Point Lookout: a free weekly publication of Chaco Canyon Consulting
Volume 10, Issue 25;   June 23, 2010: This Is the Only Job

This Is the Only Job

by

You have a job. Even though you liked it once, those days are long past, and a return is improbable. If you could, you'd hop to another job immediately, but economic conditions in your field make that unlikely. How can you deal with this misery?
A Cliff Chipmunk in Saguaro National Park in Arizona

A Cliff Chipmunk (Tamius dorsalis) in Saguaro National Park in Arizona. Cliff Chipmunks generally feed on juniper berries, pine seeds, and acorns. Since these items tend to be available only during specific times of the year, winter would be a difficult time for these little animals, because they store very little body fat. That's one reason why they don't truly hibernate during winter. But they have a fascinating behavioral adaptation that meets their needs. When seeds are plentiful, they carry them in cheek pouches to caches, from which they draw during winter.

At the time of this writing, we're enduring an economic winter. We can take a lesson from the Cliff Chipmunk by trying to locate caches of psychological "nutrition" from which we can draw during this winter. It's difficult for most of us, because unlike the Cliff Chipmunk, we didn't intentionally create caches in anticipation of winter. But for many, the caches are there — all we have to do is find them. Photo courtesy U.S. National Park Service.

Downsizing, reorganization, and new lean-and-mean policies haven't made your job intolerable — you are, after all, tolerating it — but you're hanging on by your fingernails.

You're so unhappy that if you could find a way to leave, you would. You've tried looking around, but economic conditions just aren't improving fast enough to have made enough of a difference.

So there you are. Stuck. For now, anyway. Monday mornings are the worst part. Except for Tuesday, and all the others. How will you ever find a way to keep sane until you can eject?

Here are some suggestions for finding ways to cope until you can find something you truly love…or something that at least doesn't hurt so much.

Check your assessment of conditions
Yes, economic conditions do seem bleak, but be alert to changes. Strive to be the first to recognize the opportunity to make a new start somewhere else.
Reframe the trap as a choice
For most of us, the feeling of being trapped makes almost any job intolerable. But are you really trapped? Or are you choosing not to quit because you don't want to be unemployed? It's not a very attractive choice, I admit, but it is definitely a choice. By deciding to stay in a job you dislike, you've taken the best choice, and you don't like it much, but you aren't trapped.
Use the time machine
Step into the time machine. Travel to three years from now, and look back on what you did now. You waited until you could discover the right opportunity, or at least, a "right enough" opportunity. You didn't burn bridges. For most of us, the feeling of
being trapped makes almost
any job intolerable
You didn't alienate colleagues, or your boss. You did your best to perform to your highest standard. It was difficult, but looking back on it from three years into the future, it was the right thing to do. You eventually found a job you love.
Make your job more fun
Solve this problem: How can I make my job more fun? Music? Bring your MP3 player to work. More work you like and less work you don't? Maybe your boss can help with that. Tired of travel? Maybe you can make the travel you have more fun.
Trouble with someone in particular?
A boss, a rival, a co-worker, whoever it is, there's usually something you can do to make the trouble a little less troublesome. Get a coach, find a counselor. View the trouble as a chance to learn how to deal with trouble.

Most important, recognize that for now, this is the only job. It's the one you have. Almost certainly there are some good things about it. Remind yourself what those good things are, and keep them in the center of your attention. Then do great work. Go to top Top  Next issue: How to Undermine Your Boss  Next Issue

Go For It: Sometimes It's Easier If You RunLove the work but not the job? Bad boss, long commute, troubling ethical questions, hateful colleague? This ebook looks at what we can do to get more out of life at work. It helps you get moving again! Read Go For It! Sometimes It's Easier If You Run, filled with tips and techniques for putting zing into your work life. Order Now!

Your comments are welcome

Would you like to see your comments posted here? rbrenyjAYQbcQJVPpRCFmner@ChacBhuaOBhjVjOPkxbpoCanyon.comSend me your comments by email, or by Web form.

About Point Lookout

Thank you for reading this article. I hope you enjoyed it and found it useful, and that you'll consider recommending it to a friend.

Point Lookout is a free weekly email newsletter. Browse the archive of past issues. Subscribe for free.

Support Point Lookout by joining the Friends of Point Lookout, as an individual or as an organization.

