Stuck!

By Robert Goldman

November 2, 2016 5 min read

Stuck!

I don't know about you, but my career is going gangsters.

I used to make a living making fun of touchy-feely career articles on obscure jobsites. This week, I take a real leap forward with an article making fun of a touchy-feely article on the Harvard Business Review.

(I realize this doesn't qualify me to add Harvard to my resume, but I'm going to do it anyway. And I suggest you do so as well. But let's show a modicum of integrity here. You leave your pathetic educational history as it is, unless you read all the way down to the end of this article.)

"What to Do If You Feel Stuck in the Wrong Career" is the title that caught my eye. Dana Rousmaniere is the author of the piece, which is aimed at anyone who is "midway through your career and feeling stuck."

Stuck is defined as a condition in which "work doesn't feel meaningful anymore, or your industry has drastically evolved, or your values and interests have changed."

Or, in my words, you'd rather stand naked, spinning a Hula-Hoop and chewing thumbtacks, in the middle of the freeway than go into work one more day.

Alas, you do go into work because you "may have a certain lifestyle — and the accompanying financial obligations — to keep up with." And yes, that includes supporting a half-dozen bartenders in the lifestyle to which they've become accustomed.

To provide lubricity to the stuck, Rousmaniere interviewed Patty McCord, the former chief talent officer at Netflix. (The article doesn't say that McCord went to Harvard, like you and I, but let's cut her some slack.)

In her role as chief talent officer, McCord was proactive when it came to identifying the stuck and the suffering. Exactly how she identified these people, I don't know. Perhaps she got a clue when the employee was huddled under their desk, smoking a doobie, wrapped up in aluminum foil, and moaning softly.

"You actually want to quit," she would tell these sorry stuck creatures, "so just do that — go live your life."

One employee to whom she showed the door "wanted to take a six-month sabbatical to build sod houses."

As a life-changing career choice, this sounds perfectly reasonable. The demand for sod houses is through the (sod) roof. The chance to work with patches of lawn is well worth giving up the job, the salary and the stock options. And if you can steal the sod from a public park, or the CEO's putting green, the profits are, as we say in the sod game, astro-turf-nomical.

According to McCord, it is usually a major life event that "causes people to stop and rethink their own lives." I don't know what would cause you to give up the career into which you are so snugly stuck, but it would have be something major, indeed. Like having the point of your pencil break, or having the chief talent officer inquire as to whether you wouldn't really rather be building sod houses.

Importantly, the article stresses that you might as well shake up your career, because, like it or not, your career is eventually going to shake you up, big time.

"There's no such thing as guaranteed employment," McCord says. "There's no such thing as job security, and there never will be again."

This can be a terrible shock to older workers, say, well-paid tech workers in their 20s, who are realizing that whatever it is they are doing, there is someone in junior high school who will do for less.

According to our expert, the solution is to get out there and explore new careers. Network with other unhappy midcareer professionals. You're not likely to find a great new job, but it could make you feel better about the miserable job you already have.

You are also encouraged to talk to your current boss about what you need to become unstuck without becoming unemployed.

Be prepared to be disappointed, of course. While McCord encourages stuck workers to job shop within their own company, your manager may not be thrilled to learn that while you're miserable in your current department, life would be skittles and funfetti if only you could join the happy throng in janitorial services.

As McCord concludes, "if you think the grass is greener somewhere else, go munch some grass on the other side of the fence."

Or stay where you are, wrap yourself in aluminum foil, and smoke it.

Bob Goldman was an advertising executive at a Fortune 500 company, but he finally wised up and opened Bob Goldman Financial Planning in Sausalito, California. He now works out of Bellingham, Washington. He offers a virtual shoulder to cry on at [email protected] To find out more about Bob Goldman, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.

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