With the current economic challenges, having a job is a big plus and keeping it is a must. But sometimes, the wrong job can be even more emotionally destructive than having no job. What do you do then?
Those of us who can at least see retirement on the horizon are legitimately even more skittish. When an older worker loses a job, it takes longer to find a new one. Plus, once you are on the sidelines for a while, being older means being more vulnerable to losing confidence in yourself and letting go of work by default. So we hunker down and keep the job we hate.
We need to get smart about finding that next thing instead of remaining a victim of the lousy economy anda horrid work situation.
The first step in a good job transition is knowing where you want to go. If you need to find something else, be sure you are clear about why you need to change things. Assuming that the reason work is bad is the boss or the company, when you hate that kind of work altogether is a ticket to a repeat of the job angst. Take some time to think about what doesn’t work about this job and what’s behind that. You may think your boss is the Ultimate Bossilla until you listen to what you friends and peers are saying about their bosses.
Learn all you can about yourself so you have some certainty about what would be a great job for you. Also be sure you’ve gotten to the actual core of why the current situation isn’t working. If it’s just that the economy has slowed things down, planning an exit is a case of “out of the frying pan and into the fire.” But if you have lost interest in the work you are now doing, maybe you need a new direction to get your mojo back. Check this stuff out–don’t just make a bunch of assumptions without getting real information.
Once you have identified the core issues of what’s not working, then you can move to the following:
Identify realistic options for working elsewhere. Be forewarned, if you need to jump ship, you might end up starting a whole lot farther down the ladder with the new outfit. This may be the best thing you ever did, but take the time to think about it. Also think in terms of where you might be able to move within your current company if it’s really a matter of bad boss or co-worker chemistry.
This step has an unexpected and immediate benefit. Sometimes when you take a close look at what else you could realistically do, the job you are doing becomes a whole lot more appealing.
Figure out how to be really good at doing what you want to do next. This may be by taking classes on your own. It may be by talking with people who are already doing that kind of work. It may be by applying yourself on your current job more diligently so that you develop skills needed for the next job. As Thomas Edison said, “When opportunity arrives, many people miss it because it’s wearing overalls and looks like work.” Do the work to get good enough to be valuable in the new arena.
Build your network to include people with that interest and expertise. Networking is not about collecting business cards from people you don’t know. It’s about getting to know people–as friends–who are doing what you want to do. You don’t have to like them personally or have the same politics to become good business buddies. But you do need to know them. The best way to make that happen is with your own initiative.
The smartest thing anyone can do in a down economy is to be helpful in the business context. If you see an article that someone else would appreciate, send them the link. If you note a problem developing that a business friend needs to know about, give them the heads up (unless it involves a conflict of interestor insider trading kinds of issues to do so). Being kind is always in vogue, regardess of what the Wall Street stereotype is played like in the movies.
Keep doing your current job to the very best of your ability. That is called integrity. It doens’t make any difference if the whole rest of the world has lost it (which sometimes seems to be the case), operating to the best of your ability will keep you saner, happier, and more appealing as an employee–and a person
No matter how old you are, if you want to work, you can find work. The best way to set yourself up so that you call the shots with that is to do what you love and be good at it. So if your current job doesn’t give you that, you may need to change. Do that with a plan. Do that with a solid base of knowledge to draw on. And do that with integrity.