Jumping the shark describes the instant a television show begins to decline. It means it’s reached the point where writers incorporate far-fetched events or introduce new characters merely for the sake of novelty and to keep the show interesting. It’s as if all ideas have been exhausted and there’s simply nothing new to add to the show.

It’s the beginning of the end.

The original phrase was based on a scene from Happy Days, when “The Fonz” jumped over a shark while on water-skis. Many of you probably don’t even remember the show. Or perhaps some of you caught it in re-runs. Or, maybe some of us, cough, cough, remember the original episode.

Since then, jumping the shark has since taken on the popular cultural reference to signify something that was once good has now peaked and has taken a stark downturn in quality. It means that something, once effective, has now run its course.

Careers Can Jump the Shark

You can also jump the shark with your career. Careers can peak, get old, take a downturn, or just get stuck for a variety of reasons.

If the novelty has worn off or if you’re feeling stuck, your job is probably going nowhere and there’s little opportunity for growth. Everything you do probably feels more like a burden instead of an achievement.

It’s common to experience this at some point in your career. After hitting enough roadblocks, you finally realize that your energy may be better suited for finding a new job.

But before you give up, you need to determine whether you’re actually in a dead-end job, or if it’s a temporary situation that can be corrected.

If you’re not happy at work, nobody benefits.

It’s going to show in terms of your energy, production, enthusiasm, and in your personal life. There’s only one person who owns your career and that’s you. Know when you are in a temporary lull and know when you are stuck and going nowhere.


Signs That You About to Jump the Shark

  1. You are bored more often than not. Has your work become too predictable? Too mechanical? Are you doing the same thing day in and day out with little change in routine? If your position feels static and you don’t see a way to gain further responsibilities that you want, you’re stuck.
  2. Your skills are not being utilized and your responsibilities haven’t changed in a few years.
  3. You haven’t had a change in pay, title or tasks in a while.
  4. People hired after you have been promoted faster than you. Are your colleagues getting opportunities you aren’t getting?
  5. Your contributions are no longer valued. Are you still invited to important discussions or meetings like the kind you used to attend? Are your voice and opinions still being heard?
  6. You can’t get time with the boss to discuss new projects. Are you still getting premium tasks or projects? Has your boss minimized the time you spend with each other.
  7. You’re not being compensated fairly. Do others in your field get paid a lot more than you do? Do others hired after you make more than you?
  8. You lack passion because your job is not in alignment to your goals.
  9. Your boss or the company isn’t interested in your career.
  10. You are not being asked about your professional goals or future plans. Or maybe your organization doesn’t support your career plan.
  11. You get that “Monday morning feeling” nearly every day. Or, at the end of the day on Monday, you feel like you’ve already worked a full day.
  12. You lack all passion and enthusiasm. There’s no challenge or opportunity that excites you at work.
  13. Your personal values and the organizational values are not aligned.
  14. Your company is not doing well. Are profits stagnant or down? Have you downsized recently or have you laid people off? Do you see any sign of future growth?

So what if you do feel stuck?

Sometimes we need to jump the shark to move past a hurdle or an obstacle standing in the way of our success. It’s all a matter of how we land and move forward. I seem to recall that Fonzie landed pretty well on the other side of the shark.

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.

The ultimate decision of knowing when to go belongs to you. And sometimes it makes more sense to work on improving your current circumstances. The most important thing is to take responsibility for your job quality and success. You can’t blame the company for everything. Do an honest assessment and be where you know you can flourish.


Speak Up

If you haven’t talked to your boss yet, you have to do it. It’s not an easy conversation to have. But how will you get the answers if you don’t? You have to know if you are in an uphill battle for something that is beyond your span of control. You have to have the proper information in order to examine the risks that are associated with leaving a dead-end job. If your manager has a less than caring response to your concerns, then you may have an answer.

Choose Wisely

You want to be in a position where you choose your next role wisely – a role that is aligned with your expertise and your values.

Calling it quits isn’t easy, and sometimes in life you have to grin and bear it. But sometimes, calling it quits is the only way you get to the next level of your career.

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 so you know if it’s time to move forward.

Jumping the shark isn’t always a bad idea.

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