According to major news outlets, an interesting employment phenomenon is occurring in our workplace. Major news and polling organizations, including Forbes, CNN, and Gallup report that as our unemployment rate declines to historic lows, most American workers continue to be unhappy with their work situation.
Unhappy at Work but Not Proactive
About one-third – or 30%– of human life is spent working and yet a recent Gallup study reported only 30 percent of American employees feel engaged or inspired at their jobs. A clear majority of U.S. workers – 70%– feel they are not currently reaching their full potential. This is an amazingly high number considering the available information of open job opportunities and the talent demand trending toward record levels. In other words, with a vast ocean of opportunity available, people settle for only a tiny fraction of the available success and job satisfaction.
Most people lack big picture vision and career goals. Career planning is often a reactive, not proactive, process. For example, the person in an unstable work situation may take immediate action; updating a resume or looking for connections/referrals to a potential employment prospect. That same person working in a steady work environment when told about a superior opportunity such as a chance for advancement will not rush into even the most basic research. The planning aspect concerning employment is a low priority in those situations. The action and focus required to advance in a workplace is often listed as a lower priority than the planning of vacations or deciding on an automobile. As a result, despite living in a time of easy information access and having the ability to freely negotiate along with holding most of the advantages in a tight labor market, most people continue to allow firms to select them instead of the other way around.
Tips to be Proactive with Your Career
Here are some thoughts on correcting this situation:
1). Clearly define your ideal work situation.
Noted author Steven R. Covey once said, “Always begin with the end in mind.” In other words, if you can’t identify or visualize your desired career opportunity, how will you know when you find it? A professional objective, clearly defined and visualized in every detail, is the first step to advancement.
2). Spend time in research, thought, and self-discovery.
Find out who you are, know what you want, discover your professional “itch” cycle. Despite the success waiting behind one’s fear, career change means leaving a comfort zone for most people. Unhappiness at work is often symptomatic of a need or desire for change. Indications that it’s time to move include reaching a long career plateau or having a strong feeling you’re not learning anymore. A lack of passion, creativity, and/or job disengagement summarized by a feeling of “mailing it in” are often symptoms caused by staying in a work environment longer than we should.
3) Keep focused on the “big picture” or the end state to your career.
Know where you want to go professionally, believe you can obtain your objective, and then craft a career plan to track to your objective. In every advancement opportunity, ask yourself, “Is this position a tactical or strategic opportunity?” Metaphorically speaking, every career move does not have to be a climb to the top of Mount Everest; but then on the other hand, your move should provide enhancements and options other than simply paying your bills. You don’t have to take an all or nothing approach. Career advancement can develop incrementally with one step leading to another, if you keep focused on your vision – the big picture!
In summary, view the process of reaching your career objective as a journey and not a destination. Understand that focus, attention, and most importantly action is required to break away from an unsatisfactory work situation. Spend time in thought, understand who you are, and listen to your inner voice. Pay attention to your “itch” cycle and the time “when” to make career changes will be clear. Know when to go, embrace change, don’t fear it. Then success and prosperity will be waiting for you, just behind your fears. New freshness and enthusiasm await those willing to join the top 30% of workers who enjoy their career!
— John Cornwall, Co-Founder