrates
We follow our rule book
All of us have some inner mental “rule” that guide our life choices. These implicit rules led you to your current job. These rules are often hidden and unspoken.
For years, my implicit rule was “I need to work in an MNC”. You could have “I need to earn a lot of money to succeed in life” rule. Another deadly rule that held us back from our dream job is “I am not sure if the new job will be better than the current one”. Can you see that how these rules can limit us?
Life is complex and filled with uncertainties. In order to simplify our lives, we unconsciously create rules for ourselves. Think of a rulebook. We follow everything that is in the rulebook. When was it written? Is the rulebook updated? Often, we follow outdated and inflexible rules.
Ask yourself, what made me accept this job in the first place? Why am I staying on?
Before you decide your next career move, help yourself. Uncover your own career rules from your rulebook. Ask yourself, what made me accept this job in the first place? What am I staying on? By surfacing your hidden rules, you can examine the assumptions you tell yourself. You can decide to maintain or revise these rules. As a result, you feel empowered to review your career options. You might find a renewed passion for your current job. Or finally the resolve to embark a new career has strengthened.
The hidden force at work: Sunk Cost
So, after reviewing your rulebook, you realised that you are unable to envision a future in your current job. Yet, you are not proactively looking for a change. What could be another underlying force at work?
What is different between a rat and human? Our superior intelligence? Our ability to evolve? Our ability to create language? Research have found that rats change their strategies the moment the old strategy is not rewarding them. i.e., In a maze, when rats do not find cheese from their learnt route, they change course in the next attempt. Humans, however, kept repeating the same over-learnt behaviour. One wonders which species is really intelligent.
We do not want the world to see us as a failure. If we give up now, everything we have invested is lost….. I get that.
We have a tendency to rationalise our behaviour – there is this immerse need to explain our actions and ‘connect the dots’. These rationalisations keep us locked in and stop us from exploring the unknown.
The more effort and time we invest in a dead-end job, the more rewards our mind expects from the job. Sounds silly? Because of the sunk cost fallacy, we are so entrenched in our behaviour. We do not want the world to see us as a failure. If we give up now, everything we have invested is lost. The daunting feeling that lurks on – I got to restart from scratch. I get that.
Instead of reviewing a career switch as a loss, take a balanced approached. Explore the pros and cons for both options. Write them down on a paper. Acknowledge the potential loss when you restart a career. Also, explore the potential gain in career freedom. Reframe this switch as an opportunity to ‘get it right’. Decide which option is more worthy venture in the long-term.
What stops us from exploring are:
1. We have our own rulebook. Uncover them.
2. We tend to invest more when reality point us to quit. Question our actions.
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Also published on Medium.