The Challenge of Seeking Challenge

I recently read an article by a well-respected author on what she refers to as “The Velvet Coffin.” She defines this as the complacency that causes one to remain at a job that is comfortable, but devoid of challenge. If you’re in this situation, your job holds few surprises – you know what to expect each day and can put yourself on auto-pilot and complete your work with minimal stress and effort. The salary is adequate, your coworkers are amiable, and it’s far easier to fall into a predictable routine than to leave your comfort zone and chase down challenges and new opportunities that bring with them a number of uncertainties. This, according to the author, is when you start dying a little each day.

While abandoning your mundane job and seeking out challenge and stimulation may be the typical outlook of an optimistic go-getter, I see several problems with this viewpoint. I’m aware that these can all be debated, especially by someone who has taken a leap of faith into a new and challenging career and emerged better off. However, I consider myself neither an optimist nor a pessimist, but rather a realist – and as such, here are my problems with this viewpoint.

A Bird in the Hand

The first thing you must do before jumping ship is to weigh the constants with the variables. Do you have job security at your current job? If so, that’s a constant. Will you at the new job? If the answer is no, or you don’t know, that’s a variable. Will you receive a salary increase in your new position? If yes, that’s a constant. Will the work definitely be more challenging, or will you learn your new role, then continue to do it day in and day out as you do with your current role? Do you know for sure if you will get along with your boss and your coworkers? Will you have a good work/life balance? If the answer to these questions is anything other than yes, then these are variables.

You must then ask yourself if you’re willing to trade your current job for one that may contain a number of variables. Constantly learning and being challenged are important in a job, but they must be weighed with a number of other factors. If you accept a position that’s challenging, but in the process give up job security, work/life balance, camaraderie with coworkers and a good working relationship with your manager, you will most likely regret it.

Patience Is a Virtue

Surprising as this may sound, every job I’ve ever had included brief periods where I didn’t feel challenged. It’s only natural that companies and careers go through an ebb and flow that includes periods of downtime where challenges don’t come on a daily basis. However, jumping ship every time you don’t feel challenged is not only impetuous, but will eventually label you a job hopper. Instead, consider these options.

Wait It Out

Here’s another revelation – while every job I’ve had may have included brief periods without challenge, had I left each time it happened, I would have missed out on the greatest opportunities and accomplishments of my career. Just because you don’t feel challenged now doesn’t mean you won’t a month from now. The question you must answer is whether your lack of challenge is temporary, and the answer shouldn’t be rushed. Schedule a meeting with your manager and tell them your concerns. There may be changes right around the corner that you aren’t yet aware of. If not, making your manager aware of your dissatisfaction may be just the impetus they need to throw more challenge and responsibility your way. In my experience, every career advancement has always left me saying, “Thank goodness I didn’t leave.”

Make Your Own Change

If you don’t feel challenged in your current position, it may be up to you to make a change within the company. Sit down with your manager and map out a plan. Perhaps you can take on more responsibility, begin training for a new role, work toward earning a certification or even a graduate degree. Your manager may welcome your interest in expanding your horizons – something a new manager at a new company may not be open to.

For some, leaving one job to start another brings with it not only new challenges, but better opportunities, better benefits, a better salary, and often a much-needed change of scenery. But leaving a job only because you no longer feel challenged can lead to regret. I can’t begin to think of how many coworkers I’ve seen leave for “better” opportunities, only to see them return, or try to return, a few months later. If you truly feel bored at your current job and that you have nothing left to learn, then it may be time to move on. Just make sure that your new role can provide what you’re expecting, and that you won’t end up in the same situation or worse within a few months at the new company. Also, be sure you explore every opportunity at your current job before leaving, because opportunity lies around every corner…and often when you least expect it.

By John Feldmann

John Feldmann is a Senior Communications Specialist for Insperity in Houston, TX. With over a decade of marketing and employment branding experience in the recruiting and human resources industries, John specializes in employment- and HR-related content development for a variety of media types in order to communicate Insperity's brand to both business professionals and job seekers. Follow John on X @John_Feldmann.