The Lure of the Comfortable Job (and 3 signs you need to leave it)

Picture - Definition of Cubicle Work

The most dangerous job you can have in your 20s is a comfortable one.

Comfortable is a quicksand — the job you never wanted becoming the job you can’t escape.

Worse than no-job, frustrating job or a demanding job, is a job that demands nothing. Like taking basket weaving your senior year. Sure you’ll get an easy A, but what did you lose in return?

There is a stark cost for time wasted on comfortable.
 
Picture - Definition of Cubicle Work

Because you don’t grow with comfortable. You don’t learn. You don’t refine who you are or what you’re capable of.

No, comfortable is the leading cause for R.E.A.S – Rapidly Expanding  Ass Syndrome. Your body, mind, and soul turning to goo. Because challenges refine. Remove challenges, remove growth.

The crux of your 20’s is not how much you make, but how much you learn, grow, and change. Those of us who refuse to change, as Professor Robert Quinn writes in Deep Change, will enter into a “slow death”. Before comfortable kills you, here are three signs it’s time to escape.

3 Signs Your Job is Too Comfortable (and it’s time to leave)

1. Culture of Complacency

Need to know if your office suffers from complacency? Pretty simple. How are new ideas received? Are they explored or instantly exploded with a shotgun of “that’s not possible.”

Are the unspoken rules of the office to keep your mouth shut and not rock the boat?

Are you allowed to tackle projects outside your “job description?”

Does your boss want to work there? Does your boss’s boss want to be there?

Complacency is a disease. Extremely contagious. Easily passed from one employee to another.

If your office permeates with a culture of complacency, especially from the top down – game over. Pack your bags. Time to leave.

I’m serious as a heart attack.

Because you, starry-eyed twentysomething, who comes in with new energy and ideas will be crushed over and over by tsunami waves of complacency. Until you shut your mouth, settle in, and catch the disease yourself.

In a culture of complacency there is a sick, perverted love affair with status-quo. And honestly, you’re probably not going to change it.

2. You Feel Drained By Doing Nothing

If you come home absolutely drained from work. If you need to watch 2-4 hours of TV a night to escape. Then you think back to your day and realize you really did nothing at work.  You’re really just drained because your mind wasn’t stimulated.

You’re drained because you spread one hour of actual work over a span of eight.

Being drained by comfortable is a scary way to start living. Because it’s incredibly hard to escape. Like a carousel ride that never stops spinning. Jump and roll. Now.
 

3. “We Want to Promote You” is the Phrase you Fear Most.

If the idea of being promoted makes you more nauseous than the time you ate cotton candy and three churros before jumping on the spinning teacups ride, then why are you freaking working there? Simple as that. I can hear lots of “but Paul you don’t understand…”

No, I do understand. Comfortable is your drug. I’m checking you into a clinic.

Comfortable Will Kill You

Comfortable is like smoking — addictive and killing you with every puff. Quit before it’s too late.

What do you think — is a comfortable job as dangerous as I’ve made it out to be?


20 Comments

  1. Megan

    Paul – you nailed it on the head. Being comfortable is the foreplay to complacency. I had one million excuses as to why my comfortable job was right for me – even though it was making the audacious hustler inside me so UNcomfortable that my skin almost crawled. Stability, safety, I was good at it, etc. It makes me want to barf just thinking about all those silly thoughts, now.

    SING IT, BROTHER! Discomfort is the new black.

    Reply
  2. Paul

    Ha! Love that line. “Discomfort is the new black”.

    Thanks Megan for sharing these incredibly wise thoughts. You’re definitely a case study in how NOT let “comfortable” make the final call for you. And God bless you for it.

    Reply
  3. Sarah

    So well said and hilarious! You had me rolling with your excellent use and definition of the word “cubicle work”, and the great imagery of carousel rides, basket weaving, spinning teacups and smoking. Keep writing and making us laugh.

    Reply
    • Paul

      Thanks Sarah!

