Look around. Do you remember the day you were offered your job? The feelings of elation, relief, and iron-forged confidence? That day, you could conquer the world or at least that company- and every problem it had. They wanted you, no, they NEEDED you! You may have even done a little happy dance or fist pump. I practically skipped down the street, smiling so hard my cheeks burned. New ideas were bouncing through my head like pin balls. I probably irritated everyone that first week, even the mail clerk.
Your first day was AMAZING! Everyone was perfect, from the guy who gave you a tour, and showed you to your cute work-space to the funny girl who cracked the corny jokes while peppering you with questions about seemingly irrelevant things in your life. Not even the kid kicking the copy machine who looked like he had recently been crying wasn’t a red flag. Everyone was AWESOME!
Now what happened between then and now? The very things that excited you before slowly turned heavy and now feel like anvils tied to your ankles, pulling you to the ocean floor. One by one, the challenges you couldn’t wait to tackle and the people you loved changed. Your co-workers became real people with strengths and some very annoying weaknesses. The challenges you couldn’t wait to solve soon became fatal flaws that surely will one day sink the company and bring you down with it. It’s time to quit- NOW!
Stop right there. Listen. Here’s what you need to do. Cut the ropes around your ankles and release the anvils. Swim to the surface, get some air and take another look. Remember that first day excitement as you take that first breath. You have some choices. Look back down at those shimmering anvils at the ocean floor. If you leave, those problems are still going to be there. The only difference is that someone else is going to come in and they will likely get excited about just like you. You will move on and get excited about somebody else’s shimmering anvils (recently severed). Every company has problems to be solved- and to be honest, if they didn’t, those jobs wouldn’t be very fun.
“But Sarah, it’s not the company problems I want to leave; it’s the PEOPLE!! I just can’t stand the poisonous people around me. The culture is so BAD. I just need to go to a company with a better culture. I had no idea what I signed up for.”
Well, okay, I hear you- but this is not out of your control. These people, and your issues with them, are just more shimmering anvils. Let’s use an analogy.
You’re excited to start a new video game. Level one isn’t bad. It’s actually pretty easy. But as you go deeper, it gets more challenging until it’s near impossible to get through a level without taking a few tries. It could take you weeks. The same is true with work and people. The problems get harder, but you get smarter. And just like the villains in the video game, the further you get in your career, the more types of people you will run into. At first, they will be the little turtles you can just kind of jump on and they slide away. But soon, you will have to face the Venus Plants that spit fire at you. Then you will have these flying turtles dropping bombs on you. At each level, you have a harder villain to face. They are getting you ready and teaching you skills to take on the big one- Bowser.
You can switch jobs or companies every time you run into someone you don’t get along with or see a problem you can’t solve. Go ahead! Restart the level. Or instead, you can face each person or problem as an opportunity to learn how to sharpen your skills. As you grow you will build on your knowledge, because we both know who is around the corner. Bowser- that big, ugly, villain- and he may come in any form. You can go from job to job, company to company, but you can’t outrun Bowser. This is because Bowser may not show up at work. Bowser could be your new In-laws, the one person standing between you and the biggest deal of your life, your teenage daughter, and yes, your boss. Bowser doesn’t have to be a person, he could be a diagnosis of cancer, or a natural disaster, or depression. Bowser could be your ex-husband, or worse yet- your ex-husband’s lawyer. If you have no practice dealing with difficult people or handling difficult situations throughout your career and life you will be under prepared and overwhelmed. Bowser wins. And the tough part, is there is no secret code.
As a career and life coach, most people approach me because they want to change jobs or get ready for an interview. I am happy to help them. But when I notice that they are just looking to start the level over and go back to jumping on turtles my first question is “Why?”. My duty is to help them to prepare for Bowser. I help my clients to gain the tools and to prepare themselves for “The Big One”. You don’t have to smile through it and you won’t enjoy every minute, but boy does it feel good when you jump on that flag when you beat that next level? I also help clients identify when life gets a little too easy- are you hanging out in level two too long? Is it time to start asking for that raise? Is it time to start prepping for a promotion? Should we be working on a career plan? It’s time to level up.