Leaving a job is kind of like leaving a relationship. The relationship part I’ll leave for another article some other time. For this one, let’s talk career.
I started working when I was 17 years old, and rarely have I had the luxury of stopping. At every place of employment, there have been periods of exhilaration and success, as well as phases of dejection and stagnation. I learned the hard way, that “ideal” is just not for real. We can kid ourselves all we want into believing that leaving and starting over is the answer, but that’s typically a very small part of the answer, and sometimes, it’s not an answer at all.
If you’re currently in a professional situation where you’re miserable, and desperate to leave, I want you to take a couple of breaths, and ask yourself a few questions:
1. Is this just a bad day/week/month that I’m giving way too much power?
Okay, sometimes, you’ve got to take a breather and think about whether the misery is situational or permanent. My CPA/Tax friends and acquaintances hate their lives in March going into April. Not to minimize it, but if you’re doing what you love, is a bad day/week/month worth jumping ship?
Also, if you’re planning on staying in the same profession, is it really going to be any different anywhere else?
2. Is this because I dislike someone I work with or vice-versa?
Not getting along with someone you work with, or even worse, for, sucks. But always try to weigh it against what you’d be giving up if you left. It’s not fair to have to work with/for someone like that, but how fair is it for YOU to have to give up what you’ve worked for to get away from a person. Is there a chance you can work it out? Can you find a way to tolerate one another?
P.S. Complaining doesn’t work. It will make you look bad for not being able to work with someone of “opposing opinions” (at least that’s the impression others would have). Hard-learned lessons, believe me.
3. What am I doing to contribute to the situation?
Are you making things worse? Hear me out. I worked for a company/team that was super short staffed. We simply had too much work, and not enough people to do the work. So, I worked crazy amounts of overtime (to the point, where I was probably making $12 an hour when everything was said and done to get it all done until one of my teammates said something simple that blew my mind.
“If you keep getting everything done, we’ll never get more help, and there will be no reason to hire more people.”
Yup, I was making things worse, without intending to do so, all the while feeling quite self-righteous about my “work ethic.” Think about what you may be doing that is causing, increasing or sustaining your misery at work.
4. What am I doing to change the situation? And what are the ways in which I can vs. should try to change the situation? In what logical order?
Have you spoken to someone? I mean, complaining to your friends is needed, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But have you told anyone who can change things? You may be surprised by the outcome. The first time a company hears your concerns should not be in the exit interview.
Create and follow an action plan with timelines and everything for the steps you can take to address the issue with the individual who is causing it, then the individual who has the power to help, and so on. Executing this plan will give you a sense of (albeit temporary) control.
5. What, specifically do I dislike about the job/company?
Sort through your feelings. No, seriously. Categorize and classify. If the thing you actually dislike is having to answer to someone, maybe you should be a business owner. If you feel like you don’t get to use certain skills, is it because the job itself doesn’t require those skills?
In that case, you’re in the wrong role. If you’re looking for an environment where you can play video games on a break, and work on your own schedule, perhaps a conservative huge corporation is not the right place to work! Really though, until you know the problem, how can you begin to fix it?
6. Is there something going on in my personal life contributing to how I feel towards my job/company?
I was that sad person who called her mentor and asked if she could be transferred to a different location with the company when her ex-walked away.
Yup. And you know what? I’m lucky my mentor told me I needed to stay and work out the actual problem. Sometimes, when you’re hurting, and especially when you’re having issues with people you love or at home, it makes you less tolerant of issues at work, and it may seem as though changing jobs is the only thing you can control. Again, figure out the problem, and fix the problem (or work through it). Your work situation changing may just be a band-aid.
7. What do I love and what do I hate (within and outside the context of this job)?
Think about the things you’re passionate about, and the things you really dislike? How does that match up with the things you love and hate about your job? When I realized my job didn’t fulfill my creative needs, I started doing photography. When my job didn’t pay enough to buy my equipment, I started doing more paid gigs as a photographer to pay for it. And this didn’t happen overnight, but I did it. AND SO CAN YOU!!
Still, after going through this kind of self-reflection, I realized that ultimately, I need the security of a full-time job and a dependable paycheck, but there was no room for growth. I spoke to my mentors and leaders and tried to find/carve a path within the company. And when nothing worked out, I channeled my energy towards finding a job, and I did.
So, what can you do, when you’ve decided a fresh start is truly the best thing for you?
8. Set aside time every day, even 15-30 minutes to work on the new start
Somehow, knowing you’re actively working towards it, will bring you some relief. You can spend some of this time to…
9. Beef up your social media (particularly LinkedIn), resume and write a killer job/company specific cover letter
A good LinkedIn profile typically has the following features:
- LOTS of RELEVANT connections
- Relatively consistent activity with sharing/posting content
- Details regarding your work/education history. (Not just your title and tenure but what you have actually done for the company in each role.)
Also, try to get some recommendations and endorsements. A good resume typically has the following features
- It’s not longer than it needs to be – i.e. if you’ve been in the relevant workforce less than 10 years, you’d better not have a resume longer than a page
- It doesn’t just recite your responsibilities, it demonstrates how well you executed them – i.e., metrics, awards, etc. and (c) It clearly states your skills.
And finally a good cover letter typically has the following features:
- It fits the brand/culture of the company you’re applying to (ex: I applied to an IT company with an infographic as my cover letter)
- It mentions specifically how your skills tie to THAT job and the description of the role they’ve provided.
Don’t forget to set up job alerts for the type of role you’re looking for and the specific location(s)!
10. Network like there’s no tomorrow
Make sure trustworthy people in your network know you’re looking. Go to job fairs. Go to professional events. Volunteer at local non-profits—not only are you helping the community, but you’ll get to meet some fascinating, and often significant people in the community. Reach out to leaders/recruiters in your area through LinkedIn and see if they’ll have a cup of coffee with you. And make sure there’s something in it for them! Share something—anything they may find interesting.
Most importantly, hang in there. And try not being too hard on yourself. You’re not alone in this. Find your tribe, girl. Find your tribe. And you’ll find your vibe too.