My name’s Tony and I’m now a full-time coach. But much of my career was working as an IT professional. Over the last 27 years I’ve done most of the roles, from developer to manager to director. At the age of 30 I became the IT director of a large insurance company and it was quite unexpected. I was always interested in the people side of things, but wanted to stay grounded in technology. After all, knowledge was power, and I had a lot of knowledge. And, to be fair, a lot of talent.
The company was growing fast, and, as you might expect, the board was keen for the management team to stay around so they can deliver on an aggressive long-term plan. By way of incentive, there was a large bonus on the table if we reached a certain financial target in a certain timescale. It was more than enough to pay off my mortgage. Or I could have bought a second house in Spain (as people seemed to do those days). Or just salt it away for retirement. Either way it was a lot of money, and I was really excited and glad to be in on the scheme.
As the years went by, I was starting to grow restless. I had never intended to work in Insurance - after finishing my degree I was going to work for the BBC as a broadcast engineer. I wanted to move on to do other things. But the promise of this bonus began to make me feel very stuck.
Before long I was starting to feel quite stressed. In turn this started to affect my productivity, quality of work and relationships inside and outside work and, eventually, my physical and mental health. It was further compounded by feelings of shame. After all, I was being paid a lot of money (with the promise of a lot more) and yet I was feeling unfulfilled and wanted to escape. What the hell was wrong with me? Much as I hate the phrase, this seemed to be a first world problem.
The resolution came when my partner got a job opportunity abroad. This gave me the perfect excuse - who wouldn’t be jealous and supportive of a colleague who’s emigrating? It took me a few months to get to a point where I was ready to resign, but I eventually did.
So what did I learn?
Firstly, that it’s hard to notice the effects of this kind of stuckness at the time. It’s only when you get some perspective, either through the passage of time, or the observations of others, that you can see it for what it is.
Secondly, the feelings of shame/lack of gratitude were very strong, and prevented me from taking action.
Thirdly, there didn’t seem to be a way for me to just live with the situation. It’s a bit like any other relationship - once you see the cracks, it’s hard to see anything else, and ultimately the resolution was to move on.
Finally, feeling stuck started to have a very negative effect on many aspects of my life, not just at work, but also at home.
I wonder what would happen if the option to emigrate hadn’t arisen. Would I have stayed? Would I have waited for redundancy or dismissal? Would I have become ill?
If you’re in a similar situation, I’d recommend that you
Pay attention to the impact this is having on you - you might have been trapped for some time
Be clear about what happens if you don’t act - it’s probably not going to get better
Understand what your options are - you don’t necessarily need to leave your job
Begin to take action - small regular steps remove the need to do something massive and drastic. The longer you wait, the more difficult it’ll be.
As a professional coach, who has been in a similar situation, I can help you take action and minimise the pain.