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In a FOOW? workshop, a participant four years into his first job after college said he hated his job with a passion. After two years of job searching and constant interviewing he wasn’t getting any offers despite his marketable degree. I made a personal observation and told him we could discuss it offline; he said I could inform the group.
I said his bitterness about his job was following him around like a bad odor. Until he got rid of it, he wouldn’t see progress. I explained that hiring managers are looking for someone to solve their problems and not add to them, so he needed to leave his “Bitterman” home—especially during interviews. Better yet, get rid of him because otherwise he will keep you in a viscous cycle of discontent. I also encouraged him to deconstruct his discontent by interviewing his ego to determine the source of the bitterness. Was it linked to him, the job or both? If it was him, another job would only be a temporary solution. He agreed that he was bitter, understood my perspective and thanked me for being brutally honest. Yeah, he said brutal.
Trying to find the ideal job is like trying to find the ideal mate. Mr. Right may sound good on paper but off of it, his issues coupled with yours may overflow a newsstand. So what do you do?
1) Decide quickly based on the first few meetings that “he’s just not that into you” or vice versa and keep looking OR
2) Date him to determine if the good outweighs the bad. If it does, make the most of it. If it doesn’t, leave a bit wiser OR
3) Settle into an unfulfilling relationship because you feel it is safer than searching for someone else, or identifying what you want and pursuing it. So you redirect your discontent by focusing on your mate’s issues, to avoid focusing on your own…believing that “treading water” in a bad relationship is favorable than swimming towards something better.
Searching for the “right” job can follow this same trend; when you think it’s the Ideal Job on paper, REALITY throws salt in your fantasy leaving you sometimes optimistic, wiser, or just a bit salty.
Like your first date, companies are looking for people who are running towards them, not running from something. Sometimes our “Mr. Right” requirements are one-sided—we list his irrefutable requirements without acknowledging our own irrefutable flaws. This results in us bringing nothing more than “wants” to the expectation table, while looking for big returns for ourselves.
I have had people tell me they would do a better job when they work for a better company or when they get a better raise or a better promotion. But until then, they will do just enough. In other words, they want the company to prove that it deserves their effort, which is a bit delusional.
Delusion can be divine in a temporary state (like the honeymoon period in a relationship). But long term, delusion tends to overfeed your ego, inflating it until a collision with reality is inevitable. For example, one time I was eating lunch with coworkers and one of them was calling her boyfriend’s ex-girlfriends ugly. I said, ALL of them were ugly and she said yes. So I asked if she was the exception or the rule. She laughed it off, but her eyes were cursing me out. I was honestly asking out of curiosity, because I was fascinated with her ego.
Reality can be a humbling messenger even when delivered through big-mouth curiosity. Accepting reality means you have to accept responsibility for your own satisfaction. And I can attest from personal experience that that’s not easy—and so deflecting reality is comfortable even when it is counter-productive.
Discovering if you need to improve what you know to get what you want, or improve who you are to get who you want, is all about you and your ability to respond to challenges. The dog may have eaten your “homework” when you were eight, but did he eat your “motivation” at 28, 38, 48, 58?
Having a job you hate is like being in a loveless marriage with someone who pays the bills you can’t afford. In both cases, you stay and grow bitter—treading water, because it is hard to say goodbye to misery if you don’t leave.
There is no one path to success, but defining yours starts with you making a concerted effort to do better at identifying what you want, how to get it and pursuing it. “Your work is to discover your work, and then with all your heart to give yourself to it” is an applicable Buddha quote.
You will encounter issue-laden people and companies in your personal and professional lives; just remember that failure isn’t a bad teacher, but failing to learn is. If the mountain was smooth, you couldn’t climb it. At some point it is not the people, job, or situation that’s not “right”—it is simply the “I” in bitter…which is you.
Written by: Gwendolyn M. Ward, Principal at FOOW?
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