If you’ve ever been stuck in a job because it didn’t feel like a good fit, you may relate to this week’s story of the Central Intelligence Agency and Lulu the bomb-sniffing dog.
In messages that have now been retweeted thousands and, in some cases, tens of thousands of times, the CIA opened up on social media about its methods for finding the best K9 dogs to detect explosives. As an example, the agency introduced Lulu, a black Labrador retriever.
After weeks of training, the agency reported, Lulu’s handlers realized Lulu wasn’t happy. Her heart just wasn’t in the work.
“All dogs, like humans, have good days and bad days when learning something new,” the CIA tweeted. “Same for our pups, though it usually lasts just a day or two.”
Proving to be like the HR department most humans would want when faced with a professional issue, the CIA tried to work with Lulu and make her happy. When K9s lose energy and focus, trainers act like “doggy psychologists,” the agency reported, to figure out what will help a pup perform better on the job.
For example, a pup might be bored and need some playtime or a break from training. Or maybe she has a medical condition that needs to be looked into. After trying to address the pup’s needs and concerns, the CIA decides whether or not the issue is superficial and can be fixed.
In the case of Lulu, her persistent malaise was a sign that there was no need to force her to stick around. Allowed to retire, Lulu was adopted by her handler and is now living a lifestyle that is more aligned with her passions.
As the New York Times puts it in its article addressing the sudden popularity of Lulu, “her story just sounds familiar to any American who has experienced workplace ennui: She underwent rigorous training for a daily grind job and decided that sniffing out bombs was not her calling.”
While leaving a position that no longer fulfills you is tough, having an employer like Lulu’s who pays attention to your needs as an employee can make your transition a lot easier.
And, though it can take time and energy, figuring out what you really want to do can make you more satisfied in the long run. Apple CEO Tim Cook, for example, recently told students, “My advice to all of you is, don’t work for money — it will wear out fast, or you’ll never make enough and you will never be happy, one or the other.”
Instead, he suggests, “you have to find the intersection of doing something you’re passionate about and at the same time something that is in the service of other people.”
Ramit Sethi, founder of the online personal finance and career resource “I Will Teach You to be Rich” and GrowthLab.com, agrees. He advises anyone who is dissatisfied with their professional life to take matters into their own hands and create the change they need. The process will pay off, he says.
“Get impatient with yourself. Nobody’s going to wake up and hand you a dream job,” Sethi tells CNBC Make It. “You have to find it and when you do you will be excited to go into work, you’ll be excited to be building your skills. You’ll be getting paid what you deserve and being given way way more responsibility over so many things in life. That’s a dream job.”