I’ve read plenty of articles across the last four years regarding how the economy has “forced” people to stay at jobs they don’t really like. During better times, the experts contend, folks are much more likely to jump ship from their current employers As an HR person, I’ve heard this muttering in professional circles as well.
This must be a painful place to be: you hate the job—or at least your manager or the company—but you can’t find anything else. However, I think this is just the ostensible reason why so many people aren’t doing what they love right now, instead of looking ahead to some projected future era of vocational happiness. I believe there arefive more accurate reasons with which we must grapple if we are in this quandary:
1. You don’t know what you want to do
Examples: You’ve tried different careers already and nothing seems to stick; there are so many options and you cannot decide
2. You don’t believe you have the education, skills or connections to do what you want to do
Examples: A bachelor’s, master’s or even a doctorate is required, and you don’t have the piece of paper as of yet and no time or money to go earn it; you don’t have experience doing the work; you don’t know anyone in the industry and have no idea how to get your foot in the door
3. The changes you’ll have to implement in order to do what you want to do are simply not worth it
Examples: A potential pay cut; a potential relocation; a change in work hours; a longer commute
4. The people most important to you aren’t supportive of you taking the chance of going after what you want
Examples: Your spouse or partner is scared of the potential changes or investment required; your friends are discouraging; your boss or colleagues at work have gotten inside your head with negativity and you have allowed them to psych you out
So what to do differently? Think “ACE:”

(A)ssess: Pay attention to your core passions: what activities get you into the “zone,” where you lose track of time and cannot wait to do them again? And what is truly required to get in on the ground floor of the field where you can get paid to live out one or more of these passions? Take a look at the key influencers in your life, and evaluate each of their motives and levels of credibility; are they truly the people who should be renting space in your mind? Take an assessment such as StrengthsFinders or MBTI to gain more clarity.
(C)ollaborate: Leverage social media, in-person networking and other means to get around optimistic, informative individuals who can help you learn more about your potential choices and career possibilities. Spend time with those who open doors and ask powerful, open-ended questions, rather than those who simply tell you what they believe or discourage you.
(E)xecute: Take action! A few small steps forward each week or month will do wonders for your self-esteem, positivity and ability to find the pluses even in your current situation. Forward movement is the best cure for inertia. Begin with the end in mind: have some end goals, craft strategies to meet those goals and get them on your calendar…and follow your calendar!
For more ideas on how to apply this ACE process across the board, check out my book Assess, Collaborate, Execute: ACE Your Way Through Life:
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