      Reply
  4. Karina

    This is actually what I am most afraid of since my job is a great conductor of complacency. The problem is getting out even if you want to.

    My greatest challenge have been trying to break into another field that could provide more challenge and because I am out on my own, just quitting is out of the question.
    what you say here is very true however and I always have to remind myself that my job is not the end or should it ever be.
    Enjoyed the POST!

    Reply
    • Paul

      Karina – I think most twenty something’s feel stuck in the exact place that you described. I think the key is taking small strategic risks. Over time they lead to the way out

      Reply
      • Megan

        I agree with Paul – baby steps with small, strategic risks. No need to quit a job you’re not happy with if you can’t afford it (I didn’t because I couldn’t either – so I hear you). I started with putting myself in positions that made me uncomfortable. You could start by sending your resume in for a dream position whether you feel you have a shot or not. Then maybe push for a meeting with someone in a field you’re interested in. Little steps. 🙂

  5. Tracy

    I recently took off the golden handcuffs and I’m looking for a job that challenges and intimidates me. It’s not easy, but I would never go back to a comfortable job. Great post!

    Reply
  6. Karina

    Megan- I need to start doing that. I also am trying to keep my skills sharp and practice on them whenever I can.

    Paul- My greatest weakness is my lack of patience; I do everything I can not to want everything at once. Everything has its steps and reasons. The hardest part is keeping motivated and staying strong when things don’t go your way.

    Reply
  7. sabrina

    I’m in my 50s but hopefully I can shed some light here based on my own personal experience from the go-go 80s and the rampant careerism of the times. I think that for 20-something the real danger isn’t the “comfortable” job as it is the myth of the “perfect’ and all fulfilling job. You know, the one that will solve all the problems that are really yours to deal with. Those sort of jobs are what’s touted in university courses and on TV sitcoms but they’re not real. Not everyone is going to be out there trying to end global warming or find a cure for cancer. Fact is most jobs are dull and some of them are indeed sh*t jobs, but they do provide a paycheck and that’s ok sometimes. Most people really aren’t as smart as they think they are and those so-called “ideal jobs” are way out of their reach, but they won’t face that reality. Too many people in the 20s and even their 30s jeopardize their careers by constant job hobbing in search of that mythical job that never materializes. That’s how they wind up middle aged and stuck in “comfortable” jobs because they get burned out because they’ve made the job the priority instead of life. The cure? Have a fulfilling life outside of work. A career will never replace real friendships and relationships. Develop hobbies, hang out with friends, get married, have kids…just don’t marry your job!

    Reply
    • ironic.alley

      I think this is a fair excuse for people who didn’t bother to aim higher or push harder to identify or reach their biggest goals. 🙂

      When you accepted that there is no perfect job or you can accept your job and just have a life outside it. It just means you are not really happy with your job that you had to distract yourself out of it.

      There is a purpose meant for all of us that eventually should be our daily work, not job (in reference to Pressfield’s War of Art). However most people let that dream/calling/passion meets purpose to fade to fulfill the “basic” needs of life. And not lead to self actualization or self-transcendence. And just die of regrets of not actually living, and be happy enough with the had beens.

      Reply
  8. sabrina

    Also, it should be mentioned that there will always be those unscrupulous people who are jealous and who will try to make you feel bad about your job, to discourage you and try to get you to leave for something “better”…only to see the detractor take YOUR job while you’re left out in the cold.

    Reply
  9. Megan

    I, personally, would much rather burn out from putting forth one hell of hustle to find a job that delights me than to just accept the mediocre just because some people think a meaningful career is mythical. That hustle has gotten me a hell of a lot closer to my dream than apathy and acceptance of the status quo could ever take me.

    I also don’t think that being serious about your career and having meaningful relationships or hobbies are mutually exclusive. I know plenty of people who have achieved healthy, fulfilling, and well-balanced lives that include all of those things.

