Have you ever been in a bad relationship? You aren't happy. Your partner doesn't respect you. You can't do what you want for fear you'll be criticized. You feel stifled and stuck.
You dream of moving on, but you really don't want to leave because there's some comfort in the fact that you are familiar with your situation. Even if it's neither ideal nor pleasant, at least it's something!
It's likely you are having an ongoing conversation with yourself about whether you should stay or go. Some day's you are 100% stay. . . . other days you are100% go. But more often than not you find yourself vacillating from one answer to the other several times during the course of your day.
Because leaving a relationship takes so much effort and determination, you may spend a lot of time convincing yourself to stay. Perhaps you are saying:
"It's not that bad. "
"I think things will change. "
"So and so looks like they are changing. . . I'll hold on a bit longer to see what happens. "
"I just need to try harder and everything will improve. "
"I won't be able to find anything better. "
"I should be happy with what I have. "
"Who do I think I am? There are many people in the world who are in a situation that's not ideal. I need to just deal with it. "
All of these statements are signs that you are settling for something that's really not working for you. You have resigned yourself to the fact that you can't be happy. You have lost touch with the fact that you have the ability to create a life that really works for you.
How Does This Relate to Careers, You Ask
With just a few word changes, everything in the previous paragraphs applies to people who are in jobs or careers that don't work for them.
Generally people who are frustrated with their work feel that they can't be themselves at work. They may not feel respected by individuals in the company or the company itself. They worry about what they can do and what they shouldn't do.
It's often difficult for people in bad relationships and bad jobs to come to terms with the fact that they are in a situation that's not working for them. They do whatever they can to convince themselves that the difficulties are temporary and will turn around in the near future. In fact, they often search their surroundings for any small sign to prove this is true.
Unfortunately, one sign that a partner or a work situation is improving isn't enough to turn the entire situation around. Just because your boss acknowledges you or provides you with the resources you need to do your job, doesn't mean the job is suddenly a good fit for you. Just because your company adds a new benefit that gives you a bit more flexibility or provides you with better health insurance, doesn't mean the job is working for you.
For a job or career to work for you, it needs to meet four key characteristics.
1) You need to be able to be fully yourself at work.
2) The job needs to support you in living the life you want.
3) The work environment needs to support you in being both productive and satisfied.
4) The work you do must tap your passions and interests.
If your workplace forces you to be someone you aren't, if your personal life is squeezed out by your work life, if your work environment limits you, or if the work itself is boring or unbearably stressful, your job is NOT working for you.
Now What Do You Do?
As soon as you can acknowledge that your job isn't a good fit for you, it's time to explore your options. This is a tricky time because it's so easy to be swept back into believing you should stick it out, work harder, or settle for what's going on at work. Don't let your guard down! You deserve to have a job that works for you personally and professionally.
Even if you can't make a change immediately, begin focusing your time and attention on what's DOES work for you. This is the first, critical step in creating a career that works for you. You must gather as many clues as you can about who you are, how you want to live, and what you love to do. To do this, ask yourself these questions:
What are you drawn to?
What topics interest you?
What skills do you like to use in your work?
What lifestyle do you want to have?
What work environment supports you and your life?
What is your innate personal style?
As you begin answering these questions, don't worry about how you are going to tie all this information together. Just gather as many clues as you can. Start by recording the information you collect. Then when you have at least forty items listed, begin looking for themes and patterns in list. What have you learned about yourself and how can you leverage that information into a great career.
Although this process may take some time, don't get discouraged. The time you spend discovering and understanding yourself and your needs will allow you to make good, solid decisions as you step into your future. You'll not only be able to evaluate new job possibilities (and even new relationships) with more confidence and clarity, you'll be able to use this new sense of yourself to keep yourself out of unworkable jobs and relationships in the future.
Copyright (c) 2007 Transition Dynamics Enterprises, Inc.
Carol McClelland, PhD, is the author of Your Dream Career For Dummies and the creator of the Career Clarity Program, an online program that helps you find your dream career and make it real. She’s helped thousands of people find a career that’s a great fit both personally and professionally. To receive a free copy of her Dream Career Workbook, visit http://www.careerclarityprogram.com and request the workbook in the left navigation bar.