Right Next Thing: Do Not Stay in a Job You Don’t Like

I am a big fan of Eric Barker, whose entertaining and thought-provoking blog, Barking up the Wrong Tree, delivers a wonderful blend of current thinking and research each week.

His recent post highlights advice for the young from the old(er). Researchers at Cornell University interviewed nearly 1500 people aged 70+ and by far the most frequently offered advice was, do not stay in a job you dislike. This advice was offered more often than any advice on marriage, children or happiness. People looking back over years of experience were agreed on the “idiocy” of wasting around two thousand hours each year in work that isn’t the right fit.

Put more bluntly, why continue in work that makes you miserable?

So how do you make the transition to the Right Next Thing in Your Career? My experience with clients over the years points to the overall importance of figuring out what you really want. This is more difficult for many of us than it appears. And, it underpins all of the other elements of a successful career transition. The old saying if you don’t know where you are going, any road will take you there is apt. Perhaps more to the point, if you aren’t clear on your Right Next Thing, the effort and energy you invest in career transition will be wasted.

I liken this transition to a funnel. At the top end is the widest diameter, representing a broad look at many possibilities for your next career. The funnel tapers down as you become clearer about your Right Next Thing until the single best choice emerges at the bottom end. This winnowing process is critical because without it, you are at risk of pursuing career possibilities that are not the best fit for you.

Finding a Next Thing in your career can be tempting because it is, in general, easier and faster. It can and often does result in more years of misery. Finding the Right Next Thing is worth the effort. After all, most of us spend close to a third of our lives at work. Doesn’t it make sense to find work that we love?

Future posts will have a look at how to navigate the funnel to uncover your Right Next Thing.