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Why Working at Corporate HQ is Like Being in a Zoo

What’s the difference between working in a large corporation and being an animal in zoo? Unlike the animals, you can leave at the end of the day!


But apart from that, there aren’t too many distinctions.


Your freedom is limited because you have to go back the next day and sit in the cage where everyone can see you and verify you’re doing what they pay you to do. Like the animals, you’re under constant observation… just in case you try to escape!


You can’t even walk away from your desk without someone asking where you’re going, why and for how long.



Of course, you're slightly less restricted than the animals because you get an hour of freedom each day to forage for your lunch. Mind you, most of the time you and your fellow inmates probably stay at your desks scoffing sandwiches from a smelly Tupperware box because you’re too scared to venture out. In fact, that might just be a good strategy because if you don’t look busy, someone might get rid of you.


And like most of your colleagues, you're might be so used to being tethered to your post that you never venture too far. The chains that bind you may be invisible, but they’re strong.


Of course, the highlight of the month is feeding time, oh sorry, payday. If you have to perform your tricks to the waiting crowd (or stakeholders as they are commonly referred to) you may get an extra fish thrown in as a bonus. Don’t gorge yourself though, because you might go hungry. You only ever get enough feed to keep you in your pen and hanging onto your perch.


Is that it? Is this your life?


Well, yes, it is. But only if you want it to be. Because, unlike the animals, you have options – even if you don’t think you do.



Is there a better zoo?


Not all offices feel like zoos. You can work places where you don’t feel as if you’re being watched all the time or that you have to perform uncomfortable tricks to get fed. Some offices are fun, friendly and relaxed. They are great places to work because you get to express your talents and you get treated with respect by your colleagues and mangers.


When you’re stuck in a zoo you hate, it’s easy to lose hope of finding a better one. But you can.


Change your job and love your zoo


You know there are better jobs out there but somehow, because your situation is so bad, it’s dragged you down and you’ve lost hope of ever finding a better one.


You talk to people who work for other organisations and sometimes their situation is even worse than yours. That’s scary! It makes you wonder whether you’re better off staying where you are. Maybe the grass isn’t greener on the other side.


So, you tell yourself that all big companies are like zoos so what’s the point in trying to find a better one? This is what keeps you stuck: fear of change and more specifically, fear of making a mistake by jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire.


When you feel stuck like this, your first task is to work on your negative thinking and challenge your limiting beliefs so you can find a new and better place to work.


Though you can’t help wondering… maybe it’s not the zoo, maybe it’s what you do at the zoo that’s the real problem.


Would a different kind of zoo be better?



Change your career and live in better zoo for you


If the zoo you’re in is making you miserable, a different zoo might be better. After all, it might just be this zoo that’s the problem.


Then again, you’ve heard the horror stories about the other zoos. Maybe it’s a case of “better the devil you know”.


And yet…


You wonder. If you could figure out what you want your new zoo to be like (and felt confident that you could find it), maybe you might feel able to go out and find it. Because, let’s face it, you’ve got a lot of working years ahead of you and being miserable for five, 10 or even more years is unthinkable.


Unless redundancies come around, of course. But would it be the right thing to sit and wait for that to happen? And would you be better off if you did wait?


Deep down, you know there's always a better option and you’re sure you have more control than you think. Unfortunately, you’ve been so downtrodden in this role that you’ve lost sight of what you want from your work and life.


So before you do anything else, think about what you’d like instead of what you’ve got. What do you really want to achieve in your career? What motivates and excites you about your work. Which tasks do you like?

What would you like to do more of, and what less?


You may have stopped looking beyond your current situation because you’ve lost hope of having anything better. It’s understandable. But it doesn’t mean you can’t change your attitude and approach to your career.


If you want to change anything, you need to start believing there's a better place for you to work. You need to be willing to answer some tough questions about who you are and where you want to go. It may mean accepting some upheaval to your normal routine and ordered life. But once you start looking at the world with new eyes, you'll feel excited rather than daunted.


If you have no idea where to start, a career consultant can help you work out what you want and put together a career plan based on your best skills, personality type and aspirations. Best of all, once you know what you’re looking for, you’ll discover it’s much easier to find it.


Changing your job is one way to create a better life for yourself, but perhaps the job is as much of a problem as the company you work for. Maybe you don’t even want to be an animal in the zoo any more? In that case, you may need to consider doing something completely different – joining a travelling circus maybe? Now, that’s the kind of career change you’d relish!



Can a leopard change its spots?


You’ve heard it can be done. Some animals change completely. Tadpoles turn into frogs and caterpillars turn into butterflies. So, maybe you could change the kind of animal you are too.


