I’ve grown increasingly frustrated with my current job and while I don’t hate it yet, I think it’s time to look elsewhere. But working full time and managing things at home leaves little room for a job search. What’s the best way to approach this?
You’re already ahead of the game because you’re looking ahead. Many people try to “hang in there” with a job that no longer works, which usually results is a dramatic, that’s-it-I-can’t-take-it-anymore moment. So after you throw the stapler at your boss’s head and storm out, there you are: no job, no prospects, and little chance of a letter of reference.
You say you “don’t hate it yet” so the likelihood that you will soon is strong, as you’ve made the correlation in your mind that “hate” is an adjective associated with the bulk of your daily activity.
Going from “hate” to “great” doesn’t begin with the classifieds; it ends there. There’s far more important work to do before finding the dream job, namely:
Define the problem. Before you decide where you’re going, the first step is to assess where you are. Examine why you’ve become increasingly frustrated and have begun to hate this job. Jobs are like relationships; until we figure out why we’re in a negative situation, we’re likely to repeat the pattern.
Break out a pen and paper and list the reasons why the job no longer works for you. Go below the surface on this one. Instead of writing down “My boss is a jerk,” delve deeper. Why is he or she a jerk? Is she moody? Is he a micromanager? Is she a blamer? Is he inconsistent?
Explore the solution. Muse for a while about what a healthier and more productive boss would look like and how having one would change your daily experience. People are often promoted due to skill level but not necessarily because they have exceptional leadership skills. Very talented people find themselves in management positions when they really only know how to manage themselves, leaving the people who answer to them extremely frustrated.
Use this approach for every aspect of the job you find discouraging. By countering what you don’t want with what you do, you’ll soon have a sketched-out vision of what you’re looking for the next time around. This will give you a clearer picture of your job search goal so that you don’t find yourself in a different job but still in the same situation.
Put the vision to work. This vision is also valuable when you’ll interview for future positions, as you have essentially drafted a list of criteria that outlines what you want. Use it to ask the questions to which you want answers. Be tactful with your interviewers, but don’t be afraid to interview them right back.
You may also find through this process that it’s not the job you hate, but rather the industry you’re in or the role you’ve taken on that doesn’t really fit. Sometimes you turn around to find your marketing job has really become a sales job, which isn’t what you signed up for and isn’t what you want to do.
Determine if it can it be saved. Is there any way you can breathe your newfound vision into your current job? Before jumping ship, make sure there’s nothing you can do to salvage that job you once liked. In some cases, thinking strategically can improve your current work situation.
Think you’re underpaid? Pow wow with your boss about a promotion strategy that will enable you to grow with the company, or explore additional responsibilities you could take on if additional compensation came with them.
Feel like your boss is intolerant of your personal commitments, such as school plays or doctors’ appointments? Open up a dialogue about it. Point out that you’re in no way attempting to steal company time, but that you’re not willing to shortchange your kids or your health either. Offer to work remotely for a few extra hours to make up the time if the nasty looks and passive aggressive commentary would both come to halt.
Craft a strategy. If your current job can’t be saved, create a plan of action before that stapler goes flying. Maybe that means some coursework at the local college to add to your knowledge base while you still have the security of your current paycheck. Carve out reasonable chunks of time on weekends to update your resume, explore what kinds of opportunities are out there and what they pay on average. Get in front of more people by adding a few networking events to your calendar. More contacts = more opportunities.
Involve your family. It’s not just about you. Talk to your partner or family about your vision and how you’re going to go about achieving it. Respect that your family members may not be thrilled about this shift initially, as it means more time away from you. Let them know you understand this, and thank them upfront for their support. Share with them what a happier you would look like, and how that would impact your relationship for the better. You at Johnny’s soccer games, not checking your smartphone every 5 seconds, for example.
Remember that you’re not a frog. If you put a frog in a pot of room temperature water on the stove, and slowly increase the heat, the frog will not notice the gradual heating of the water and will not jump out to save himself.
So, before you boil over, remember our friend the frog who simply acclimated to the discomfort. Think strategically, look, and then leap.