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Look before you leap…

Julian Smith photo 

Julian Smith

A long time ago, I hated my job. I loved my colleagues, I loved the location, I could live on the salary, and it was all nice and familiar. In fact, it was all too familiar, and familiarity breeds contempt. It hadn’t always been that way; I’d started off loving my role, and that love affair had lasted the better part of six months, before I got bored. Like a relationship, in fact, we tried to make it work. They gave me promotions and I forgot just how bored I was. They sent me to travel on my own to a couple of countries for a couple of days, and once again, that rekindled the romance – albeit briefly. However, eventually I ended up further and further along a path of no return where no amount of incentivisation in the form of promotions, travel, projects or recognition would ever keep me happy.

So what did I do? Well, I did what a lot of people do in my position; I stayed there. I found others in a similar position to me, and we formed a group of the bored and the discontent, feeding off of each other’s misery, but not doing much about it. Why didn’t I just leave? The answer is, I had nowhere to go to; no skills, no talents, no reputation, no experience and above all, no idea what I wanted to do.

Eventually, like a penguin taking to the water for the first time, I threw myself off of the cliff of despair, and into the icy waters of uncertainty and unemployment. Much to my surprise, I didn’t sink, I floated! The current carried me away and I drifted for a few weeks before starting temping in the charity sector. Eventually I landed in the world of charity recruitment, and discovered it was here that I truly belonged…

A few months ago, at one of my CV-writing workshops, I met a candidate in the same position as I had been all those years ago. The parallels were striking, but Anna had the added complication that she was paid a much more generous salary than I had been, and found it even harder to jump. I was curious to see how the group would react to her dilemma, so at the end of the workshop, we discussed what each of us would do in that same situation – and it was pretty much as I thought. Those of us without mortgages or commitments all felt we would jump, whilst those with the greatest financial responsibilities suggested they would stay until they found something else.

What was interesting to me as a recruiter and careers coach, was the fact that – just like my own story, so many years before – there seemed to be no middle ground, no thought on how to improve the situation in a less drastic way than jumping from something secure into an uncertain job market.

Over the years I’ve discovered that there is another, less drastic solution. There is a way to build the skills, to try something else and discover what you might be good at before taking the plunge, but this relies on the fact that you recognise the signs of boredom before it gets too late. If you dread Sunday evenings because they lead to another horrible week, then it’s already too late; you’re way past the boredom point – and you probably won’t have the stomach to stay another 6-9 months whilst looking for something else you want to do.

However, if you simply look at your managers or others in your organisation and think to yourself that you don’t want to be them in a few years’ time, then now is your opportunity to try something new! Start by thinking about the aspects you like and dislike about your current (and past) role – or what we’d call motivators and demotivators – and try to work out if there are any patterns behind them. For example, have you always enjoyed autonomy in a workplace? Do you like working in a team? Do you like the thrill of being constantly challenged? Is there an imbalance between the motivators and demotivators in your workplace?

The next stage is to examine your values, and think what’s important to you. If you can’t recognise those same values in your current work place, try to think where they might be found. Even the same role in another organisation might be completely different, since values are often organisation-led, rather than role-specific.

Also, think which other skills or interests you are not currently utilising. Is this the real cause of frustration for you? Maybe there are other things you can do – outside of work – which allow you to explore a more creative side. Money can often be made out of a hobby, or a hobby can often turn into a part-time business – and a part-time business might be all it takes to really launch you into a career you enjoy.

Finally, there are always options for sabbaticals, voluntary work, volunteer vacations or becoming a trustee, to give you insight into a different career or sector. If you look before you leap, you might not have to leap at all!

If I had been in a position to give myself advice all those years ago, I might have suggested doing things differently, but I can’t say that I’m not happy that things worked out the way they did…



With a recruitment career spanning 13 years, Julian Smith coaches professionals on their career paths, as well as helping people who by their own definition, find themselves ‘stuck in a rut’. He runs CV workshops and 1-2-1s, as well as working with Life Coach of the Year, Charlotta Hughes, on the popular ‘Find a Job you Love’ workshop. Details of all of the I Am Group’s events can be found here.


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