Changing your career is not something to be taken lightly. Unless you’re lucky and make a fast and smooth transition, a career change is likely to take time and effort.


So, consider it carefully and be realistic about what’s involved. But at the same time, don’t let fear of the unknown hold you back.


Change your career


When you’re in a career that doesn’t satisfy or fulfil you, work often feels very empty and purposeless. You may not feel as if you’re on the same wavelength as the people you work with, you may not be in tune with the values of the industry you work in, and you may find your day-to-day tasks dull and lacking any interest for you. If that’s the case, your days in the zoo are going to feel very long indeed.


But it’s worse than that…


Because it won’t get better by simply moving to another company (or zoo). That would just be papering over the cracks. No, something more is needed. You need to think bigger and be bolder. It’s a Big Thing, but when you make the right move, it will be worth it because you’ll be rewarded in ways you can’t even imagine right now.


Not only will you enjoy your job more, you’ll feel more energised, more positive and far more satisfied with your life overall. You won’t dread Mondays (or Tuesdays, or Wednesdays…). You’ll enjoy the company of your colleagues and find working with them enjoyable. Opportunities will come your way because you’re enthusiastic and willing to get stuck in. Your status will rise in the company and that will help you achieve even more. One day, you’ll notice that work feels a whole lot less like ‘work’.


Right now, that might sound like an impossible dream, but it isn’t. Remember, not everyone hates their job. In fact, many people love what they do. And you can too.


A safari park sounds even better


It’s worth remembering that a significant percentage of the population lives in the wild – they love the freedom of working as a contractor or working from home. The don’t want to be tied to a single organisation or tied to a traditional working day. They want to be able to work in a freer and more flexible way. That means the zoo is never going to work for them.


Work with more freedom


Working from home or as a contractor will give you far greater freedom in a daily routine. As a contractor, you can choose your how many weeks of the year you want to work. Best of all, if a company isn’t right for you, you simply move on. If you’re not keen on feeling owned by a company or feeling as if you ‘belong’ in a role or organisation, then becoming a contractor may be the right choice for you.


By contrast, you may decide that remote or home-working is the right choice for you. If you care for a relative or have young children, this can give you a huge amount more flexibility about how and when you work. You may still need to be available during certain hours of the day. But being at home means there's less juggling of childcare and less travelling. That frees up time for work and family.


This kind of working set-up will allow you to get to your children’s sports day or school play, or even just sneak off to the local coffee bar for a natter with a friend.


Of course, it could be that even this level of freedom isn't enough. Being in any kind of confined space might bring you out in hives. If that’s the case, rather than working in the zoo, you may need to be the person who runs it.



You don’t want to live in captivity


Zoos and safari parks might be okay for some animals, but you don’t want to see any fences or be constrained by any barriers. You want to live in the wild where every day's an adventure. Even if you’re scared you might get attacked or even killed, you just know the zoo isn’t for you.


Start your own business


The world of employment isn’t right for everyone and that might be the case for you too. However great the monthly pay cheque, you’re always hungry for more and you feel trapped. You need something completely different. You need your own business.


If you’ve come to realise that the world of work can’t give you what you want, it’s possible that what you really need is to be self-employed or have your own business. It could be the only way you can do work you love and have the space to grow as an individual.


Deep down, you know no zoo is ever going to give you the freedom you crave. The wild and wide-open spaces may seem scary to some. But to you, they promise excitement and adventure.


Of course, there’s more chance you might get hunted down by a predator but equally, you could find a tribe where you feel you belong and can do your best and most enjoyable work.


Choose your zoo


Some people are lucky enough to know what they want to do or fall into a role that's perfect for them early in their working life.


You may not have been so lucky.


You may have chosen your career with your head rather than with your heart. Maybe you chose the security or the money ahead of what you wanted to do with your time. But after a while, you notice that the salary doesn’t compensate you for your misery and the security feels like a straightjacket.


It’s highly likely that you chose your career because you thought it was right for you, then discovered it wasn’t. But you had no idea how to change course.


Now help is at hand. A career coach can help you look at yourself, your skills and your experience with fresh eyes so you can understand what’s important to you. Insight into your personality, skills and values can enable you to review your choices and move into a new career knowing the work and the environment you’re choosing are right for you.

It's possible you have practical and sensible reasons to stay where you are for now, but that doesn’t mean you’re stuck with what you got until you retire.


It’s your life and your career, and you’re in control, not the zoo keepers. Most important of all, remember that, unlike the animals, you can leave the zoo at any time.


You’re free, so it’s your choice. All you need to do is decide what you want.


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