With the economy in a funk and employment opportunities limited, there are a lot of unhappy people in today’s workplaces. The message of recent workplace surveys seems to be, “As soon as things turn around, I’m getting the hell out of here.”
This attitude is rather sad. It implies that we are paralyzed until this abstract thing called “the economy” changes. Because we have no control over that (and neither do our so-called leaders), it would seem that we have entered a stage of practiced helplessness in our working lives. We believe we can’t make any progress or find more satisfying options until and unless there is a magical turnaround in things beyond our control.
We tend to start our search for alternative work with the question, “What’s out there?” when we should be asking ourselves, “What do I really want to do?” This is always a mistake because it increases the odds that we’ll wind up with something that may be a little better than what we had but is still a drag on the psyche and not what we really want.
You don’t have to let the economy control you or define you. Use this period of stuckness in the economy to decide what you really want and what it’s going to take to get there. Think hard about what kind of work makes you happy and what sort of people you want to work with. Explore the fabulous O*Net Database for career options and the educational requirements attached to those options. Talk to people who have the kinds of jobs you want to have and find out how they secured those jobs. Consider alternatives to standard jobs like freelancing or opening a business if that appeals to you.
It may take years for the economy to turn around, but taking action to move towards achieving your dream will accomplish two things. First, it will make you better prepared to jump on the unexpected opportunities that arise even in a weak economy. More importantly, it will give you the feeling of making progress, of moving forward, of having a purpose beyond holding down a job that just pays the bills. And while you’re moving forward, make sure you pursue more than one option. Given the current speed of the job destruction-creation cycle, you don’t want to put all of your energy into preparing for a specific job that might not exist in a few years.
So, keep an open mind and open your eyes to the possibilities and passions inside you. Don’t get stubborn and affix yourself to a single possibility. Take the time to define what you really want and filter your choices through your true desires. You may have to settle for a while, but if you keep pressing and refuse to give up, you might increase the odds that you will wind up with something that makes you pretty happy.