Make Yourself Accountable

When it comes to building a career, the buck stops with you. Here's how to reap the rewards by taking responsibility.

The problem is that these aspirations often amount to nothing more than dreams deferred: they happen either too late or not at all. But these days, more individuals are taking the risk and rewriting the script so that they can be in charge of the show.

Despite the strong work ethic embraced by many baby boomers, a recent study reflects a definite change in this group’s attitude toward work. According to the study presented at the Academy of Management’s national meeting in 1997, nearly 40% of the 874 middle-income managers surveyed said they would quit their jobs if they had enough money to live comfortably. A similar study, done in the 1980s, found that only 23% would quit; and back in the 1950s, only 14% said they would opt out.

Today’s respondents said that if they could change jobs, they would work for smaller companies or become entrepreneurs, notes Frieda Reitman, a professor emeritus at Pace University in New York, who co-authored the study with Professor Joy Schneer of Rider University in Lawrenceville, New Jersey. “Only a small percentage focused on living a life of leisure. It was much more a desire for self-employment and more involvement with the family and community.”

Longer hours, increased responsibility, and little free time have created a legion of stressed-out workers who have no real outlet. Others have found that the grind of a 9-to-5 job no longer offers them all they thought it would.

“It’s part of the natural evolution of human beings to want to feel that their work is valuable and that the
y are making a contribution,” says James C. Gonyea, founder and host of the America Online Career Center in New Port Richey, Florida. “As people move higher up in an organization, they become distanced from the people they were intended to serve. They begin to feel unfulfilled.”

Another reason some individuals want to change their line of work is their realization that they were in the wrong field to begin with. Many people are not fully aware of their interests, abilities, values, and needs — the elements that make up their personality type. “It is very difficult to identify occupations that are right for you if you’re unsure about who you are,” states Gonyea. “Unfortunately, the realization that you’re in the wrong job doesn’t usually come until after you’ve been there for a while, which, in time, leads some to make a change.”

Still others have grown tired of the threat to financial and career security that decades of downsizing have brought. Many have sought refuge in entrepreneurship or family matters. Meanwhile, technology has created new possibilities and careers that were only imagined five years ago, and has opened a door to new vocational possibilities, says Gonyea.

Stress, a major reason for discontent in the workplace, costs employers an estimated $150 billion to $200 billion annually, according to the Society for Human Resource Management, located in Alexandria, Virginia. In response, more companies are recognizing that employees are more productive

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