How to turn the job you have into the job you want

How to turn the job you have into the job you want
Insider Events hosted a live discussion about reshaping your career without changing positions.Insider
  • Millions of Americans have joined the Great Resignation.
  • Al Dea, a career advisor, said people are often on autopilot about their plans for growing at work.

It's tempting to fantasize about quitting a job you don't like, especially with the momentum of millions of Americans joining the Great Resignation. But for workers who are hesitant or unable to quit, it can be unclear how to make the best of where you are.

Many of us are just kind of winging it.

While searching through books at the intersection of business, careers, and self-improvement, Insider's correspondent Shana Lebowitz Gaynor realized she couldn't find what she was seeking.

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"I noticed that there weren't really that many books and there wasn't that much guidance in general for people like me — and I mean specifically people who are not in a direct managing role or in a people-managing role but they're still driven and ambitious professionals," she said, adding that much of the advice was geared toward leaders "telling them this is how to keep your people happy and engaged and performing well."

In her recently released book, "Don't Call It Quits: Turn the Job You Have into the Job You Love," the experienced journalist compiled the career advice she wanted to see in the world.


In a live editorial event, Insider's Ebony Flake, a C-suite reporter, spoke with Lebowitz Gaynor and Al Dea, the founder of the career consultancy Betterwork Labs. They covered three takeaways from the book and shared testimonials of their career pivots.

Circumvent the 'Big Quit'

Work-related misery is not new, but the number of workers fulfilling the impulse to abandon their jobs reached records last year.

The pandemic plunged entire businesses into tailspins as workers and CEOs spanning manufacturing, retail, healthcare, and service industries took part in the so-called Big Quit.

Lebowitz Gaynor spoke with consultants, public-relations pros, lawyers, and a Broadway musician, all of whom at one time felt unfulfilled in their work. They shared how they made their jobs more tolerable until they could find a better one.

One HR leader who had become disenchanted in her role shared with Lebowitz Gaynor a strategy she implemented to keep from resigning prematurely.


"Instead of quitting and leaving the job she had, she just sat down and she made what she called a 'trigger and action list.' In the trigger column she wrote down something that had bothered her at work that day: 'This team, I asked them to do this thing or give me this document, and they said no, we don't have time.' And then in the action column she would write down one thing that she could do instead of getting upset and feeling stuck," Lebowitz Gaynor said.

The strategy paid off. The HR leader eventually rose through the ranks to become a major media company's chief human-resources officer.

Take ownership of your career

People who take ownership of their career reap the benefits. Dea, one of the career experts interviewed for the book, said that many people are on autopilot or sleepwalking regarding their career development.

"One of the things that I found from my own experience in my own career as well as from talking with thousands of people about theirs is that no one actually really ever teaches you to effectively manage your career," Dea said.

Dea said he struggled to manage his career when he entered the workplace. He said he lacked the knowledge to take control and plot his career trajectory, which showed up in his performance evaluations.


Dea said mentorship is an effective tool for workforce newcomers and seasoned pros to grow skills, gain new perspectives, and make better career decisions.

"It wasn't until I went to a manager who I had a good sense of trust with and just said: 'I'm lost. I'm not really sure what to do. Is there anything you can help me with on this? How can I better understand how to do this?' And she was kind enough and smart enough to take the time to teach me a few things.

"After that, my performance started getting better. I started learning a bunch of mindsets and habits that would really help me effectively manage my career," Dea said.

Examine how your identity affects your career outlook

Lebowitz Gaynor acknowledges in the book's final chapter that sometimes quitting is the best option. But coming to that decision can induce anxiety.

For people from marginalized groups, the idea of abandoning stable employment can be further complicated.


"As someone who was raised by a single mom who worked two jobs — Winn-Dixie and Walmart — to support my sister and I, the idea of leaving a good and stable career for something as precarious as writing felt crazy," said Flake, who is Black. She added that when she finally took the leap, it occurred to her how much her identity and background had factored into the difficulty of that decision.

In her book, Lebowitz Gaynor acknowledges the role of background and life experience in the decision to quit. But she says a bit of self-examination can go a long way for those who are feeling doubtful about a necessary career change.

Lebowitz Gaynor offered a final piece of advice for anyone considering quitting: "Give yourself two minutes — sit down, stand up, two minutes — and think: Is there one thing, one little thing I can do to make tomorrow's workday better?"