What to do in a career rut
Is this mental chatter familiar?
Wake up: I don’t want to go to work.
On the way to work: The commute is the best part, I wish it were longer.
Arrive at work: Let me check social media just before starting my shift. Oh look, it’s that guy with that girl enjoying their seemingly perfect life.
At work: I want to go home.
End of work: Yay!
At night just before another workday: I want to stay up longer just to squeeze out this last bit of freedom before doing it all over again.
Just before sleep: How do they do it? How are they so happy to be at work? What’s wrong with me? I should be grateful to have a job. I can’t complain about work! What will others in a less fortunate circumstance think? There must be something wrong with me!
The isolating feeling of the career rut haunts many.
It did for me, but if you are familiar with any of my content, I’m not so discreet about it (maybe to my detriment).
As a person who suffers from the problems of existentialism — which goes hand-in-hand with the symptoms of a career rut, I want to offer some solutions to those who are suffering the same strife. If that is you, I hope you find this article useful.
Just an aside: I understand the dangers of anecdotal advice, but I’m going to provide my personal story. It’s up to you as the reader to pick and choose what to take from it, after all, we are on our own individual journeys.
Ask yourself: Am I a victim of social media brainwashing?
Social media is a fantastic tool for connecting with others. But like with all things great there are downsides.
One is the “comparison is the thief of joy” epidemic. We used to see the lavish lifestyles of the elites on the covers of magazines and television. The benefit of magazines and television is that they could be held at a distance. Now, we can keep up to date with the often embellished lives of the top 1% from the ease of our pockets thanks to the smartphone and social media apps.
For me, the ability to work remotely, for yourself, and work on your own terms were strong key terms thrown around on my newsfeed. It made me look at my own life and think it was miserable: I can’t work remotely, I work for someone else, and I am obliged by my contract.
But at the same time, it’s very easy to look at your current situation and see the negatives, after all, you are going through the ebbs and flows of your own life.
Compare this, to what you see from the top 1%, which surfaces from social media algorithms, you only see their curated highlights.
This constructs a false perception of what it’s like to have these “dream jobs”.
We then have two options:
Accept the parts of our lives that aren’t so great, but then try and focus on the good points too and be grateful for those. Or,
Maybe, you’ve met real people who have those perks of remote work for example. Now it’s time to get inspired.
Finding joy in the current situation
Speaking with some friends who are in the same career as me, not enjoying work is very common.
At the end of the day, a job is a job. And a job isn’t supposed to give you happiness, or at least not passively.
But my friends also offer their solutions to the begrudging of work.
Work isn’t their source of happiness. Work is something they tolerate and they actively look within their day-to-day for their enjoyment. In other words, it’s not what you do, it’s how you execute your day.
Optometry may not be something that excites me (which is normal, a job isn’t required to excite you). Here are something to takeaways for potential sources of enjoyment:
You see people and a lot of different people, which in some jobs you don’t, especially in this remote job which I dream about.
Optometry pays well and is in demand; you can live a comfortable lifestyle and always have a job.
Optometry respects the work-home boundary.
Look at aspects you enjoy at work like colleagues, the patients, and learn more about the career like subspecialties and try and become passionate and obsessed in some way.
Optometry is a respected career and provides good social value.
To really drive the point home, realise that most people don’t enjoy work and it is not life or death if you aren’t passionate about the job.
What are the first steps?
Okay, the first two points, didn’t help. Unfortunately, we can’t trick ourselves to enjoy something we despise no matter how much gratitude we pour into our situation.
So, now what?
It’s probably time to make that change.
This is a big realisation. And the hardest part is you might want a fix immediately (I know I did). Unfortunately, the change won’t happen overnight.
Realising the change won’t be immediate (it might take months or years), it’s easy to give in to hopelessness.
You can deal with this hopelessness by in-action and giving in to modern distractions, through cheap dopamine: browsing social media, binging junk food and so on. An action like this leads to further misery in the long run.
Or, which is probably the best option, understand that misery is temporary, and just start.
To start, have a plan. And that plan is to try many different things, find what resonates with you and document this process in public.
Don’t have any ideas? Look at what you obsess over in your internet search history. Get inspired by listening to a variety of podcasts.
You will slowly discover what resonates with you. For me, that is programming, writing and making YouTube videos as well as associated content.
And what I would do is share the journey through social platforms like Twitter and Instagram.
You might feel alone, but as you share your journey, you will discover others who have a spookily similar origin story to you.
Your friends and immediate family will fall into two groups: those who care and support you, and those who don’t care and even hope you fail.
But soon you will connect with others who are on a similar journey and knowing this will subside that initial pain. You start to gain momentum and the joy comes with the progress you are making.
This is where I am at in my current situation. So I am not able to give you a proper resolution to this problem that you might be facing but I can tell you I feel a lot better.
Usually, the best answer isn’t the sexiest, but I am happy I am making progress, and it all came from getting started and being consistent.
As of writing, I am still working part-time as an optometrist. My goal is to become a digital nomad and be able to earn an income remotely through skills like programming or via an online business like content creation. I have had one freelance programming role and I earned some money through live coding on twitch.
The big goal can be overwhelming but it acts as a North Star for all the actions I am doing like programming daily and creating content regularly, and those actions in themselves is progress in my mind, which makes me fulfilled, even though I’m not living that dream life just yet.
Make sure you are not falling for the comparison trap and the falsehood provided by social media. Try and find some joy in your current career.
If these don’t work, then it’s time to dig deep and make the change by trying new things and seeing what resonates with you. It’s a long journey and the pain cannot be fixed immediately, but having a plan and making small steps will be rewarding.
Finally, I hope this inspires you and that you found value. If you have a similar story, please leave a comment down below. It helps you and others.
Stay focused and talk soon.
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