Why a Good Enough Job Can Derail Your Career

She loved the idea of the job. She loved the idea of the company. But from day one, she struggled to stay excited. One day she realized, the best part of this job is telling people I have it.

My daughter’s friend had scored an impressive job with a high-profile firm, right out of college. It was high pay with a clear pathway for advancement. She was elated, when she got the initial offer. She jumped into the training program, and after a few months, her boss told her she was one of their most promising new recruits. She didn’t hate the job, but just didn’t love it. But how could she leave a good job where she was doing so well?

If you’re a high performer, a lot of people will tell you you’re good at something, and you probably are. That doesn’t mean it’s the best position for you. You’ll never rise to the top of the wrong profession. You’ll likely do well, but at a certain point, you’ll encounter people who are just as smart and hard working as you are. If they love the work, and you don’t, they will be the ones who rise.

I know this problem all too well, because it happened to me. I too got a dream job, and was quickly recognized as leadership potential. Yet I also struggled to stay engaged. For a long time, I thought there was something wrong with me. I was getting praise and even a promotion. Everyone else liked it. Why did it seem so hard for me?

That’s the problem with a good enough job. When there’s no obvious reason to hate it, you keep trying to make it work.

I told my daughter’s friend what I wish someone had told me. If you don’t love it, leave now because you’ll never be great, and over time, you’ll probably stop being even good.

When I started my good, but not great for me job, bosses said, you’ve got a great future here. Yet as I moved up, and the ranks started to thin, I found it less and less interesting. Trying to maintain high performance in a job I wasn’t enthused about began to eat away at me. Over time, I became less of a go-getter, and more of a just-trying-to-get-through-the-day person.

Not surprisingly, my advancement slowed. One day I realized, I’m not the same person. I’m not ambitious or excited anymore. I was all of 26 years old and thinking wishfully about retirement. Who was this person?

It took me five years to admit, I not only didn’t love my job, I didn’t even like it anymore. I started looking and eventually found a job I loved. The old me came roaring back. There were challenges; every job has them. But instead of feeling like I was pushing a rock uphill every day, I relished the challenges.

In hindsight, I can see the perks of my good job – high-status company, positive feedback from management, good pay – clouded my thinking. It covered the fact that I was not a fit for the industry or position. I’m glad I left and found a better place. I only wish I’d been honest with myself sooner.

If you’re in a good enough job, be careful. It may be costing you more than you think.