Discover a New Opportunity, an excerpt from Say Yes: A Woman’s Guide to Advancing Her Professional Purpose.
Sometimes, no matter how hard you try, how well you network, how many opportunities you take on to stretch yourself and grow, things just don’t work. There is no wisdom in remaining in a misaligned situation for an extended period of time. When your talents and skills don’t match the job you are being asked to do, you will not succeed— not because you failed or “just couldn’t figure it out,” but because you and your role aren’t well suited for each other. A bad fit seldom gets better with time. I often tell friends who are in misaligned romantic relationships that a breakup doesn’t have to mean one person was bad or didn’t try hard enough. There’s not always an enemy. It can be that you just don’t want the same things. Or that what you each bring as individuals isn’t complementary. Or that you just can’t “work” together. The same is true of employees and jobs, or companies. Sometimes the best thing you can do for yourself is something else.
I know taking the initiative to leave an unpleasant work situation is scary. Many of us live such that our lifestyles and our incomes are interdependent. If one changes, the other must change too. And because we work hard to create stability for our families and ourselves, the thought of shifting from a seemingly sure thing—no matter how miserable we are—to an unsure thing sounds not only difficult but unwise. But advancing your professional purpose is about the long term. I assume you’re interested in purpose-driven work or you wouldn’t be reading this book. And as with anything worthwhile, we sometimes have to make difficult choices for the greater good. Staying put in a bad fit endangers your emotional well-being, your reputation, your business goals, and those whom you lead. While it can be hard to transition, more is often at risk in not doing so.
Below are a few ways to tell when it’s time to explore a new opportunity.
• Check your gut. How do you feel when you get up in the morning to go to work? If occasionally you’re not feeling it, that’s normal. But if it’s been weeks to months and every morning you wish you were selling piña coladas in Hawaii, you may be misaligned in your current role. Leading with your strengths creates energy. Having to operate in your skill gap for too long is draining, even for the most responsible workers. Your emotional response to being miscast can range from boredom to constant frustration to anger.
• Check your results. Are you delivering against your goals? If so, on a scale of 1 to 10, how easy or difficult has it been for you? Does everything feel like a burden, or is there a balance of struggles and easy wins? If you’re not delivering, is it circumstantial? Or is it more like perpetually banging your head against the wall? If it’s just too hard, all the time, you may be miscast. When you’re in a good job fit, it doesn’t feel like drudgery, even when the work is truly challenging and the barriers are great.
• Check your feedback. If you haven’t received unsolicited positive feedback from peers, bosses, or directs in more than six months, that’s a signal. If you work in a culture where no one gets unsolicited feedback, then ask your stakeholders for it. Conversely, if you work in a culture where unsolicited positive feedback flows like water, get pointed feedback on your performance. If the responses are minimal or mostly focused on development, you may be miscast.
If you are indeed misaligned, be encouraged. I’ve heard countless stories from women who found themselves in seemingly impossible situations, only to rise from the ashes, so to speak. A poor job fit isn’t the end of the world. In fact, it can be just the beginning.
Tara Jaye Frank is VP of Multicultural Strategy for Hallmark Cards, Inc. and the author of Say Yes: A Woman’s Guide to Advancing Her Professional Purpose, written to help women from all cultural backgrounds chart a career course they can believe in and achieve. Follow her on Twitter @tarajfrank.