A young man asked me the following question during a faith and work conference we were both attending:
What should I do if I am stuck in the wrong job?
Almost all of us can relate to this question because we have all been in jobs that just weren’t the best fit. You may have been in the wrong field, didn’t enjoy the work, felt surrounded by untrustworthy coworkers, or had an incompetent boss.
The IFWE blog recently interviewed John Kyle, executive director of The Fellows Initiative, a church-based leadership development program for college graduates. Kyle said that getting stuck in the wrong job is one of the biggest fears of this generation:
More than anything else, new college graduates tell me that they fear getting stuck vocationally. Most young people want exciting jobs that are interesting and allow them to make a difference in the world, but they are sometimes driven by the desire for bragging rights from landing the “big job.” Some recent graduates fear being “stuck” working in a cubicle on spreadsheets all day. Others fear they might make a “big mistake” with their early career choices.
The reality is that some people, whether recent graduates or not, do indeed get stuck in the wrong job and need guidance. Most people would tell them to quit and go find something else. But depending on the job market, that may not be easy, or even possible. There are many reasons people may not be able to leave their current job: a tough economy, family commitments, or limited opportunities in their field. So, what do you tell someone who is stuck in the wrong job?
1. There are no perfect jobs.
We read in Genesis 3 that all work will be difficult because of the fall. No job will be a perfect fit for any of us in this world. That being said, usually you will move into a job that is a better fit as you gain more experience in the workplace and learn more about your unique gifts and abilities.
2. Find meaning in what you do.
Most people are highly unsatisfied when they believe that their job has no meaning or purpose and provides little opportunity for them to learn and grow. Yet as Christians who understand the biblical meaning of work, we should understand that each task that God has called us to do, even the stuff we don’t like, has meaning to him—no matter how mundane that work appears to us.
3. Try to improve your current situation.
No matter what our job is, we need to do it with excellence. Far too often we tend to slack off and just do the minimum to get by when we don’t like the job we are doing.
By doing your best, you increase the chances of your getting noticed and finding additional opportunities to steer your job description toward something that is a better fit.
4. Keep your options open.
The improvements you make to your job situation may make things more tolerable, but you should always be open to the next opportunity. Always be building your network and meeting people that you can help and that are willing to help you.
5. Additional tips to remember.
- Continue to work hard and do exceptional work.
- Assess what you don’t enjoy about your job so that you can minimize the time you spend doing unwanted tasks.
- Look for new ways to bring value to your organization. You may find opportunities to do other types of work within your current company.
- Remain open to new opportunities: you may not be able to leave your job now, but circumstances may change.
- Continue to learn new skills on and off the job.
- Quit your job until you have another one lined up.
- Assume that the job is the problem. God may be trying to teach you something where you’re currently placed.
- Think you’re stuck. There is usually more leeway to alter your job situation than you think.
- Complain about your job to others.
Life is a journey. What we do here is very important, but our final destination is a new heaven and a new earth that will not be marred by sin’s curse. While the journey can sometimes get messy, we need to constantly be aware of the lessons God wants to teach us along the way, especially at work. We need to learn to navigate life’s lessons, solve problems, and discern what to do next based on God’s desire and design.
In Psalm 25, David cried out to God and asked him to direct his path. Notice what David says:
Show me the right path, O LORD; point out the road for me to follow. Lead me by your truth and teach me, for you are the God who saves me. All day long I put my hope in you. Remember, O LORD, your compassion and unfailing love (Ps 25:4-6, NLT).
May that always be our prayer, no matter what kind of job we find ourselves in.
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