When you’re weighing in whether to leave your job or not, is like watching a tennis game. Halep plays for “leaving”, Serena plays for “staying”. Every downside of each option means 15-love for the opponent. And you are cheering for each player every time they score. You feel broken in half. But that is not the “juicy” part, the tie break is. Yep, it’s the most intense and most rewarding. Cause with every point you score, the tie break takes you to “what the heck do I want to do with my career” question. Which, it might, not saying it will, but it might get you to “I really really hate what I have been doing for over more than 10 years”, which is the NCAP of the Peter Pan phase, you’ve already been warned about.
By Cristina Matei, Leadership Adviser, Amrop Romania
You did your part by asking around: “dude, what should I do about my career?”. And your interviewees are giving you more than you can chew. The most pragmatic friend tells you life is not about doing what you like during working hours, it is about hard work up to the point of not feeling nauseous every Monday to Friday @ 7am. The dreamer praises you by saying you have great potential and everything you put your mind to, you can accomplish. The family will tell you they will support you no matter what and you should follow your dreams. Yep, only if you are living in a Diva Universal Sunday afternoon movie. The real life hit-by-the-bus version is you have mortgages, and kids, and responsibilities, and “what would my mother say”, “I don’t think it’s the right time”, “have you thought this through”, “will we afford it”, “what if you fail”, *insert here all what-ifs*. Ok, maybe it’s a bit exaggerated and this is the Friday evening scary movie instead, but surely you got the point. And it’s a good exercise seeing people’s reactions, it’s the trailer for what will happen when you break the news to them. They are mirroring your own thoughts as well, at least someone is thinking out loud.
Surely, by this time, you answered the “purpose” question as well. Thinking you want to contribute to “world peace, diminishing world hunger, saving the whales”, giving back, do some good. Which is absolutely wonderful. What you need to make sure is if you’re really up for it, or you just took an overdose of working for the man, now going to the opposite direction. People tend to have a romantic view on working for a good cause, reason being we only see the photo with the house build at the end, the kid receiving treatment and so on. But the hustle, the hard work, low pay (!), dealing with authorities & bureaucracy, emotional weariness, those are still there during the process. If you can pass that, an NGO can be an option. If you’re not up to it, that’s ok; great things are accomplished doing micro-great things: volunteering, giving good advice to any person you talk to during the day, mentoring someone. You can really do something with your 20 years of business experience, other than hitting OPEX targets. Eventually, you can join a company whose purpose you share, or you believe in etc.
Now the time has come to put things into practice: telling people you’re leaving. Especially your boss. Imagine that! Surely you have done so in every quarterly business review, daydreaming of a dramatic exit, worthy of 541 episodes of a 90s soap opera. But the reality might be different. They may/ may not cry for you, Argentina, they may anticipate it before you open your mouth, or they may try to keep you. Keep your eyes on the ball! What’s more important: the drama or your future? First, make sure you (I’ve been repeating that) think this through, don’t leave when you’re angry, pissed off, out of spite, “I’ll show them”. Your decision to leave can be a tough thing for the company, but in 6 months’ time they will be up and running. Matrix organized companies are made to survive these losses, they are not like small entrepreneurship companies. That does not mean you will not be missed. People who worked with you side by side +12 hours a day, will surely do. Hopefully, some of them will take you out for coffee from time to time.
Another thing you should know, is that people who have stayed for quite some years (decades, maybe) in the company they grew up in, they might stay a very short time in their next role. It’s like a rebound after a long relationship. Nothing wrong with that, it might be that the purpose of this mandate is just to lure you out of the company, then get the headspace to think (yes, again) of a more fitted role. Or it could be because while you were sick and tired of your job, you weren’t looking for something better that what you have now. You were trying to replicate the love story you had when you were on your prime, 10 years ago, when the company was doing great and the boss was super inspiring. To make things a bit more complicated, this might happen while the ex tries to win you back. It might be hard to resist them waving around regional roles and double digit increases, but you should know that if you return, it’s only a matter of time until you will be back “on the market”. Still, there are cases where the 2nd strike is the lucky one, or it might be the case of Marlboro’s horse dying of passive smoking. It’s up to both of the parties involved in the deal.
This gets us to that tennis match, which was won by “staying”. That’s great and, sorry, but that’s not all. What you should consider is that if you went through the hustle of all of the above, all the nerve wrecking process of finding what you like, you staying is just a momentarily thing. And you should be true to yourself on why you are doing so: you know what you want and you are waiting/ scouting for the right role, or it’s the money – if so, start planning, saving and repurposing. All other things: status, family pressure, lack of courage, what would people say etc, will not hold water for too long. And you’re heading straight for the nausea in the morning. It could be that you still don’t know what your next move should be – start exploring, meet people, go to interviews.
Mentioning that, it is highly recommended to train that muscle. It will help you present yourself better and succinct in 15 mins tops, see what they are asking people these days in interviews – hopefully not where you see yourself in 5 years (‘cause let’s face it, who answered with “I would like to Zoom all day” when asked this question in 2015). Exercise being turned off for roles you did not even want in the first place. It stings too, but it’s healthy, it prevents big disappointments. If you get back on the horse only when the dream job appears, your rustiness in interviews and high-stake pressure will make you lose the opportunity like a sweaty kid bluffing in a poker game.
To state the obvious and spice things up, we are living times that make it harder to think about great job opportunities, passions & careers. Still not impossible. Maybe it’s not an easy thing to switch careers and leave your job now. But here are some thoughts: if 8 months ago we couldn’t have imagined that we will get hit by the TGV while obliviously enjoying a piña colada on the trails, it means nothing is really guaranteed. Not even your current job (it’s ok, don’t hyperventilate). Look on the bright side: companies will still be scouting for people really good at what they’re doing and opportunities will surface. You might need to wait longer, but would you want to waste the chance? And yet, staying put or making a change is something you take responsibility for, after doing personal reflection and building self-confidence. Which in itself is a never-ending process, referred to as: “More than ever/ Hour after/ Our work is/ Never over” by the poet Daft Punk.