Stuck in Career Purgatory?

Every day when I get off the thruway exit towards home, dread fills my gut as I’m reminded by one thought: why haven’t I gotten that darn E-ZPass yet? It’s my only ticket out of my daily encounter with Miserable Mary, the only Toll Collector available during my evening commute from work. Although the exchange lasts only a few seconds, it only takes one whiff of her foul mood to put me over the edge. After seeing this same woman incarcerated by the same tiny toll box year after year, I wanted to scream this at her: “Don’t blame me for taking a job you hate!”

She – along with many others I’ve crossed paths with in my line of work – make me wonder why so many people feel strong-armed into maintaining positions they despise. Some call it “job security,” blaming their fate on the obligation to support their loved ones, but I call it a wasted career life. Career HellWe’ve all been customers to pleasant folks whose love for their roles is contagious. But those who lie on the other end of the spectrum – the job haters – make us all consumers of their rage. The point is, whatever you feel about your career, others are affected by it.

If you’ve done the crime, then it’s only just that you do the time. And I’m referring to job hoppers, people looking to reinvent themselves, and those who’ve failed to keep up with changing job market needs. Only then (as a starting point) is it okay to take a gig you’re not over the moon about, but only as a strategic stepping-stone to get to your ultimate dream job. After all, we all have to start at the bottom of the totem pole. That being said, I don’t understand why so many insist on punishing themselves in a steady job they simply don’t enjoy.

Tales from the “Employment Confessional” and My Advice for Redemption


“I didn’t do well in school.” So what? Just because academics wasn’t your thing doesn’t mean you should give up on finding happiness in your professional life. Not finding motivation in school simply means you haven’t discovered a role that fits who you are as an individual – your natural behaviors and life values. There are countless successful people in the world who don’t hold stellar degrees. Don’t settle for a dead-end job; instead, go on a journey of self-exploration and pick an in demand occupation that you’re good at.

“My motto is to just take any job.” You will never build a successful career without having a clearly defined purpose and a plan for getting there. Take contract roles, part-time gigs, or new projects at work that will provide the experience you need to get to that next level. Just like employers use you for your skills, you should use them back in order to enhance your background.

“I desire stability – I’ve been in the same job for decades.” When people tell me this, all I can think of is the sound of a heartbeat flat lining. The absolute worst mistake people make is staying in a crappy role for several years, doing the exact same thing for the exact same company. Employers treat people who refuse to challenge themselves and grow professionally like lepers. Look around you – the world is changing just as quickly as the apps on your smartphone. The question is, are you going to change with it, or fall behind? Start thinking strategically about YOU inc.

“Well, my family thinks…” I could go on all day filling in this blank. Although they’re well intentioned, chances are, your family knows squat about the rapidly evolving employment market, the exciting movement in job creation, and, most importantly, what’s truly best for your career. As perhaps the most biased form of support in the world, a person’s family is the worst place to turn for sound advice. So turn off all the negative self-talk, silence the limitations you’re being fed, and break free from people who bring you down.

“I don’t have any skills” OR “This is all I know.” Whenever I challenge job seekers to tell me about their skills, they’re never quite sure what they’re lacking. Employers are placing more importance on soft skills, such as drive, determination, and resilience, than any other time in history. Yet most professionals are unaware of the plethora of transferable soft skills they possess. Try taking a behavioral assessment – it’s an incredible scientific tool that tells you everything you need to know about what makes you…well you. In terms of hard-skill development, there are so many different ways to enhance your proverbial toolbox, from on-the-job training to e-learning and certifications. Start stretching that 5-pound muscle – the brain – and explore all the exciting in-demand jobs out there that most people have never even heard of.

“I’ve been a stay-at-home mom for many years.” If you don’t think being a mentor, time traveler, bookkeeper, and master multi-tasker doesn’t apply to the business world, think again. I always get positive feedback from employers who take on moms returning back to the workforce.

“Do your own gig.” We live in an age of thriving startups. If you can’t stand working for someone else and being confined to 9-5 work hours, try doing some consulting or contract work instead. I know so many people who have opened small, niche businesses in areas that they saw a need in.

The only thing that’s truly stopping you from getting to career heaven is an outdated mindset and the big “F” word – fear. And mindset is everything, meaning if you have a sincere desire to change your future, you can make it happen. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – if you change your thoughts, you can change your beliefs, which will change your behaviors, and, in turn, your outcomes. Instead of playing the blame game, empower yourself to break free and take control.

-You can also find this article at Joan’s Career Corner published on The Buffalo News website-

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