Preparing to move up the career ladder when I would rather be eating bonbons

  1. Gals, I am going to be promoted fairly soon. Which is great, etc., but I'm not actually all that motivated or ambitious. I was once, but the hard realities of office politics in my last job meant I had a bit of a breakdown two or three years ago, which changed me somewhat fundamentally.

    I was considered gifted at school and everyone had high, high hopes for me. I graduated summa cum laude, was promoted quickly, etc. But I don't care. I JUST DON'T CARE. I sit in meetings while people are arguing about minutiae thinking "well we are all going to die and none of this is going to matter. for real." (And what makes it worse is I work for a really progressive, we-make-the-world-a-better-place company – this is about as meaningful work as I could ever find.)

    However, obviously my superiors see "potential" in me. Which is nice. But I'm finding it hard to work up much enthusiasm about taking on more responsibility (ie. the main thing that's going to be expected of me... project management, proactivity, great new ideas, being full of solutions at meetings... whereas atm, I mostly doodle in my notebook and let everyone else argue till they make a decision. I don't care what the decision is. Experience has taught me that making a decision is actually the main thing...everything else flows from there.)

    Like, once my supervisor asked me what motivated me. I said "Money. And having nice colleagues who like to go for drinks after work." She kind of laughed in a shocked way, but I just thought, "jeez I can't muster up a lie anymore. I really can't."

    But I also know companies don’t like that attitude. I would be seen as dead weight, resistant to development, and if/when layoffs happen, the first to go is the person who’s been in a more junior position for several years and is costing the company wayyyy more than a recent grad would. So I need to change it up, somehow.

    Career-minded gals, can you recommend any resources, books in particular, that may somehow help? I am having a one-to-one with my superior soon…. She is going to want to know how I’m going to rise to the occasion. I have to think of something, I have to have some kind of game face….Supervisor is HIGHLY ambitious and a star achiever in the company, and she expects the exact same attitude from me.

    I can't stop working for at least the next few years, and my goal is to build up enough cred to be able to work remotely within the next five years. So I do have goals, I guess. They just have to do with making my life easier, not accomplishing some grand endeavor.

    How do I fake it so I make it?
  2. Heck at most companies you just have to smile and not object to whatever lame scheme the boss has cooked up. Or at least that is what I have noticed at most of the companies that I have worked for.

    I was in a training class a couple of weeks ago and they said, "You don't have to excel very much to make yourself stand out from the crowd." I have to agree. You don't have to always be the one with the best ideas. Sometimes the person who is quiet in the back of the room holds more weight when they do actually speak up, than the person who forcefully leads the discussion all the time. Especially if what you say is eloquent and well thought out.
  3. I think sometimes i stay at my job because I had absolutely no desire to 'move up' here (there really is no where to 'move up' to). I don't want to be in charge of anyone... or an entire company.... I just want to do my job and go home. I can't even muster up any idea for 'continuing education' that my boss wants me to come up with every year. I really have no desire to improve myself. which sometimes i feel horrible about... but i dunno - maybe if i enjoyed my job more I would?
    In my previous job I could see myself 'moving up' but that was a fun job (we painted all day) but that job didn't pay enough for me to survive.

    sorry OP, no advice - just wanted you to know that you are not alone :smile:
  4. This sounds like me. Back in my 20's, I was all go getter office guy, but Everyone I work with, who's above me, are little *****es. Everything is a firedrill and everything needs to be done yesterday....because they sat on it too long and now their a$$ in on the line. I just don't want to be involved in that crap. I'm fine with being told to produce a report or a process or write some code and it's due in two days. I have almost no urge to move up. The only reason why would be to get more money so when I'm actually away from work, I'll have more fun toys to play with.
  5. When you get caught up in office politics, it's usually because you're doing well and have a target on your back. People are jealous and threatened so they make it their business to take you down instead of spending that energy towards making themselves shine. So, your lack of ambition may be masking a fear of being a target again, and the floodgates of negativity that come with that. It's so much easier not to care than get your heart broken.

    On the other hand, part of you does care, because you (perhaps unconsciously) allied yourself with a powerful person at work who wants to take you up the ladder with her. You're also interested in maintaining this alliance - and that's a good thing! Remember that she likes you the way you are - or the way you're presenting to her.

