Do You Have Career ADD?

JT O'Donnell, nationally syndicated workplace columnist

  • A. Do you have a track record of getting bored and wanting to change jobs or employers after a year?
  • B. Do you find yourself getting unhappy and anxious after the first 90-days on a new job?
  • C. Do start a new job on a high, only to struggle to get excited to go to work shortly thereafter?

Then you may have Career ADD.

Career ADD affects millions of Americans and is increasing rapidly. There are two reasons why workers today are feeling dissatisfaction on-the-job and a desire to move on after a short period of time.

Reason #1: They demand 'great' even when they don't know what it is.

Instant gratification marketing tells our society to never be satisfied. In America, we are constantly reminded that what we have isn't good enough – and that is particularly true with our careers. We've been encouraged to never settle for anything less than perfection. A 'great' work environment, pay, boss and perks are just a few of the criteria employees expect today. However, a person with Career ADD struggles to ever find and keep their definition of a 'great' job because their definition changes constantly. Workers with Career ADD generally can't define career satisfaction on their own terms, so they become focused on pursuing whatever others tell them a 'great' job is. In short, the grass is always greener at another job for someone with Career ADD.

Reason #2: They are focused on the external rewards a job provides instead of the internal satisfaction it can bring.

Individuals with Career ADD are generally addicted to rewards and incentives. They want praise, money, recognition and perks as a way to keep them engaged and motivated. Always in need of a carrot, once the newness of a job wears off, they become bored and in need of something new to excite them. The truth is, none of these elements of a job provide true career satisfaction. Career satisfaction only comes to those who choose a job because of the way it will allow them to experience, learn and grow in life. This requires 1) a clear understanding of a person's professional strengths and preferences, and 2) the patience to identify and purse the right opportunity - two things a person with Career ADD does not take the time to cultivate. Translation: individuals with Career ADD haven't invested enough time and energy into creating a personalized definition of career success focused on work that supports their definition of a satisfying life.

In summary, those with Career ADD believe the intense pursuit of career success will eventually solve all of life's problems and make them happier. Sadly, this is a never-ending, fruitless endeavor. The only way to eliminate Career ADD is to stop expecting so much from a job. Career satisfaction is attainable at any age, it just requires proper management of expectations.

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Copyright 2008 JT O'Donnell

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