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Home > Audio, Podcast, Show > Archive: Career, Not Complaints — from the Career Opportunities Podcast

Archive: Career, Not Complaints — from the Career Opportunities Podcast

November 30th, 2012

Career Opportunities podcast logoTypically, discussions about jobs and careers consist of people complaining about their jobs and careers. We seem to have no problem griping about our managers, customers and CEO. When it comes to discussions about how to improve our careers, though, we fall silent. We seem to revel in the horrors of our jobs, but feel embarrassed to admit that we are unprepared to do anything to about it or to even discuss what can be done. Complaining takes the place of useful action but we end up just where we started.


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I encounter this problem wherever I go. Whether I am talking to people online or face-to-face it can be almost impossible to move people beyond the complaining stage. There is too much inertia, too much to say, too many people to blame. Of course, the reason most people find it so difficult to move forward is because the process requires deep thought, honesty and introspection. Complaining, on the other hand, takes little effort.

So, how do you get beyond the complaints and start doing something about your career? First, you have to deny any embarrassment you might feel in discussing career issues with others. Even the most successful people face career problems. In fact, the more you strive to improve your career, the more problems you will face. You want more out of your life, so you will be taking more chances and stretching yourself in many ways. This will bring you up against challenges that others will never face. This is why it is so important to develop a healthy attitude about your career, regardless of how happy you are with your current situation.

Next, you need to banish any tendency to complain about your work. It can be difficult to break such a long-standing habit, but it has to be done. The worst problem is, we are often surrounded with others who are even deeper into the complaint pit than we are. Nothing fuels complaining like a group of dissatisfied workers hanging out in the break room. We enable each other in a never-ending cycle. You need to break the cycle.

Of course, this can be extremely difficult because those around us might not want to move forward. When one person in a group starts to improve their career, the others see this as a reminder that they are stagnating in their current jobs and, worse yet, doing nothing about it. You may find that long-term relationships will fall by the wayside. You will have to find others who are truly interested in improving their careers as you are. With these people you will find little complaining and no embarrassment. You all understand that this job is only one stop in a long career and not the end of the line.

Early in my career, I noted how computer support people would often complain about their clients, sharing their best “stupid user stories” over the cubicle walls. Eventually I realized, though, that this was clouding my opinion of my customers and effecting my work. I needed to distance myself from these attitudes. Initially, I just refused to participate in these discussions, but eventually distanced myself from particular co-workers. The change in my work was dramatic. Instead of being seen as someone who was aloof, short-tempered and arrogant, I gained the trust of my customers, developing more of a partnership with them rather than a employer/employee relationship. It was direct proof of how a career might benefit from a relatively small change.

Today, whenever I speak with someone about their career, I listen to their complaints for a while, but then I attempt to show them that no matter how bad they might think their career, there are ways to make it better. It is in action that we find the hope to move forward, even when things are going badly. Taking one simple step leads to the next and the next. Sometimes, though, people will not be moved. They have convinced themselves that their career is written in stone and will never, ever change. What a depressing place to live — trapped in a job with no hope of escape.

Every one of you, reading this column or listening to the podcast, has the power to make your career better. If you didn’t have the desire to change, the will to move above complaining and the power to take action, you wouldn’t be spending your time with me. You would be hanging out with all the complainers, trying to make it through another lousy day.

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