Living for work vs. working to live


We recently received an email from a man detailing his experiences at his job of 27 years and counting. It was his first job out of college: the job that paid for his wedding, for the college education of his three kids, and for his mortgage. He had “grown up” with this job, working his way up from junior copywriter to copywriter to senior copywriter...only to get stuck at that level.

“It’s been 11 years since my last promotion,” he shared, “and there’s no end in sight. Our twins are in college, our youngest is finishing up high school, and I’m turning 51 in February. The past few years have felt like a blur where I just get more and more of the same. The work doesn’t excite me anymore and I know I need a change. Once in a while I casually look to see what’s out there, but honestly I don’t know what I should be looking for and then if it’s not one thing, it’s another: tuition bills, repairs on the house, and most recently, medical care and taking time out to be there for my mother-in-law who’s aging and becoming less independent.

I’m a talented guy but at this point, my talents are so underutilized I feel as though they might as well be non-existent. It’s like I’m living for my work instead of working to provide for the life I want. It seems my bosses are becoming younger and younger, and most of my original coworkers are long gone. I’ve started to wonder about my own viability at this company – but when I think about possibly having to look elsewhere, I freeze. I panic because I can’t seem to make sense of the job descriptions I come across, so I end up retreating to my current job and taking on even more work to show how viable I am – but they seem to be sending me to work on lesser challenging projects and categories. I was once among the top talent at this corporation; fast forward to today and all of a sudden, I’m just this old guy with a 31-year-old boss.

Something needs to change, and I’ve known this for a while...but on the flip-side, this is the only job I’ve ever known. Even if I did decide to take the job search seriously, I wouldn’t even know where to begin. But, at 50, I know this is likely my last chance to make a career do I get there?”

This is a classic case of a promising talent who fell victim to busy complacency. While 27 years at one company is an impressive testament to this person’s staying power, 11 years without a promotion or a raise is deeply concerning. This man has wasted so much time waiting for a change that will likely never come and sadly, this case is not the first we’ve seen.

In all my years working in this space, my team and I have encountered countless individuals who are in similar situations. They spend years grinding it out at the same job long after that burning passion for work has cooled and eventually, it wears them down. They find that skills that were once sharp have dulled; challenging projects become fewer and further between; and slowly but surely, the compounding route and routine of busy complacency leads them to a point of career stagnation. It may be the case that some of these creatives were initially climbing the ladder but have found that the progress has slowed to a stop. They’ve plateaued while creatives around them are moving up faster and faster. Eventually, this wears them down till they feel stuck.

It’s as if these individuals are stuck in quicksand, sinking deeper and deeper, and have simply resigned to their fate because they just can’t seem to find a way out.

Situations like this may seem hopeless, but in reality, there are ways to get out of them. The fear of starting anew later in life and in your career is very real because of the compounded responsibilities you have. That said, it is still not a reason to stay in a job you can’t stand; life is too short to stay in your comfort zone and just be content with where you are because it pays the bills. The additional challenge that comes with making a change like this is finding the right support system to help you through it. You need to find the best possible teacher and guide to help you conquer your goal – and we are equipped to help you do just that.

Our Thrive By Design program is specifically designed to help creative executives pivot into new roles, companies, and even industries later in their careers by giving you the optics to see exactly where you are, what you lack, and what you need to move onwards and upwards.

Decades into the same job, it’s only natural that your employers start to take you for granted. Maybe you’ve been disregarded as a project head or overlooked for that coveted bonus, and maybe you’ve let it slide...but it may only be a matter of time before the company decides to let you go to make room for promising, young talent.

Contrary to popular belief, there’s nothing more personal than your career; it affects every aspect of your life from personal relationships to mental and physical health. Isn’t it about time you take making this change seriously? Whether it’s finding your passion or just striking that ideal work-life balance, we are prepared to help you find that sweet spot where you can be excited and engaged about what you’re doing instead of just scraping by. Book a strategy call today so we can help you get where you need to be.