Friday, January 6, 2012

When to change jobs gracefully.

         I was talking to a psychologist the other day about what I considered an almost universal feeling of loneliness: getting your lunch the first day at a new school, paying for it, turning around, and finding nobody you know to have lunch with. It can be a withering experience.

         There are a lot of first-day experiences I've had trouble with. Starting a new job was always a little rough for me. Although I put on my best "jaunty" mask, I was overwhelmed by all the new people, each with a new face and a new name and all those new forms and new systems. I couldn't wait to get home to my own stuff.

          Soon, I'd get used to it all, know the people behind the names, and learn that everything is pretty much the same wherever you go. That still doesn't stop us from being anxious about change.

          Sometimes that anxiety keeps us at a job longer than we should've been there. We hate saying goodbye and hearing those "let's stay in touch" promises you know will never happen. And we certainly don't want the aggravation of breaking in a new boss.

          On the other hand, I may have changed jobs a little too often, honoring what my friend Dennis calls my sense of adventure. Whenever a job offer came up, it felt like a valentine, and everything in my present job seemed far less satisfying. I probably would've wound up at the same place in my career, with a lot more profit-sharing, had I never changed ad agencies. But I would've missed meeting a lot of wonderful people.

          The jobs report that came out today looks encouraging. Although it's often hard to find good jobs in one particular location in this economy, there is a need for well-prepared people. You have to be flexible.

          If you have a good job in marketing but you're thinking about change, the first rule is cool it. Never quit a job until you have a new one. Never. When you're out of work, you're not regarded the same as when someone's paying you.

         In an case,  here's my own list of how to tell if you're at the wrong job at the wrong time. Print it out for when you feel trapped.

          1. You're at the wrong place when the work feels too easy. You need to be challenged, not coddled.

          2. You're at the wrong place when the raises stop coming. Either the company isn't doing well, or you aren't.

          3. You're at the wrong place if it starts to feel like work. It's supposed to be enjoyable.

          4. You're at the wrong place if all your work-friends have left. You probably need new challenges, too. But remember,  never ever quit your job before you have a new one.

          5. You're at the wrong place if you're promoted long after you should've been. It's flattering, perhaps, but they don't value you properly.

          What's the moral of all this? Life is too short to be in the wrong job. Work takes up far too much time. And another thing. Life is too long to just keep talking about changing jobs.


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