Two years ago, I was sitting in a cube with a headset strapped around my ears and blank white walls all around me. I was on dial #39 of the day and it wasn’t even lunchtime. At this pace I could hit #60 by 2:00PM and then mail it in the rest of the day. Not a bad day in the life of an internal wholesaler, but to me it was prison.
I had been doing this job for nearly three years and had burnt out months ago. At the time I had no idea what I wanted to do. I only knew that I didn’t want to do this anymore.
Every morning when I’d walk into the office, I’d literally feel my stomach sink and a dark cloud come over me.
I was drained. I was lost. And on most days, I was hopeless.
I knew that I had to escape, but I had no idea where to escape to. I had been at this company since college and it was the only world I knew. For a long time, I thought I’d be there for life. But I knew now as I sank in my swivel chair that I must break free.
As you read this, you may be sitting in your own swivel chair wondering how you got here and how the hell you’re going to get out. You weren’t born to do this job. You didn’t mean to be here for the last six years. It was supposed to be a stepping stone. But sure enough, you’re here now and you’re in it more than ever.
You’re on the brink of a promotion that you don’t really want and you think that getting it might just keep you here longer. On top of this, you’re so busy that you don’t have time to look for another job or even know where to start. You’re in it up to your eyeballs.
So, what’s your move? You can’t exactly go on an interview and tell the person that you want the job because you need to escape your current situation. No.
You need an escape plan.
How To Escape The Office Grind:
- Figure Out What The Hell You Want To Do
- Network Like Your Life Depends On It (Because It Does)
- Develop a Weekly Attack Plan
- Find Your Support Team
1. Figure Out What The Hell You Want To Do:
You might not have a single clue about what job you want to do next and let me be the first to tell you that that is OK. Most people around you don’t know what they’re doing or why they’re doing it. You can break out of that crowd, but it’s going to take some work – some inner work.
You need to look within to figure out your next move. If the answer doesn’t come from within then chances are you’ll make the same mistake again. So how do you go about doing this?
There are many ways to start to understand yourself better so that you can know which career you’d thrive in. One way is through the Uncover Your Calling Exercise. This exercise helps you examine your passions, skills and values which you can mesh together to uncover possible career paths. Check out my article from last year to learn more and get started now.
2. Network Like Your Life Depends On It (Because It Does)
If you are going to make this work (and I totally believe you can) then it has to be through networking. Don’t bother applying to countless jobs and hearing crickets.
Networking will be your key to unlocking new doors that you didn’t know existed. Here’s what you need to do:
Step 1: Identify people who are doing jobs that interest you and set up informational calls or coffee dates with them
Step 2: Develop Your “Career Jump Story” so that people understand who you are and what you’re trying to do. You’ll want this to be clear and concise so people can understand how to help you
Step 3: See where each lead takes you and follow up after each meeting to keep a strong connection. You will start to form a spider web of connections in several industries
Step 4: Repeat. Over and over again
3. Develop a Weekly Attack Plan
You will give up and remain stuck if you do not develop a sustainable attack plan. Your job now is to escape. Forget your current job. You don’t want to be there anyways. Prioritize your escape plan over everything. Here are some tips on how to create a successful attack plan:
Tip #1: Make it Measurable: You must set measurable goals each week in order for you to hold yourself accountable. These must be tied to hard numbers. For example, maybe your goal is to email 20 people per week to set up informational coffee dates.
Tip #2: Make it Aggressive (but not Overwhelming): You want to push yourself but you don’t want to wear yourself out either. Think of it as a distance run. Stretch yourself but don’t sprint too early.
Tip #3: Write it Down: You need to write down your plan and check in at the end of each week to see your results. Create a log in your journal or through an online tool like Evernote.
Tip #4: Adjust Plan Accordingly: After you develop your original plan, you’ll start noticing what works and what doesn’t. Make adjustments and double down on what is working.
4. Find Your Support Team
I will be straight with you. This is going to be hard. You’re not going to escape overnight or even within the month. This process takes time but you will get out if you stick to the plan. The last piece you’ll need is a support team to keep you mentally tough throughout the ups and downs.
Your support team can help you gain clarity from your ideas and perhaps help point you in the right direction. More importantly though they should provide you with the confidence and accountability you need to persist.
Here are a few support systems to consider:
MeetUp Groups: Join a MeetUp group catered to career transition. There are plenty out there and can provide you contact with others in your shoes
Mentors: Your mentors will be pivotal in this time period as they can give you their advice and guidance. However, do be conscious of any biases they may hold as they only know what has worked for them.
Coaching: Coaches can help you gain clarity around your direction, hold you accountable to your goals, and stretch beyond your perceived limits. On top of this, coaches are unbiased and are totally invested in what’s best for you.
Above all, don’t forget that feeling like you need to escape is not a bad thing. In fact, it is the first step to finding what you actually should be doing.
If you remember anything from this blog post remember this: You have the power to escape. You have the power to create your own career. I know you do. It’s just a matter of putting your foot down and setting yourself in motion.
Excitement awaits you on the other side of those office walls.
I told myself this back when I was stuck and I learned it to be true. Since then I’ve broken free. Has the road been smooth? No. But it’s been a hell of a lot more exciting than those blank white walls I knew before.
To wrap things up today, I’m going to leave you with a quote. Good luck on your journey and reach out to me if you’d like coaching or just to chat. I live to help people like you.
“Don’t fear failure. Fear being in the exact same place next year as you are today.” – Michael Hyatt