If you think that the answer to your problem of being bored and unfulfilled at work is to get a new job, please read my cautionary tale before you take any further steps. It’s the Cole’s Notes of my story, but I think you’ll see how it all ties together (and possibly applies to you too!). Now that I have the benefit of hindsight, I can see that my cure for boredom and unfulfillment throughout my life was to move to something new, but those feelings just followed me. I knew I had to make an escape – to break the cycle – and this is how I did it.
I struggled to choose a career as a teen. I went to all the university presentations and listened to what the recruiters had to say, but in the end it was all very vague to me. I remember asking myself, “What JOB do I get with a Bachelor of Science? What JOB do I get with a Bachelor of Arts?” I couldn’t understand how a degree translated into a career. No one I knew had a degree. People had jobs straight out of high school and it seemed to work out fine. Of course, this was MY reality, but not THE reality. I had no idea.
I grew up in a small town where there wasn’t much going on in the job market but manufacturing (labour), retail, and the usual suspects that come with every town, like schools and medical clinics. I was a good student but hated high school so my goal was to get the heck out as fast as I could. I chose the college route strictly to avoid year 5 of high school.
Learning #1: choosing a path purely to avoid pain is not a good strategy.
In college, I started with a general first year in health sciences figuring I would fast-track into nursing school. I liked science and there were jobs to be had. Off to nursing school I went. The thing was though, ¾ of the way through, I realized I didn’t want to be a nurse.
Learning #2: choosing a career ONLY because it provided a job close to home is not a good strategy.
I thought I’d try my hand at university after the nursing thing didn’t work out. I was determined to “do what I want” with no outside opinions! I was on the early side of a quarter-life crisis and still looking for my elusive forever-career. I chose archaeology as my major because I loved Indiana Jones and ancient Egypt. One year in though, I came to my senses and asked yet again, “what JOB am I going to get when I get done this degree” question. I couldn’t come up with one, so I put the brakes on the university degree. (No disrespect to archaeologists. I still think it’s a wonderful career, but I didn’t have enough heart for it, nor $$$ for a PhD.)
Learning #3: Rebound careers are not a good strategy; sometimes your interests are NOT your career.
Having no direction, I thought I’d work for a while. The problem was that I also had no real qualifications, so I was stuck to minimum wage jobs. This was not an option. For a girl who had a 3.9 GPA it seemed a very dismal place to find myself in.
Feeling lost, and the subject of too many “what are you taking now” jokes, I went back to college and eventually got into Medical Lab Technology.
This checked all the boxes: a clear job title, a stable career in a hospital, and a decent salary. It was all good (for about a year or so), but then I got bored. So I moved to a different lab, and got bored. Then I moved to yet another lab, and got bored. You can see a trend developing here if you haven’t already picked up on it.
Now, firmly locked into those golden handcuffs, I realized that I had dug myself a huge hole. Any job I wanted to do from here required a degree.
There I was at 28 years old, stuck. No degree. No substantial college qualifications. Pigeon-holed to hospital lab work. The quarter-life crisis had finally arrived.
And though I got a few eye rolls and “here we go again” comments, back to school I went. Though this time, it was school + work + kids + mortgage + 2 other jobs in there. It took 9 years to get that degree, but I got it.
Learning #4: When you opt to make a decision based on avoiding pain [Learning #1], know that it does have consequences.
Why am I telling you this? Maybe by now you’re asking if I have a point. I do.
When choosing a career, all I knew to think about was a job title: nurse, doctor, engineer, labourer, tradesperson. I was none of those things. So, when I was faced with a situation where I could not pick a label, I didn’t know what to do. I followed the advice, opinions, social constructs of those that I was surrounded with. I did not expand my horizons. I never learned my genius. I never learned what made me tick.
[Though I’m not advocating that you isolate yourself and never ask for opinions or advice from those whom you trust, I do believe that we are our own best navigators of our lives. Everyone provides opinions based on their own experiences and values, and they just aren’t yours. Only you know what calls to you.]
Following the status quo gave me a lot of grief. I was always a fantastic employee but I was constantly moving into roles, learning everything I could, then wondering what was next. I got bored easily. Anything that didn’t require continuous learning, or challenging opportunities for growth was my kryptonite. Places where I had to follow rules because that’s what the rules say, made me cringe. I can follow rules no problem, but when they defy logic, create inefficiencies, and hold people back I have trouble sticking around.
I’ve shed tears asking myself “Is this all there is?”. I’ve sank into more than one depression asking myself “What’s wrong with me?”. I’ve asked myself over and over, “Why can’t I just find that ONE JOB that keeps me interested for more than 2 years?”
AND HERE’S THE PUNCHLINE: It’s because I wasn’t following my highest value.
I didn’t know to ask myself what was important to me. This whole time I was searching for a job title when I should have been searching for a role that allowed me to be suitably challenged, provided lots of opportunity for growth, let me highlight my skills of finding efficiencies so things could be done faster and smarter.
My highest value is learning and applying the knowledge for improvement. I don’t want to just acquire knowledge, but I want to apply it in ways that help people. I need to be in an environment that supports and encourages this growth. When I look back, I was in jobs that were compliance-based and required standardization. I could thrive only long enough to learn and create the efficiencies that still fit into a very rigid box.
No wonder I didn’t find what I was looking for. When I thought there was something wrong with me for not being able to stick it out in a job for more than 2 years, it was because I was pursuing the wrong jobs.
So, to circle way back now to the title of this article, if you’re in a cycle of job hopping, and finding yourself in one “meh” job after another, maybe before jumping ship to the next job, you might want to consider that the next job still might not be the answer. Am I saying stay in your crappy job? Of course not, but I am saying that until you get clear on what your highest value is, you will just be repeating the cycle again, and again.
What is your highest value? What is your genius? What do you NEED in a job to THRIVE?
If you’re serious about ending the cycle of one mediocre job after another (after the initial excitement wears off) you need to get clear on your values. Otherwise, the cycle will continue.
I will forever be grateful that I did eventually take stock of this for myself and that I am now happily working every single day in a career that I LOVE. It required more school, but I now know that learning is my highest value so it makes so much sense. I no longer feel guilty or ashamed about my voracious learning needs. It’s as much as part of me as my fingers or my toes.
I am the creator of my own destiny. I allow new learning into my practice every chance I get. I never stop learning and refining and putting exceptional techniques into practice. I am using my genius AND it’s changing people’s lives in extraordinary ways. I have found my job, though it’s far more than just a job. It’s my mission.
If you’re struggling with the same feelings, please know that you too can have a career that you love. Find your highest value and pursue it like your life depends on it, because frankly, it does.
Share this with your teenagers, your college kids, and even those who think it’s too late to try something new. If there is any place to start when it comes to figuring out what to pursue in life (any time in life!) it’s your highest value. The sun, moon and stars will align to make it happen if it’s truly meant for you.
Everyone deserves to do what they love.
Maybe your highest value is finances. Maybe you live and breathe all things fitness. Maybe you LOVE business strategy. Whatever it is, listen. Pay attention and follow it like a dog on a scent. It will lead you to fulfillment, financial abundance and freedom. If you’re struggling to find your highest value, give me a call. There is nothing that would make me happier than to see another human live their purpose.