Six in 10 Kiwis hate or dislike their job, a leadership management survey has found. What is more amazing is that most of these people stay in their careers for 40-odd years, living only for weekends and holidays.
In more than 20 years in a human resource and recruitment career, I've seen this scenario many times: a candidate comes into an interview and does their best to sell themselves professionally, but you can see their heart is not in it.
After a few probing questions, you discover they have two children in an expensive private school and a house in the nicest part of town, yet they hate what their life has become.
The job they have is not suited to their set of skills and there is no passion in it for them. They would love to change their career, but can't afford to drop $100,000 in salary to re-skill and follow their heart. They have become "rat-race refugees", as business speaker Rachel Prosser describes them.
They see a better-paying job as the only way out of their situation, so they will have more money to balance their career and family. Of course, this almost never works and they become mired even further in a more senior role that demands more time.
That old saying of "find a job you love and you'll never work a day in your life" is true. It's vital you have a clear idea of what your long-term career goals are. If you clearly understand those goals, your short-term decisions will be easier to make.
If you have more than five working years left, you need to ask yourself this question: "Would I enjoy staying in my career path for the rest of my life?" If your response is an honest "no", it's time for some hard thinking.
Of course not everyone wants to run off and join the circus, so if your job is a bit tedious but your future career path is heading somewhere exciting, that's great. Sometimes you have to make a short-term sacrifice to get ahead.
Important questions to ask yourself are: where do I ultimately want to be in my life, professionally and personally? Is climbing the corporate ladder important to me or am I happy with a less stressful (and less well-paid) job? Am I happy with where I am going and the path I am taking to get there?
A few years ago, a good friend of mine, Jon McCarron, was a senior-level account manager for one of the world's largest IT companies. Rising swiftly to the top, he was travelling around the world and making his mark.
But one day he decided that this was no longer his passion and set up an IT-support company, Your PC Guy, in Waiuku. He now travels around the Franklin area helping his clients when their computers crash. His goal is not to develop a large business and buy a commercial building, but to enjoy gardening and spend time with his wife. He earns as much as he did in the corporate world, yet works 60 per cent less hours.
If you're not sure where to start on your journey, check out the Career Quest survey on www.careers.govt.nz
I was impressed when the answer to the 78 multi-choice questions said I should be a career consultant.
I encourage you to take 20 minutes this week to ask yourself what really matters to you. You don't want to spend your whole life climbing a ladder to find it's leaning against the wrong wall.
Tom O'Neil is a leading international career specialist and author.