They seem OK in the store – and you figure they’ll stretch – but that pinch turns into a chafe, which rubs into blisters… and in the end, it’s usually all you can do to rip them off, while you can still walk.
Careers are a lot like shoes; the wrong fit can cause serious pain.
Over the years, I’ve seen too many people hobble around in ill-fitting jobs, putting up with discomfort in the hope that they’ll ‘give’. They rarely do, and over time, that first pinch grows and progresses, in recognizable ways…
Stage 1: Mild discomfort
Those niggling doubts are the early warning system for a career that isn’t right. Maybe you’re studying and thinking, I don’t really like this… but you’ve got friends on the course, and it’s bound to get better, right? Or maybe you’re in ill-fitting work – but the rest of your life’s great, so you let it slide…
Symptoms? A quiet whisper that things aren’t right, but you need to really listen to hear that voice. Mostly, we put our heads down and keep going. Which leads to…
Stage 2: Disengagement
You’ve been wearing that career for a while now, and it’s really starting to chafe.
The whisper’s grown louder, and it’s saying: Know what? You don’t care about this. This is pointless and boring. Or needlessly stressful. You can choose to swap shoes… or just choose to go numb – hit mute, switch off and go through the motions.
Symptoms? Many people just sit down and give up here. Others job-hop, hoping that the shoes will feel better elsewhere. They often do – for a while. Next stop?
Stage 3: Full-blown career sabotage
Now you’re miserable and you don’t care who knows it; your career’s hurting you.
You drag your feet, cut corners and exude negativity, moaning about everything. You can resign yourself to purgatory and watch promotions pass you by… or keep angrily acting out your feelings, in an increasingly high-stakes game of charades.
Symptoms? Job-seeking at work, venting online, and self-medicating your stress. Your work’s infecting your home life by now, and you’re risking your career…
Stage 4: Burn-out or break-down
Keep running in the wrong shoes for long enough, and you risk doing yourself serious damage; I’ve seen chronic stress lead to depression, physical illness and public melt-downs. The fall-out, across your life, can be huge.
If careers are like shoes, I hope yours are great.
I hope they’re perfect for you – that they’re comfy and fit like a glove. But if you’re walking in pain, you deserve something better – there’s a world of choice out there, and it’s never to late to get properly fitted.