So many of us were raised to a subtle beat (or loud gong) that went something like this, "Get good grades. Get into a decent school. Get a solid desk job (with benefits). Be happy."
Problem is, for some people this formula doesn't lead to career fulfillment at all. In fact, for some, it's a formula that ultimately makes them want to crawl out of their own skin or run screaming from that solid desk job (with benefits).
Could this be you? What are some signs that you may, in fact, not be cut out for a traditional, 9-to-5 job?
Here are a few signs, plus what should you do if this becomes clear to you.
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Sometimes, it's not about resenting authority at all. For some who aren't cut out for traditional jobs, it's the endless sea of desks that makes them want to run screaming from the building.
I remember my own first corporate job. At first, it was all like, "Oh. Sooo cool. Look at all these important-looking people in these little cubby holes." By about six months in, I was finding any excuse possible to get out into the fresh air. ("You need someone to go pick up lunch? On it!")
By a few years in, I'd had enough. I lasted a grand total of seven years before I'd flat-out had it. I needed freedom, and I needed space.
What to do if you feel trapped
If your job truly requires you to sit in one space and stare at a computer all day (and you actually don't mind the work), you may consider requesting the option to telecommute a couple times a week. This article includes templates and suggestions for starting that conversation.
If your role doesn't really mandate sitting in one place every day, start planning your day (or requesting to do so) in a way that gets you out and about at least a time or two every day.
Monotony can crush even the brightest spirit. Find ways to break up yours (simple suggestions here. Or, if you know an office is simply a no-go, start investigating ways to apply to a field that has you, well, out in the field.
Similar to the feeling that a cubicle may give you, being required (or nearly required) to punch in and out each day can make you feel like you have no say in your career or life. And having no say may make you want out, stat.
What to do if you despise set hours
Of course, there are many roles that simply require you cover a shift. If this is your job (and it's making you nuts), you may want to consider a new position or line of work. Businesses that run shifts need shift workers. No getting around that.
However (and this is especially true if you're a top performer), if the imposed hours are arbitrary — done because this is what everyone does and has always done — perhaps you could put together a proposal that shows your boss how you can achieve your goals outside of the current schedule.
Use care with this approach, of course. (Keep in mind that your boss may long for a similar scenario but be too afraid to push it with "the powers that be.") But if you do it strategically and in a non-pushy manner, you may just find your idea is heard. And, hopefully, approved!
I recently worked with a client who was having a heck of a time finding a new sales role. It was a mystery to me at first, because she has so much going for her. But as we spoke, I began to realize that, while she loves selling, she hates (understatement) all the paperwork and reporting that goes along with it.
In fact, she doesn't just hate it — she's terrified of it. Thus, every time she gets into a conversation with a hiring manager (for another sales job), they get as far in conversation as the spreadsheets and then she's out.
The companies she is eyeing simply don't want a sales person who can't or won't also do the necessary behind-the-scenes work.
What to do if paperwork makes you pout
Whether you're afraid of the paperwork (or the technology you need to know how to use to complete it), or simply annoyed about having to do it, here's the reality: It's probably not going away.
Whether you're working for someone else or for yourself, your job will likely require at least a certain amount of reporting, documenting, data entry or number crunching. I don't care if you're on Wall Street or running a landscaping crew, business is business and it requires paperwork.
That said, if you truly abhor it, consider finding ways to delegate, outsource or get support on the stuff you simply do not want to do. If you're weak on the technology or tools that power the paperwork, ask for training, or invest in it yourself.
If you're at the bottom of the ladder and can't just delegate, see if you can trade tasks with a co-worker. Maybe they hate something you don't mind and it could be a win-win for both of you.
Few of us adore paperwork, but it's a part of business. So, either get comfortable with it, or get it off your plate.
No one likes an unreasonable or overly bossy boss, but the true fish-out-of-water 9-to-5-er tends to cringe when she gets even a whiff of "authority for the sake of being the authority" going on.
If you feel a bubbling rage when asked to attend a meeting you don't want to go to, or work on a project you don't think is a priority, this could be a warning sign. If you don't think you shouldn't have to arrive at a certain time or put in a request for vacation time at all? The writing's on the wall.
What to do if you're not having it with authority
If you're feeling super resentful about having to answer to anyone, it may be a clear indicator that you're meant to be your own boss. This isn't me saying, "March right in and quit, my friend." Slow your roll. In many cases, this could be reckless. But if you truly despise working on someone else's agenda, consider how you might earn a living as the one who gets to make the agenda.
No matter how forcefully or consistently people wormed into your head that the formula for success always involves a 9-to-5 job, it's just not true.
If you're simply not cut out for one, don't spend years pining away for something else. Instead, find strategic, creative, or brave ways to redefine your current role, or create your own.
Life's too short to be stuck in a job (or cubicle) that you hate. So, make it your mission to find relief, or find the door.
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