Career Inertia:

Breaking Out of the Cycle of Being Stuck

by Ron Visconti, MA

 I have worked with lots of different candidates over my thirty-six years of being in the field of career development. Consequently, I have observed and talked with job seekers and career changers from diverse skill sets---up and down the corporate ladder.


One common theme that always appears—being in that safe spot; being stuck. I don’t know if it comes from being too comfortable or from inertia.  But that is where a lot of individuals stay in their career. Some surveys say as many as 65% of candidates are dissatisfied.  So, why don’t they do something about it?


Money is probably the biggest motivator as to why people stay at the same job.  Or maybe you know your job and can do it in your sleep.  You’re not exactly excited or passionate, but are too comfortable to make a move.  You are comfortable with the benefits---whether it is salary or the extras that come with your job, so you don’t make any moves. It’s more comfortable to stay where you are than to face the unknown. Sometimes, we think we have no control over the fate of our job.  We stay in a state of helplessness. This is when lethargy sets in, when there is no motivation to make a change.


I hear stories from workers telling me that they should have left 5, 10, or even 15 years ago?  Why didn’t they?


Fear.  Fear of failure.  Fear that you cannot find another job.  Fear that you can’t pay your mortgage or rent.  Fear of change.  The fears are endless. That is the problem the fear is greater than any possible rewards or excitement and/or potential greater job satisfaction.


Or, maybe is it depression?  Why bother?


Robert Kiyosaki, author of the Rich Dad, Poor Dad series had a great quote that is relevant. Don’t let the fear of losing be greater than the excitement of winning.


What can you do break this cycle?  Take little action steps, little things that you can do daily, weekly, monthly to show you are on a new path.


The process of taking classes (both connected to work or not), talking to new people, reaching out to recruiters, networking, starting the interview process, will put you immediately in a state of action, and hopefully bring you out of your state of inertia and depression. Energy will bring more energy.


And most importantly with these new actions, you learn more about yourself.  Find out what your present motivators are, what excites you, what do you truly value.  Do analysis of your previous jobs. What did you like about them?  What did you learn about yourself?  What are accomplishments that you are proud of? Read articles and books on topics that get you excited. 


And of course, work on your resume. Really think about it.  What do you want?  What will make you happy? Your resume prep really gets you thinking about the breadth of your experience in your career. Yes, I know it takes time, but it will be worth it to you, because you will be tuned in to what you want.  And you will be able to convey this to others.


Talk to people---friends, colleagues, and acquaintances who have dived into their own careers and made them work (immersed and tried new things)..


In Psychology, they use the term catastrophizing.  What is the worst thing that could be happen to you?  And conversely, what could be the best thing that could happen to you? Life is filled with lots of choices.  We make choices that define us.  And also, we don’t, which also defines us.


At some point, there will be a tipping point.  You will find new opportunities and will need to decide:-Do I move on? 


My guess is that you will make the change when you are the most uncomfortable. Perhaps there will be an impending layoff, or a new boss.  Maybe, it is a corporate shake up, or your job has been re-designed and it is out of sync with you. Remember:  you have options.  You need to look at the price of lethargy versus the reward of diving into something new---new company or a new job. Good luck!

Share this on Facebook