    I've given this advice on other threads - I act "as if" when I don't have what I think I need for whatever situation. It's probably a different way of saying "fake it till you make it." You think you don't know how to act as if you care, but you already know more than you think. You already have indicated some of the answers in your post - you must act as if you care about embracing change, leadership, and management.

    At the next meeting, listen and think about what your suggestions might be - what would you like to add to the discussion? No need to share just yet, just think of what you might do and write it down instead of doodling. Then see what gets decided on and think about if the decision was better or worse than your idea, or how your idea could have worked within the framework that was set. This will ignite your mind onto the path you need to go, without feeling the pressure of stardom. As you do this more and more, you will feel yourself re-engaging. By the time your meeting with your supervisor arrives, you should have a notebook of new ideas and twists on projects. If the meeting is imminent, then do the notebook on tweaks on existing projects. Viola- you look engaged and groundbreaking.

    Also, money and freedom are everyone's motivators. Oprah just put in 25 years - and while she's quite the humanitarian, she's not giving back the money or regretting her freedom, kwim? I put in 2 years of 60 hour workweeks so I could work from home sometimes. I know I'm stagnating a little in my job, but I dread losing that freedom. If you think your goals are shallow, then I guess I'm shallow too! :smile:
  6. OP this is a great topic. Not sure what your age is or how long you have been in the workplace but either way its a good question.
    I came out of graduate school on fire, and for about 5 yrs did clinical practice then decided to to the corporate route because frankly, making a crappy 90K a year in practice with no vacation/sick/401K blah blah blah..
    Once I was in the corporate world I realized I swear I have 2 sides, one who loves the long days, the pressure, the travel, the craziness of being considered a leader/high performer, the other side is the laziest person on the earth. Truth is, I do sit in meetings all the time and think how silly it all is, yet, manage to "play the game" so that I continue to be recognized and such.
    So to answer your question, if your goal is to just make money and have people to hang with that is fine, but my guess is that you can still manage to do very well in your position. And yes, sometimes you make up "goals and objectives".
  7. Wow, I went through the same thing last year. I survived it better than I thought I would (the "target on my back" that Addictista explained), but now I am exhausted. Now I'm just exhausted and I can only muster up the energy to say what I think (like you) and generally only when someone really annoys me. Which makes me sounds like a very unpleasant person to be around. I think for a myriad of reasons, including the office politics and the "good ol boys club" (of which I do not fit in - I'm neither a boy nor old) what I really need to do is find a new job. But unfortunately once you've made it to management it becomes harder to find a new job.

    Good luck to you and I understand completely!
  8. Oh my. I could have written half the posts in this thread.

    In my 20's and early 30's I really cared, I had goals and I was motivated. Now, I am pretty apathetic. Too much crap goes on in my company that I've had to take a "whatever/don't care" attitude in order to keep my sanity and now I simply put in my time each day and go home.

    I'm sorry that I don't have suggestions for books or anything for you, but you are not alone.
  9. Maybe it's an age thing?

    I'm 28, and I don't think or handle things like most of the people in my company, who are mostly in their 40's and 50's. In meetings I say my piece and then wait it out; they go hardcore and fight until the death. Another thing I noticed I don't discuss things with bosslady unless they are worth discussing; and everyone else runs to bosslady with the most minor **** ever, and they are really big on taking credit.
  10. Go for the Bon-Bons like I will be in a few weeks.

    Can't wait.

    Office politics will drain the life out of you faster than almost anything else. I gave my all. They shoved my face in the mud.
  11. Classic case of burn-out. It's amazing the kind of havoc politics or a bad manager can do. Take stock and remind yourself what motivated you in your job in the first place - is it still there? Maybe you'll find something in the new position to be excited about - like having more clout/power/etc to affect things so that things are done the way you think they should be. Really figure out what you NEED to get motivated again. If it's something your company can give you, ask for it. Now is not the time to be passive, your manager and company clearly value you, so help them help you be better (that sounds so much like self-help mumbo jumbo :lol:).

    I had a horrible manager for 1.5 years and it completely burned me out, and I swear I had PTSD from the experience (years after transferring out I would still get teary thinking about it). I had no tolerance for the rampant politicking and bad managing after that. I actually quit a job after 3 months when I found out what a manipulative SOB my most recent manager was (everyone who started at the same time left within a year; considering this economy that should give you an idea how terrible he was).
  12. Tx Addictista. I am actually going to give this a go. It is about being unengaged and needing to reconnect, to some extent at least. The people I work with are actually wonderful human beings -- truly -- and I can reconnect for THEM if for nothing else.

