As we settle into the second half of 2020 which for some us means reviewing our career goals, I thought to publish the story a friend from South Africa shared with me a few years ago, after getting his permission.
If you’ve been following me for a while you know I’ve spoken quite a bit about people being under-employed and feeling stuck in their current jobs with no idea of what next to do or how to find greater joy that’s beyond their pay cheques.
This is the letter:
Thank you for the invite and for reaching out.
I have read through your previous posts and must certainly commend you for sharing your experiences and perspectives on the subject of ‘jobs/careers’. Your style of writing is very engaging and easy to follow.
If I may request, would you also write an article and provide advice to young professionals who may find themselves in a ‘Career Limbo’ within the African context? This is something I have been experiencing in my personal career and also observed with my peers who are young professionals.
From the story you shared, I’m glad to know that it’s normal to feel ‘stuck in a rut’ at some point in one’s career. Allow me to be brutally honest and straightforward….. The thing is I don’t quite hate or dislike what I do; the issue is I’m not overwhelmingly excited about my job and that’s the problem.
One of my bosses once told me, one’s job should be/feel like ‘a calling and be much more than the pay’, meaning you are required to put in a lot of efforts and long hours in your work to provide meaningful and impactful solutions to clients, which from my experience is quite true. My reasoning is, why invest and toil for many hours on something that doesn’t ‘burn you up’ or fulfill you completely or gives you great joy?
Like I said, I really don’t mind what I do, but I just find that the effort I put in is not commensurate to my inner satisfaction. I learn a lot on my job and it’s very dynamic enough to keep me going but then I truly want more. The other twist to this scenario is that the current job market doesn’t offer flexibility to those who may want a career change; more than 50% of youth are unemployed in most African countries.
Most of my peers including myself got our first jobs with the main goal of ‘securing a source of income’ regardless of educational background or personal interests. Very few were fortunate enough to land jobs in line with their interests /passion. With time, we developed skills in our different capacities as we became fully engaged in our jobs.
Somewhere along this journey, a sense of dissatisfaction creeps in and I wonder what else might be out there that can really ‘fire me up’; something more meaningful and purposeful. The thought of being promoted literally disheartens me as I feel I will be deeper entrenched and trapped in this rut.
The ‘limbo’ here is – I have a job in one of the best companies in the world that pays comparatively well and offers numerous learning and growth opportunities but deep down, it’s not what I want to do for the rest of my working life. The thing is, I can’t quite articulate what kind of job I would want to have but, have ideas on the aspects it should have; some of which are found in my current job.
What can I do, what steps can I take to find ‘that fire’ that is missing in my job? How can I experiment with completely different careers without compromising my financial status given that I have dependents?
Please offer comments or share experiences that might help.