Almost all of us have wondered from time to time if we’re in the right position for us. We’ve considered looking for more of a challenge, more earning potential, or looked at switching industries all together. There can be some anxiety around those thoughts or decisions but for the most part it is an exciting time of growth, asking yourself ‘where can I go from here?‘ In those situations we might start looking at what opportunities are out there and we often go about it in a really healthy way. We take our job search in a way that is similar to buying jeans when you know you have a really great pair at home. (As with all of my slightly out there analogies, bear with me.) Think of your favorite pair of jeans. The ones that make you look great all day and all night. You can dress them up or keep it casual. They are the standard that is in your closet and you wear them every chance you get. If you were going to go jean shopping you’d probably only do it when the opportunity struck, not because you’re specifically looking for a different pair. If you found a pair to try on its because they check all the boxes and are worthy of taking to the dressing room. They are the right color, the right size, the cut and if they weren’t, you just wouldn’t bother. If you do decide to buy something new yes they’ll probably have some similarities to the ones you have but also they’ll be different. The new ones will have improvements from the ones you had before because you know you have something good at home and if you’re going to spend your money it better be on something even better.
What happens the question you’re asking yourself about your career change from where can I go from here to how do I get out of here? What about the times that we start asking ourselves things like, how do I know if I’m doing well if I never hear anything? How can I stay here with this hostile work environment? Why do they profess to have our backs and never follow through? Or statements like, I don’t feel valued. I’m not being heard. There is no way I can succeed here. I’m not even challenged and they think I’m over my head. To all of that, and to anyone who might be experiencing something similar, I want to say a couple things first. I hear you and I see you. This place you’re in is so freaking hard. It is painful and frustrating and if not handled swiftly it will eat away all of the other areas of your life. Let’s think of this one in terms of jeans again. Think about the times you’ve gone shopping because you need new jeans. You have nothing that fits or flatters or is comfortable. You make special trips to the store just to look at jeans. You fill your arms with anything in your size (and probably a couple sizes in either direction) just to try them on until you can find something that will suffice. Typically when you get home you have a pair of jeans. You have a pair that you can add to the pile that don’t quite fit or flatter and you’re certainly not comfortable in them but they will allow you to get by and you’ll try to change yourself (if I just skip my coffee creamer for a couple weeks they’ll fit better) to make you fit the pants.
The beautiful thing about this analogy is that shopping is just a behavior, and we have control of that. So whether you’re shopping out of need or or out of opportunity you can choose which behavior you use and use the same format of reflecting objectively and taking action regardless of what you’re shopping for and why.
So what do I do next?
- Get really clear on what you want. For jeans it really is as simple as color and cut. In your career you might ask yourself, what does good look like, what about great? What would make me successful? What would make me feel valued? Don’t just think about all the things you’re frustrated about and make a list of complaints thinly veiled as desires (I want a supportive upline, more money, more staff, etc. If someone asked you why you want it and you could answer with, because I don’t have it now and it would really be nice, dig a little deeper) This is a situation where asking yourself why a few times would really benefit you.
- Know where you can get it. On the jean front you know yourself well enough to know if you’re jean shopping at a big box store, a boutique, or thrift store. Once you know what you want in your job you need to start asking where those things are. Don’t just apply to anywhere and everywhere that has an opening and advertises the benefits you’re looking for. Understand if you want the structure of a big corporation of the flexibility and family feeling of a more local company.
- If a job checks the boxes don’t be afraid to apply, aka, if the pants are worthy of trying on, do it. This one is two fold. First, be selective and make sure that anything you’re taking the time to apply for (and would take the time to interview for) meets your criteria. Second, nothing bad ever came from applying, particularly if it is outside your current company. If you have a good job but came across three great looking ones, go ahead and apply for them all! Take alllll those great jeans to the dressing room and find what works.
- It is OK to take the leap, or not. For some reason people think that if you applied for the job you are now locked in to the interview and then locked in to the job should it be offered. Certainly you don’t want to waste anyone’s time, including your own, but you did not sign a contract saying that you were changing jobs just because you opened a job search board or went to an interview. Remember that when you get to the interview you’re trying them on just as much as they’re trying you. Ask questions, push on the offer, and find out if it meets your needs.
It may sound silly to compare the progression of your career to buying jeans but sometimes the simplest processes broken down can reveal how much we’re over complicating the bigger ones. Making the decision to change jobs can feel scary but it doesn’t have to. If you objectively understand what you have, clarify what you want and where to get it, apply for what makes sense, and remember the interview goes both ways, you’ll be in a great position to make the right decision for you.