Is the illusion of security keeping you trapped at your job?

The movie Foxcatcher for which Steve Carrell takes a dramatic turn and received an Oscar nomination is based on the true story of John DuPont. If you are not familiar with the movie, you likely have heard the name DuPont and associate it correctly with one of the oldest, wealthiest families in America.  I just watched The Prince of Pennsylvania, the documentary on the same story as the movie.  I won’t provide any spoilers but the basic plot line is revealed quickly enough so this won’t ruin anything if you choose to watch either:

Dupont is the quintessential eccentric millionaire. He develops a passion for wrestling and a quest to use his funds so support top American wrestlers.  Since wrestling – as in real wrestling – has no professional outlet in the US, elite amateur wrestlers have to live in near poverty if they want to train for the Olympics post college.  Dupont sets up a spectacular wrestling facility and offers full room, board, and stipends to attract top wrestlers.  All goes well initially until Dupont’s mental health begins to decline.

At this point, the wrestlers are faced with a quandary: do they leave or do they stay?  Those that stay do so for the same reasons most people stay in jobs too long: the perception of economic security.  In the present, they are living in a beautiful farm with all their needs taken care of so why leave? Those that leave see the future more clearly. Dupont’s rapidly deteriorating mental health has made their economic security an illusion. 

Mike, a mid-career professional, at a well known Connecticut based company came to see me, reluctantly, because his wife insisted that he see a career counselor and heard of me through one of her friends in Fairfield. Over the last several years, Mike’s once rock-solid job security had become an illusion to everyone but Mike.  ”They know me. I’ve been her 15 years. I’ve had good reviews.”  As was pointed out by his friends, each of those reasons had become irrelevant as the company went through various restructuring. We are no longer playing by 20th century rules of corporate security.

On a subconscious level, Mike seemed to understand his plight but he had not taken any action.  I told him the story of Foxcatcher.  Watch it and you’ll understand why Mike left with specific motivation to find a new job.