Why People Stay in Uninspiring Careers

The average American spends 2,250 hours at work per year. That is one-quarter of their lives between adulthood and retirement dedicated to earning a living. Despite this significant commitment of time, only around half of Americans are satisfied with their jobs.

What about the other half? Many of those workers experience some degree of dissatisfaction, either with their employer, position, or field of work. Education level does impact overall job satisfaction, but there are still plenty of educated people in unhappy jobs.

Since our careers are strongly tied to our identities-- leaving those in unfulfilling careers to experience less happiness, we can say that career choice is a pretty important piece of the happiness puzzle.

5 Reasons Employees Avoid Career Changes

It seems simple -- if you don't like your job, find a new one. If it were that simple then job-satisfaction rates would be much higher. There are practical and psychological challenges to changing careers in adulthood.

Fear of Failure

For some who are stuck in a bad job, the inaction towards making a change is fueled by a paralyzing fear of failure. These individuals already have a job where they feel secure and they feel like voluntarily leaving the job -- no matter how bad, is too risky.

Lack of Opportunity

As someone who graduated college on the precipice of a major economical crisis, I can say that a lack of opportunity is a significant factor keeping underemployed people in bad jobs. Sometimes finding the right job requires relocating and a major move isn't always feasible.


Jobs are such a big part of life that it becomes easy to build everything around them. A job that is close to home or that has unique and ideal hours and flexibility can be hard to give up, even if the actual work is uninspiring or the people are difficult to work with.

Job-hunting Apathy

Finding a new job is just plain hard. It takes time and effort and many of us are too tired to work diligently at it on top of a day job that is already draining our energy. Combing through job listings, writing cover letters, tailoring resumes and filling out one awful digital employment application after another is a lot of daunting work. And Job seekers face far more rejection and ghosting from potential employers than they do bonafide leads.

Stuck in a Routine

A bad job doesn't usually start out as a bad job. For the first year or so, optimism about the new opportunity and a positive outlook on the future happy-wash a new job. But over time, as the new and shiny wears off, we begin to see the faults of the job, the co-workers, and the company. Despite those acknowledgments, there are often some aspects that are likable about the job.

It doesn't happen all at once, but over time the unhappily employed become progressively less content in their current job. Where each person draws the line varies and many of us simply get comfortable with the routine. We keep showing up because it is what we are supposed to do. These employees need a catalyst to inspire change or they may never wake up.

If you find yourself repeating patterns with jobs that leave you unfulfilled, drain your energy, and keep you from being happy--it is time to break the cycle. Do something different.


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