5 Signs You’ve Exhausted Your “Cookie-Cutter” Career Path

Pink Floyd has a song that kind of relates to this. They used the symbolism of bricks. I use a cookie cutter. Why? Because if I’m going to allude that we’re all under “thought control” regarding our societal conception of a successful career at least my analogy is sweet and delicious after it’s baked.

I decided long ago that I never wanted a “typical” career. It never appealed to me. Where’s the adventure? The excitement? The chance to learn new things, evolve, and adapt your experience to meet new challenges? If that sounds like fun to you ask yourself this question…

When was the last time that sounded like my career?

It’s not for everybody. I think there’s something to be said for people who can go to work and do the same thing day in and day out in hopes that 40 years from now they can retire with a 401k, social security, and a cute retirement party culminating in the presentation of an engraved gold watch.

You go to work.

You do your job.

You get paid.

You support yourself and your family.

You retire.

Rinse and repeat for generations to come.

It’s a great idea. Who doesn’t want a safe, calculated path to follow toward retirement?

Every other person in America isn’t happy with their current work situation for whatever reason. Studies show that the majority of millennials will change jobs 4 times by age 32. And I’m sure there’s a percentage of people who would probably rain insults from a soapbox of blood, sweat and tears toward all those ungrateful punks who want happiness in the workplace. It might go something like this…

Why can’t  you all stop whining and be grateful for a cookie-cutter career path? That’s what the previous generations did. We shut up and took the work we could get. It was harder. It wasn’t about happiness. It was about paying the bills. Survival! And I hate cookies!

It’s easy to conform. It’s easy to do what everybody else does because the blueprint is there. You don’t have to roll the cookies out from scratch that inevitably create a bunch of mutant cookies you can never put in the display case because they don’t look right.

 

But more and more people are breaking the mold and developing their own career paths. Starting up their own businesses. Pursuing their interests and finding a way to make a living at it.

Isn’t it more satisfying when you build something from scratch and can watch it grow? Why not incorporate yourself instead of working for the corporation? How many times have you thought I’d love to just work for myself?

It sure is terrifying for some. For 53 million Americans who make part or all of their income freelancing as independent contractors it’s liberating, flexible and makes them happier. And the numbers are trending upward.

Now freelancing isn’t for everybody. But alternative ways of generating an income and diversifying your individual revenue streams has become a viable career path. When do you realize that you want to shed your “cookie-cutter” career path and create your own?

Here are 5 signs I noticed when I shed mine. And they apply to anyone who’s thinking of going down a different career path.

1. You spend more time planning your breaks than your assignments.

Where’s lunch gonna be today? It sure as hell won’t be in the break room. I hate that break room!  And somebody on that new fad diet’s gonna heat up broccoli in the microwave and stink up the whole place again!

The bigger signs of course are when your lunch breaks “accidentally” get a little bit longer. Or you invent new breaks like walking around the office looking like you have a purpose but really your just killing five minutes. Or taking longer in the bathroom then you need to.

Then there’s smoking breaks, which I wouldn’t recommend because then “Broccoli Guy’s” gonna think you smell. And if your job is so stressful you decide to take up a habit that will slowly kill you, that should be a sign.

2. Continued education in your field is a chore.

Ugh. Why do I have to take this stupid course? And I have to do it on top of work! At least they’re paying me for it. There’s no way I’d bother if they didn’t.

Remember when you used to like learning about new trends in your profession? When you wanted to gain more knowledge and experience to be the best you can be? Everything moves so fast in today’s global market with the spread of information, continued education is no longer a way to get ahead. It’s how you keep up.

But when learning new things about your initial profession of choice becomes a bore, it’s probably because your reading up on another one that peaked your interest.

3. That brown-nosing noobie you can’t stand used to be you.

 God what is that guy’s problem? Coming in early, staying late. Doing this extra thing and that.  Nothing ever rattles him. He’s making us all look bad. Oh and he’s working through lunch? What a jerk!

The funny thing is when you started your first job some old, jaded vet said the same thing about you. But you were young, naive and eager to be a company person. How did time erode your positive, can-do attitude, strong work ethic and all those other power adjectives you described yourself with that the recruiters want in the perfect candidate? By slowly revealing that you’re the perfect candidate for a different job that will stand the test of time.

4. Bringing home your work frustrations is becoming a trend.

I cannot turn it off tonight. Work is so annoying. Every hour is torture. I can’t stop thinking about it. I can’t do anything right now. Can’t handle it. Don’t want to. I don’t even want to go to sleep because when I wake up I have to go back!

And more than likely you won’t be able to sleep because you’ll be playing all the awful events of work in your head on a loop. You can’t turn off your brain. Everything you try to do reminds you of something annoying from work.

Congratulations, your professional life has officially infected your personal life for the worst. Do you really want to be on a 24/7 hate fest? I bet your friends and family will love it too! Or you’ll get to my 5th sign…

5. Taking a leap of faith seems easier than one more day of your current career.

There’s got to be a better way. This can’t be it. What am I doing? Can I really turn back now? I’m not 22 anymore. What if I mess this up too?

Of course the older you get the harder that last question gets. We are so conditioned to advance. Move forward. Taking steps back is considered failure. But what did you fail at? The job? Or yourself?  And if you’ve reached this 5th sign than you finally realize it’s time for change.

 

Most people say they hate change. I disagree. We’re afraid of change but are intrigued by it at the same time. I believe deep down most people don’t want complacency.  The hardest question to answer is what will make you happier with your career, trying something different or being just another brick in the wall?

Even cookie cutting gets boring after a while.

 

 

I’d rather be the one eating them.

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