    About the "heartbreak" thing -- yes I def have fear about being hurt again. For example I used to be the kind of gal who would jump at the chance of doing a presentation or delivering training for the team, etc. but now I cower at the idea. I feel ill just thinking about it. This is not who I am, actually, and I would rather reconnect with my actual self while I'm working.

    I'm 27 and my career started 5-6 years ago, I was straight out of college. The big breakdown happened 3 years in. Do you think this is common?? I wonder... I wasn't actually expecting anyone to know what I was talking about... everyone I know seems so go-getter and confident. I feel like the damaged one, the exception to the rule.

    And I think I will just make up some goals for now :p I'm gonna just fake it and see what happens. I have other dreams that I want to follow, but I need this job so I've got to make a play for it somehow!

    Yeah we are about the same age. What you describe above was basically my last job. It was a nightmare. I was 30 years younger than everyone else and they just completely crushed me with their INCREDIBLY complex system of pettiness and BS. my work become soooo meaningless and I simply didn't have the emotional tools to cope with that.

    I had been told my whole life that a career would fulfill me and exercise my intellect, and it turned out it was just a hideous waste of time. And actually what I should have spent my life doing was learning how to manipulate people into doing my will. I thought being smart meant something! lol talk about naive. Anyway my current job and esp my colleagues are actually really wonderful in comparison, the problem atm is me, not the job.

    Yeah you're right. It is burnout. Why have I never used that word before or thought about it like that??? Because that is exactly what it is!! I am burnt out and I've never recovered, I've just kind of reorganized the contents of my mind around my burnt-out core. I think I'm going to look into burnout in general and see if I can find some insights.

    About what motivated me to get my job.... well... I needed money, they were the first people to interview me and they offered me the job immediately, so I took it. that's about the extent of it. I figured my previous job was so hideous I could cope with anything, so I took the first thing I could find. (We had moved countries, without jobs to go to, so I had no time to be fussy.)

    I do think I need to do something else with my life. I'm not designed for the corporate world, no matter how fun it is or how truly awesome my colleagues are. I've done it now for long enough that I know that. But I am burnt out. So I need to address that first. Or I'm going to struggle with this sense of meaninglessness no matter what I choose to do....

    Girls (and Charles!!) thank you so much... those of you who simply identified with me included. It's nice to know I'm not nuts. Everyone I work with is so engaged and passionate (or at least seems that way) that I sometimes feel like a prize freak. I do feel like I have a bit of clarity on all this now... I think I may be able to move forward a little bit. Here's hoping.
  13. Wow, I'm amazed at how many people feel this way...probably because I'm in my 20s and still feeling highly ambitious. I do see people like this at work though...while churning out high-quality work, they are miserable and desire to move on with their lives.

    You say you had a breakdown that changed you. Do you feel you've fully dealt with that? It seems like you haven't recovered to your former self, maybe that is holding you back a bit. Can you seek counseling for it, or perhaps just meditate on it to get to the root of the issue?

    I think it's bright of you to think of your future, and take preventative action now so you don't turn into that "dead weight". I would recommend bringing up your goals to your supervisor. Let her know that you want to be doing remote work, and maybe she can help put you on a path to get there sooner. As for the immediate solution, can you survey some close office friends and ascertain their opinion? It's hard to offer suggestions without knowing what you're being asked to do.

    I can't think of any books specifically addressing this issue. I would just recommend diving into an interest. If you're spiritual, maybe an enlightening read in that vein. I've found that dusting off corners of my mind that haven't been used in a while makes work more endurable, and even enlightening.
  14. i completely understand you. for me, it's really the money that motivates me...nothing grand or high hope anymore. but may be something is telling you to exam your career goal. i know my situation made me question all the decisions i've made and how to make my life better....
  15. I think anyone who is lucky enough to be doing earning a living doing something that can really, truly positively affect a person's life or people's lives, is in an incredibly fortunate situation.

    Everyone deals with office politics and other seemingly mundane issues, no matter the career. It is what you make it. It took me probably a good decade to figure this out (too long) and I really, really feel it now. If I took what I know now and had applied it way back when I could have been even more effective then I am now, and that is a huge regret.

    I don't know...I am not saying you are doing the same as I did, and everyone is motivated by different things. Just sharing my experience.