When Your Career Jumps the Shark


Jumping the shark describes the instant a television show reaches a point at which far-fetched events are incorporated merely for the sake of novelty. It is used to define the beginning of the show’s decline. The writers use some aspect of the show as a type of gimmick or they introduce new characters in an attempt to keep viewers’ waning interest. The phrase was based on a scene from a fifth-season episode of the sitcom, Happy Days, when the character “The Fonz” jumped over a shark while on water-skis.

Some of you won’t remember Happy Days, many will have seen it in reruns, and some of us remember seeing the original episode. This particular scene was centered around the fifth season premiere in which the main characters visit Los Angeles and “Fonzie” responds to a challenge of his bravery by wearing his trademark leather jacket, and jumping over a shark in the ocean.

Jumping the shark has since taken on the popular mainstream reference whereas it means that something that was once good has now peaked, and has taken a stark downturn in quality or effectiveness. It is the same thing as saying that something good has now become useless.

You can also jump the shark in terms of your career. Careers can get old or take a downturn for a variety of reasons:

    • Boredom
    • The work gets too predictable and not challenge-filled
    • You are no longer fulfilled
    • The job is stagnant
    • You wonder what else is out there
    • You are not compensated accordingly
    • You simply lack passion
    • The job is not in alignment to your goal

But jumping the shark is not always bad. Sometimes, we need to jump the shark to move past a hurdle. It’s all a matter of how we land and move forward.

Disengaged Employees

Last year Gallup released their “State of the American Workplace” survey. Gallup’s data showed 30% of employees Engaged, 52% Disengaged, and 18% Actively Disengaged. Findings indicated that 70% of American workers were ‘not engaged’ or ‘actively disengaged’ and were emotionally disconnected from their workplaces. Gallup estimates that these actively disengaged employees cost the U.S. between $450 billion to $550 billion each year in lost productivity.

Being disengaged is a losing battle for both the company and the employee.

Growth Comes From Change

Author John O’Donohue says, “Change, therefore, need not be threatening… When you are faithful to the risk and ambivalence of growth, you are engaging your life. The soul loves risk, it is only through the door of risk that growth can enter.”

We grow and we change all through life. We’re simply not the same person we were when we started out in our career at age 22. Our career goals often change as well. Doing work you love and working for a company you enjoy is essential to your ability to thrive at work and thrive as a person. Staying in a job that causes you to be unhappy or suppresses your ability to reach your fullest potential may not be an option you want to accept.

There’s one person that owns your career and that’s you.

The ultimate decision of knowing when to go and knowing when it’s time to move on belongs to you as well. Sometimes it makes more sense to work on improving your current circumstances. However, when that train has left the station, the best option may be to leave.

Know when sticking it out means that you’re just plain stuck. If you are not challenged or happy at work, it’s probably going to show in terms of your energy, production, enthusiasm, and even in your personal life.

Ask yourself these questions so you can decipher whether you are in a rut or it’s something more long-term.

    • Are you still learning new skills? Are you challenged?
    • Have your opportunities for growth and development come to a standstill?
    • Is the culture or environment conducive to your best work?
    • Do you really just want to do something else?
    • Do you feel like your work matters to you?
    • Are you under constant stress or does work make you feel physically ill?
    • Are you experiencing verbal abuse, sexual harassment, or are aware of any type of other illegal behavior?
    • When was the last time you had a raise and are you compensated in line with the market?
    • What is your relationship like with your boss?
    • Does your dread of Monday always ruin your Sunday?Calling it quits isn’t easy, and sometimes in life you have to grin and bear it. But sometimes, calling it quits helps you get to the next level of your career. Before you make any move, try to make your voice heard. See if there is any way you can find a way to enjoy your current career with your current company. At the end of the day, if your potential isn’t recognized and the company isn’t willing to help you succeed, it’s time for some serious self-reflection in case it’s time for you to move onward. Jumping the shark sometimes help you get across the barrier and on to the next path.


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