To Go or Not to Go? That is the Question
Your Jewish Fairy Godmother’s 10 Commandments
for Deciding about a Job Change
We’ve all had those days, the ones where we feel trapped, pent up like a caged tiger in our office or cubicle. Tick, tock. Tick, tock. Tick, tock. Can time go any s…l…o…w…e…r…??????
What do you do when you’re bored with your job? When there’s a movie you’d much rather see than writing a memo about different brands of toner. How do you cope when only the mortgage keeps you from telling your boss “I can’t take it anymore. I’m outta here.”
If you’re bored, seriously bored enough that it can’t be cured by some days off this week or long weekends next month to look forward to, you’re going to have to face the big question: to go or not to go? Take a deep gulp. Ask yourself if you’re ready to take a cold, hard look at what you do for a living, and why. When the answer’s yes, use these commandments to help you decide about staying or hitting the road.
Commandment Number 1: Be honest with yourself.
In everything that follows, your ability to tell the truth, the whole truth, so help whatever is sacred to you, will be critical. If you convince yourself you can work night shift, when your body clock gets you up at 5 a.m., you’re going to end up miserable somewhere different, and cranky to boot. If you want the money that a CPA makes, but hate numbers, you’re going to have to spin the wheel and pick again. Your ability to name and claim your virtues, your flaws, and your priorities is a critical, necessary, and ultimately pivotal ingredient in this process. You can fool yourself some of the time, but why start there. This is a chance for a fresh start, where you are or some place new. So buy a first class ticket with the truth.
Commandment Number 2: Take an inventory of your life.
Before you tackle your work life specifically, you need to see where it fits into the big picture of your world. Draw a wagon wheel without a rim, where each spoke is a different part of your world. Identify the sectors of your life that matter and name each spoke: family, finances, friendship, romance, health, spirituality, etc. as well as work. If your life is great, make a mark at or nearer the outer perimeter of the spoke. If it’s lousy, mark close to the center of the wheel. So-so, in the middle. Then connect the marks. If you end up with a big round circle, you’re probably not really bored and your life is full, rich, and grand (or you’re not being honest)! If you get a round wheel, but a teeny one, everything is ^&$&^(&^-y. Most folks get a lumpy wheel on which to roll though life. But why settle for that, if you’re really ready for change.
Commandment Number 3: Take an inventory of your work life.
Now do the same exercise, but specifically for your career and your work life. The categories will be different, but not completely so. Sure, you’ll look at income and whether or not you have friendships at work. But you should also consider practical matters like schedule and commuting patterns, as well as prospects for advancement, fit with your educational level, and what you spend your work hours doing. Note: It’s important to do this exercise twice: once on a good day, a day when you’ve gotten complimented for a job well done; and also on a day when you are restless and bored. Compare your wheels. Both sets of insights are relevant and will inform the next set of choices that you will examine.
Commandment Number 4: Think about how you cope with change.
This commandment goes well with your favorite form of self-indulgence, like a glass of comfort or a bag of chips or cookies. Change is scary. Most of us, when confronted with the prospect of uprooting our lives, turn to more serous forms of self-sabotage, like picking a fight with our loved ones, or turning into oncoming traffic. Instead of self-destructive behavior, try to stay conscious. Take some time to really ask yourself if you are ready to make a shift, and if not, what you can do to get yourself that way. This might mean prancing around in your interview clothes, a diet to drop ten pounds, or writing a list of everything you hate about looking for work. Then read the help wanted for a reality check about what’s out there that you qualify for. This step is sobering, but can also be inspirational.
Commandment Number 5: Make the money aspects real.
Look at what you need to make it through each month and year. Understand your baseline financial needs. Look at your assets and savings. Look at your debts and obligations, both monthly and annual. Make a budget. Examine the fixed and variable costs in your life and decide if you’re ready to make some sacrifices, short-run deprivation for long-run benefit. Short run investments for long-run return. If you are already too encumbered, your shift may pause for a while. This is a strategic part of the process. It will help you decide if you need to stay in your job while you look, or if you can afford to risk committing yourself to a full-time work search. There are few things as satisfying as acting out your feelings in the moment. But few as dangerous as having jumped too soon when a good plan would have kept you solvent.
Commandment Number 6: Prepare your family.
Sit down with those who share your financial reality or who will have to listen to your whining if you do or don’t leave. Brace them for changes you cannot predict. Ask their opinion. [Note: If you are single, talk to your three best friends, people who know your moods, your needs, and your priorities.] Tell them you are truly not decided what to do, except that some change is inevitable or you’re going to become unhappier. The conversation may frighten them, but they’re not the ones who have to go to your job every day, to put up with your cranky boss or unreasonable workload. It may also relieve them to learn that your moods are not related to their behavior. Explain your reasons for wanting change. Ask for the help you’ll need through the process. That may range from emotional support to networking. Your goal is to engage their support, inspire them to help, and get them to keep you honest. Tell them to keep asking you the hard questions, and to serve as your mirror and cheerleader.
Commandment Number 7: Update your resume.
Fish it out of whatever directory or drawer you stashed it in when you landed your last job. Read it like a critical stranger. What does it say about the person you were then. Now imagine updating it for the person you have become since you took this job. Think of what new skills you’ve acquired and how you can document what you’ve done. But remember too that the whole reason you’re looking for work is because you want something different than what you have. Otherwise, why would you move? Think about the different ways you might realistically sell yourself. Practice writing two or three resumes, with different perspectives, like management, customer service, or something technical. Imagine your possible futures and see which make you yawn and which get you excited.
Commandment Number 8: Reinvigorate your reality.
Now that your creative juices are flowing, think of ways to make your current job better. Think of a new project you can tackle or a problem that you’re willing to use a dramatic new solution to resolve. Talk to your supervisor. Tell him/her that you’re hungry for new challenges. Ask to be a team leader for something. Try to attract some attention and get recognition from the people who matter. Ask about possible changes of responsibility, schedule, teammates, salary, whatever needs a fix. Think of changes that would make you excited about coming to work every day. Note: If your boss asks if you’re gonna leave unless you get your way, swear the loyalty oath M-F, 8-5. You can keep your fingers crossed behind your back. But do say you want to utilize more of your potential.
Commandment Number 9: Try on an attitude readjustment.
You’ll need to be perky in a new job anyhow, so this is great time to practice your professional smile, fake or sincere. The truth is, on any given week, most people would rather be on vacation than at work, so if your misery longs for company you have lots of it. But who wants to be miserable or hang around someone who is? Look at your list of positives about work. Every day find a way to express gratitude for those. Figure out a strategy to work on the negatives while you upgrade your current job or find your new one. Choosing to be happy has delightful and unpredictable benefits. It’ll make the short-run feel shorter and better. It may even increase the chances you’ll land something new, because people like to hire people they think they’ll enjoy working with.
Commandment Number 10: Network, network, network.
There’s a vast web of connections that will help you hear about jobs, all within a sentence or two of your next conversation. You have no way of knowing who knows whom or about what job. Now’s the time to amplify your ability to get into any line that’s forming for any position you might care about. Find contacts at places that are hiring. Let people know–people where you play, pray, and pay–that you’re looking for a good new change. If they ask what you want, say you’ve been doing X but you’re also open to Y or Z. Use words like challenge and responsibility, not bored and frustrated. Ask if they’ll keep their eyes and ears open. Tell them you can supply good professional and character references that’ll reflect well on them for the referral.
The most important element in this process is you. Your attitude and your willingness to step up. To beat the blahs of boredom, say yes to every possibility and match it against your life wheels. When the right opportunity comes along, roll on down the road with a happy and satisfied smile.