Trapped in Your Career Due To “Certainty”

“I can’t leave my job to something so uncertain.” so spoke a career counseling client who worked at a large corporation in New Haven, CT.

“Alyssa” had just finished telling me how much she hated her job.  She didn’t like the people. Several of her co-workers were the adult equivalent of mean girls.  Her boss was the Queen B of the hive.  She didn’t like her work. She was in the marketing department because she had hoped to use her creativity.  It turned out her work was much more quantitive than she envisioned, as much of her department analyzed marketing metrics. She didn’t like her company.  Every year, it seemed to cut back on benefits and further limit upward mobility.

Alyssa did have a work dream.  And, it wasn’t a crazy one.  She planned to open up a consulting business with her close friend.  (The business is too specific for me to divulge without giving away the idea.)  Her friend was 90% on board.  Alyssa was about 50%. Alyssa was pretty sure that her friend would be 100% if Alyssa was more enthusiastic.

Alyssa was 30 years old.  No children.  Moderate car payments and student loans.  She had some savings.  She had already figured out that she could devote 4 solid months to work on her business without bringing in any money.  She was also not above getting a waitressing or coffee shop job if she could be “certain” that her business would grow.

I don’t know her industry that well.  But, I do have a pretty developed sense about business plans and what makes sense.  I’m the first to talk clients out of jumping ship if I think their plans won’t work.  But, Alyssa discussed her plan and it made sense to me.  The start up costs were minimal.  She had genuine leads on potential clients.  Her friend had the high likelihood of landing an “anchor” client (one big enough to provide some sense of security. It sounded solid to me.

But, success is not certain. It never is.

I then asked Alyssa about her current job.

Were the people going to stay the same?  “Yes, as far as I can tell.” Then you are certain to dislike the people.

Will the boss stay the same?  “She’s not going anywhere.”  Then you are certain to hate your boss.

Will the company get better or worse? “Seems like it is on the decline.” Then, guess what? Even your job certainty is not particularly certain.

Alyssa said she moved to 75% after our meeting.  I don’t know what she’ll do.  But, I’m hopeful.