Point Lookout: a free weekly publication of Chaco Canyon Consulting
Volume 10, Issue 25;   June 23, 2010: This Is the Only Job

This Is the Only Job

by

You have a job. Even though you liked it once, those days are long past, and a return is improbable. If you could, you'd hop to another job immediately, but economic conditions in your field make that unlikely. How can you deal with this misery?
A Cliff Chipmunk in Saguaro National Park in Arizona

A Cliff Chipmunk (Tamius dorsalis) in Saguaro National Park in Arizona. Cliff Chipmunks generally feed on juniper berries, pine seeds, and acorns. Since these items tend to be available only during specific times of the year, winter would be a difficult time for these little animals, because they store very little body fat. That's one reason why they don't truly hibernate during winter. But they have a fascinating behavioral adaptation that meets their needs. When seeds are plentiful, they carry them in cheek pouches to caches, from which they draw during winter.

At the time of this writing, we're enduring an economic winter. We can take a lesson from the Cliff Chipmunk by trying to locate caches of psychological "nutrition" from which we can draw during this winter. It's difficult for most of us, because unlike the Cliff Chipmunk, we didn't intentionally create caches in anticipation of winter. But for many, the caches are there — all we have to do is find them. Photo courtesy U.S. National Park Service.

Downsizing, reorganization, and new lean-and-mean policies haven't made your job intolerable — you are, after all, tolerating it — but you're hanging on by your fingernails.

You're so unhappy that if you could find a way to leave, you would. You've tried looking around, but economic conditions just aren't improving fast enough to have made enough of a difference.

So there you are. Stuck. For now, anyway. Monday mornings are the worst part. Except for Tuesday, and all the others. How will you ever find a way to keep sane until you can eject?

Here are some suggestions for finding ways to cope until you can find something you truly love…or something that at least doesn't hurt so much.

Check your assessment of conditions
Yes, economic conditions do seem bleak, but be alert to changes. Strive to be the first to recognize the opportunity to make a new start somewhere else.
Reframe the trap as a choice
For most of us, the feeling of being trapped makes almost any job intolerable. But are you really trapped? Or are you choosing not to quit because you don't want to be unemployed? It's not a very attractive choice, I admit, but it is definitely a choice. By deciding to stay in a job you dislike, you've taken the best choice, and you don't like it much, but you aren't trapped.
Use the time machine
Step into the time machine. Travel to three years from now, and look back on what you did now. You waited until you could discover the right opportunity, or at least, a "right enough" opportunity. You didn't burn bridges. For most of us, the feeling of
being trapped makes almost
any job intolerable
You didn't alienate colleagues, or your boss. You did your best to perform to your highest standard. It was difficult, but looking back on it from three years into the future, it was the right thing to do. You eventually found a job you love.
Make your job more fun
Solve this problem: How can I make my job more fun? Music? Bring your MP3 player to work. More work you like and less work you don't? Maybe your boss can help with that. Tired of travel? Maybe you can make the travel you have more fun.
Trouble with someone in particular?
A boss, a rival, a co-worker, whoever it is, there's usually something you can do to make the trouble a little less troublesome. Get a coach, find a counselor. View the trouble as a chance to learn how to deal with trouble.

Most important, recognize that for now, this is the only job. It's the one you have. Almost certainly there are some good things about it. Remind yourself what those good things are, and keep them in the center of your attention. Then do great work. Go to top Top  Next issue: How to Undermine Your Boss  Next Issue

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Related articles

More articles on Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness:

A bear trapThe Mind Reading Trap
When we think, "Paul doesn't trust me," we could be fooling ourselves into believing that we can read his mind. Unless he has directly expressed his distrust, we're just guessing, and we can reach whatever conclusion we wish, unconstrained by reality. In project management, as anywhere else, that's a recipe for trouble.
Chair clusterGive It Your All
If you have the time and resources to read this, you probably have a pretty good situation, or you have what it takes to be looking for one. In many ways, you're one of the fortunate few. Are you making the most of the wonderful things you have? Are you giving it your all?
Bill Moyers — host of the PBS program Bill Moyers JournalAsking Clarifying Questions
In a job interview, the interviewer asks you a question. You're unsure how to answer. You can blunder ahead, or you can ask a clarifying question. What is a clarifying question, and when is it helpful to ask one?
The Bay of Whales off the Ross Ice Shelf, AntarcticaHow to Make Good Guesses: Strategy
Making good guesses — guessing right — is often regarded as a talent that cannot be taught. Like most things, it probably does take talent to be among the first rank of those who make conjectures. But being in the second rank is pretty good, too, and we can learn how to do that.
The Niagara River and cantilever bridgeBottlenecks: I
Some people take on so much work that they become "bottlenecks." The people around them repeatedly find themselves stuck, awaiting responses or decisions. Why does this happen and what are the costs?

See also Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness and Managing Your Boss for more related articles.

Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout

Five almondsComing October 25: Workplace Memes
Some patterns of workplace society reduce organizational effectiveness in ways that often escape our notice. Here are five examples. Available here and by RSS on October 25.
Terminal 3 of Beijing Capital International AirportAnd on November 1: Risk Creep: I
Risk creep is a term that describes the insidious and unrecognized increase in risk that occurs despite our every effort to mitigate risk or avoid it altogether. What are the dominant sources of risk creep? Available here and by RSS on November 1.

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