Do you face a complex interpersonal situation? Send it in, anonymously if you like, and I'll give you my two cents.

Related articles

More articles on Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness:

A toasterSome Costs of COTS
As a way of managing risk, we sometimes steer our organizations towards commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) components, methodologies, designs, and processes. But to gain a competitive edge, we need creative differentiation.
A Rough-Legged Hawk surveys its domainTake Any Seat: II
In meetings, where you sit in the room influences your effectiveness, both in the formal part of the meeting and in the milling-abouts that occur around breaks. You can take any seat, but if you make your choice strategically, you can better maintain your autonomy and power.
A light bulb, the universal symbol of creativityAsking Brilliant Questions
Your team is fortunate if you have even one teammate who regularly asks the questions that immediately halt discussions and save months of wasted effort. But even if you don't have someone like that, everyone can learn how to generate brilliant questions more often. Here's how.
Example of an unsecured driver-side floor mat trapping the accelerator pedal in a 2007 Toyota Lexus ES350Indicators of Lock-In: II
When a group of decision makers "locks in" on a choice, they can persist in that course even when others have concluded that the choice is folly. Here's Part II of a set of indicators of lock-in.
Elephants fightingHow to Waste Time in Meetings
Nearly everyone hates meetings. The main complaint: they're mostly a waste of time. The main cause: us. Here's a field manual for people who want to waste even more time.

See also Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness and Managing Your Boss for more related articles.

Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout

Office equipment — or is it office toys?Coming July 25: Exploiting Functional Fixedness: II
A cognitive bias called functional fixedness causes difficulty in recognizing new uses for familiar things. It also makes for difficulty in recognizing devious uses of everyday behaviors. Here's Part II of a catalog of deviousness based on functional fixedness. Available here and by RSS on July 25.
Tim Murphy, official photo for the 112th CongressAnd on August 1: Strategies of Verbal Abusers
Verbal abuse at work has special properties, because it takes place in an environment in which verbal abuse is supposedly proscribed. Yet verbal abuse does happen at work. Here are three strategies abusers rely on to avoid disciplinary action. Available here and by RSS on August 1.

Coaching services

I offer email and telephone coaching at both corporate and individual rates. Contact Rick for details at rbrenlQDMWQuzTiuBPBMhner@ChacmWaKcfZVihSyfLKEoCanyon.com or (650) 787-6475, or toll-free in the continental US at (866) 378-5470.

Get the ebook!

Past issues of Point Lookout are available in six ebooks:

Reprinting this article

Are you a writer, editor or publisher on deadline? Are you looking for an article that will get people talking and get compliments flying your way? You can have 500 words in your inbox in one hour. License any article from this Web site. More info

Public seminars

The Power Affect: How We Express Our Personal Power
Many The Power Affect: How We Express Personal Powerpeople who possess real organizational power have a characteristic demeanor. It's the way they project their presence. I call this the power affect. Some people — call them power pretenders — adopt the power affect well before they attain significant organizational power. Unfortunately for their colleagues, and for their organizations, power pretenders can attain organizational power out of proportion to their merit or abilities. Understanding the power affect is therefore important for anyone who aims to attain power, or anyone who works with power pretenders. Read more about this program.

Follow Rick

Send email or subscribe to one of my newsletters Follow me at LinkedIn Follow me at Twitter, or share a tweet Follow me at Google+ or share a post Subscribe to RSS feeds Subscribe to RSS feeds
The message of Point Lookout is unique. Help get the message out. Please donate to help keep Point Lookout available for free to everyone.
Technical Debt for Policymakers BlogMy blog, Technical Debt for Policymakers, offers resources, insights, and conversations of interest to policymakers who are concerned with managing technical debt within their organizations. Get the millstone of technical debt off the neck of your organization!
Go For It: Sometimes It's Easier If You RunBad boss, long commute, troubling ethical questions, hateful colleague? Learn what we can do when we love the work but not the job.
303 Tips for Virtual and Global TeamsLearn how to make your virtual global team sing.
101 Tips for Managing ChangeAre you managing a change effort that faces rampant cynicism, passive non-cooperation, or maybe even outright revolt?
101 Tips for Effective MeetingsLearn how to make meetings more productive — and more rare.
Exchange your "personal trade secrets" — the tips, tricks and techniques that make you an ace — with other aces, anonymously. Visit the Library of Personal Trade Secrets.