    I’m sad to see someone discouraging young people from trying to do the same.

    Reply
    • admin

      Great discussion here. Thanks Megan

      Reply
  10. Katrinka

    .Good thoughts here. As a 50s-something moving into 60s-something, I would like to add a thought to your first point. If you want to have credibility with your superiors when it comes to suggesting new ideas, it is best to establish yourself with a few good, solid months of work in the company before expecting them to take you seriously. With the amount of turnover most business owners experience, the length of training time required to get most new employees up to speed, and the plethora of people with lots of opinions, mostly designed to avoid having to work, you will really want to set yourself apart.

    I speak from experience… young people coming in flinging ideas left and right and whining because I don’t take them serioiusly, when they haven’t even mastered the most basic of the basics. And they want me to risk my reputation and my customer’s satisfaction on some of their goofy ideas. In other words, be real, be serious, show you really care by learning the business, learning your job, and then I’ll listen…

    Reply
    • admin

      Great points Katrinka. There’s a certain amount of credibility that needs to be earned before new ideas can fall on open ears — complacent work environment or not. Thanks for sharing your perspective and sound advice!

      Reply
  11. Paul

    I had the unfortunate, or fortunate depending on how you look at it, experience to work at a bank for a few months before I was shown the door. For the time that I worked there I was torn between running out the front door screaming or settling for the position. On top of that, I’d just left grad school, $40K in debt, and without my master’s degree to show what I’d spent two years and tens of thousands of dollars trying to obtain. The day I was fired I drove to my now ex-girlfriend’s house and felt like total trash. After a few weeks as the money slowly drained from my bank account, I started realizing that the only reason I’d worked there was because I thought it was what I was “supposed to do” once I went out into the real world, and it definitely beat working at the dog kennel I’d been working at to keep a roof over my head.

    I think I was most terrified by the phrase, “we’ll promote you in a few months.” It was like someone driving an ice spike into my spine, I was paralyzed and couldn’t move. I started seeing myself in ten or twenty years married to my ex, overweight, and with a few kids running around, and stuck to this job that I couldn’t leave because I would have a lifestyle and family to support.

    I just want to say Paul that I’m really enjoying your site. It’s good to find other people that have gone through this same thing, and a community of people still going through it. Thanks for creating a place where we can gather and talk about where we are in our lives.

    Reply
  12. Apoorva

    Thanks for this post Paul! I’m so relieved to read that I don’t need to subject myself to comfortable, and that it’s OK to have that attitude.

    I feel like so many people live with fear of change or failure and they just accept complacency. I just can’t get myself to do that though! Especially not at 25.

    If I stop now, then what do I have to look forward to the next 50 years?

    Megan – I completely agree with you.

    Reply
  13. Lovie

    I know this post is pretty old, but I’m going to have to agree somewhat with Sabrina. I personally think that she made come good points that were misunderstood.

    I don’t think that she was saying that you have to settle for a job that you hate. I think that her point was that jobs are seldom the fantasy that we think they are…. especially after we get on the other side of the fence and deal with the day-to-day grind of it.

    Yes, try to find a job that you enjoy. However, it might be wise to be realistic as to how much happiness you can expect from any job, whether it’s scrubbing floors or designing the next spacecraft. Everything has the potential of getting old when it’s done long enough.

    From what I hear, it’s a lot like getting married. You hold out until the bitter end for Mr./Mrs. Perfect. It’s awesome for the first few years. Then when the infatuation wares off, you find out that it takes a lot of work… work that involves doing things that you don’t necessarily feel like doing all of the time.

    Yes, find that job that you really want, but don’t job-hop forever looking for a job that’s going to give you goose bumps all of the time. It’s not out there.

    Reply
  14. MaxFiction

    This might be true _if_ what you do for money is what makes you you. On the other hand, a cushy job is great if you don’t define yourself by your job and you want to devote your life and energy to other things; that is, if your personal growth derives from what you pursue outside of work.

    Reply

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