The reality of a career, much like adulthood in general, is not usually what was envisioned. There are fewer thank-yous, longer hours, less pay and more frustrations. The old adage is true: if work was fun, no one would pay you to do it. For workers at any level, feeling a career slump can be energy draining. So how can you tell when it’s time to start looking for another job or when a few minor tweaks could renew your energy? Four Terry professors and a famed investor offer advice on what to do when you feel stuck at work.
1. Evaluate your priorities
“You have to die to go to heaven,” is what marketing professor Sundar Bharadwaj tells his students on the last day of class. The meaning is two-fold. First, you have to stop what you’re doing if you want to get somewhere different.
“You have to die first, so in this case I mean that you may have to quit your job if you have some sort of entrepreneurial ambition and you want to start your own company,” he says. The other piece of the advice is a memento mori: “You only live once,” he says. “If you’re doing the same thing you were doing yesterday, then that’s a problem. The half-life of knowledge is getting shorter and shorter. If you’re not learning new things, you’re not staying still, you’re actually slipping behind. Life is too short to stay in a bad job.”
2. Weigh the sacrifices
For educated, intelligent workers, there are always job options out there — as long as you’re willing to sacrifice, says Jeffry Netter, head of the finance department.
“You need to consider a lot of things if you’re thinking about changing jobs. Think about what your significant other is doing, what your family is doing, what the market is doing. All these things may have an effect on what you can do or how you should plan to look for new jobs. Do your research,” he says. “The single biggest factor for employment is location. If you’re willing to go anywhere, your options of getting a new job, even a better job, are greatly improved. If you have to stay in a limited area, not so much.”
3. Use business sense
Before you jump ship, it’s a good idea to get a feel for the tide. “It’s important to keep a keen eye on where the company is going. Are you in the business unit where growth is happening? New products are being launched? Acquisitions are being made? Or large R&D efforts are being funded?” says management professor Tim Quigley. “If not, find a way to get there or find your way into a different company that’s doing these things to keep your career on the trend upwards.”
4. Serving others has its own rewards
“I’ve had several careers, and the feeling about where to go next has usually come from the community,” said Jodi Barnes, a lecturer in the Institute for Leadership Advancement. “It’s what gets me out of bed in the morning. I need to think, ‘What can I do for others today?’”
5. Seek what you admire
Years ago, in a speech to students at the Terry College of Business, famed investor Warren Buffett shared his favorite career advice: “Go to work for whomever you admire. You can’t get a bad result. You’ll jump out of bed in the morning and you’ll be having fun.” But Buffett said to be sure to temper that advice a bit. “One time a dean called me later and said, ‘What’d you tell those kids? They all want to be self-employed.’”