The Career Doom Loop Revisited: are you on a slippery slope?

Posted March 12, 2012 in Career Management, Latest News & Insights

I’ve been having lots of career discussions with members recently, so thought I’d revisit this post from 2009.  Enjoy.  Years ago I was introduced to this great model called “The Career Doom Loop”. The concept was created by Charles Jett and popularized in Dory Hollander’s book The Doom Loop System. It’s a simple model that stuck in my head and made my own career path make so much more sense.  It goes like this:

When you first start a new position, you are in stage 1 of the “doom loop”.  You are:

in a job you LIKE / that you’re NOT GOOD at  (goes to reason… when you start out, you don’t even know where the photocopier is, never mind how to contribute to your best ability).

Which then leads us to stage 2.  You are:

in a job you LIKE/ that you are GOOD AT (you’ve hit your stride, your contributing, your employer adores you)

Which then leads to the next stage and the time when the “doom looping” begins.  You are:

in a job you DON’T like / that you are GOOD AT (ah yes, the boredom factor has kicked in. You’re still good, but you’re starting to check out.)

Which is when, one of 2 things will usually happen:

1)  You continue to slide to the final stage of the “doom loop”:  you don’t like your job / you’re no longer good at it.  You’ve probably seen this around organizations.  It’s often called “dead wood”.


2) if you are a high performing fast tracker, you’ll never even hit the fourth and final stage.  You will likely pop yourself out of your organization and head to greener pastures where you can begin again at stage one in a job you like, but that you’re not great at yet.

And there, my friends, lies the lesson.  If you are currently managing a fast tracker, don’t stick your head in the sand when you see the boredom factor setting in.  To keep these ambitious types engaged, you have to throw them into a situation that they’re excited about but not good at yet.  Yes, this might mean transferring them to another department to get a new set of experiences, and that means you’re going to have to deal with a hole on your team… but really, isn’t that better than them walking out the door and taking all their IP to your competitor?

And, if you are said “fast tracker”, here’s the thing to think about.  If you’re working for a boss who hasn’t read your boredom and/or doesn’t have the wherewithal to issue a new challenge, why not try suggesting one to them yourself?  Afterall, the grass always looks greener when you’re getting stuck in a career rut.  But sometimes, our best opportunities can be found right under our noses, if we’re justing willing to look.

Happy leading!

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  4. Hi! I’m dusting off “The Doom Loop” as well as the “Critical Skills” and have created a couple of new blogs. I’ve linked the Doom Loop blog to yours – hope you don’t mind. Each blog contains the Doom Loop video created in 1987 by Northwestern University.

    Charlie Jett

  5. As the creator of this little tool, I am in the process of publishing a book about the “Doom Loop.” I like your post/article, and intend to include a chapter about “Other interpretations of the Doom Loop” and would like to include what you wrote verbatim – giving you total attribution, of course, for what you wrote. I will reference your blog as well. I need your permission, however, to do this. I think it will help us both and perhaps direct people to your blog which I think is excellent. Let me know, OK? My email is and my phone number is 312-335-1217. Thanks . . . ~ Charlie Jett