I have tremendous empathy for clients who contact me after a long career in an area that took a ton of work to get into. Nurses, executive directors, senior decision makers at corporations... So many years of schooling or strategic moves, only to “arrive” and dislike where they are.
These people are typically very eager to set up a consult, but not as eager for coaching. Why? Because agreeing to coaching is akin to admitting that all that work didn't get them where they thought it would. It's heartbreaking. For some, the consult ends our relationship, because it's obvious that by working together we would eventually move them into something they like better. Which sounds good, but also means giving up what isn't working.
Reframing “Giving Up”
But how could I leave what I've been pouring my blood, sweat and tears into? You ask. How could I do that? Yes, when framed this way it sounds like you'll have to betray yourself to get what you want- a career you love, that treats you better than the one you have. But who wants to betray themselves to get there?
Is this you? You haven't been happy in your job for a long time. You've tried every avenue to “make it better” from switching managers to changing your team. You end most days drained, no matter how many moves you make in the same company or field. You feel like there must be something better out there for you, but don't know what it is. And you certainly don't have the energy to figure it out at the end of another stressful day. When the weekend comes you just want to forget about work and try to get things done and enjoy what little time off you get.
So forget it! It's not worth stressing out about, right?
And then Monday happens....
And you're still unhappy.
What would it take to give yourself permission to get off the hamster wheel of unhappiness, even though it feels like you're going against years of effort?
What if you admitted that what's broken can't always be fixed?
First, let's acknowledge that you did a phenomenal job surviving and sometimes thriving in a very difficult environment. The bad managers, the total lack of recognition, the backwards culture or unrealistic workload.... You made it through that. You did what you could to make the job work for you. For most of us there is nothing else you could've done to change the structures that were imposed upon you. So first of all, I recognize you for all of the recognition you should've gotten and didn't. I know how undervalued you've been.
Second, know that you went through all of that for so long because you had great intentions. You wanted to provide for yourself and your family. You were hoping to help people, or build a great team, or do something meaningful with your time there. That's admirable, and some aspects of your goals did come to fruition, or you would've left a long time ago. Even if it just paid the bills, or gave you a new friend, the job did serve a purpose. You didn't simply waste all that time.
Now, it helps to ask yourself what you need your job to do for you that it isn't doing and can't do. Did you need it to give you a sense of purpose? Did you need the community of coworkers? What is it that you were hoping would happen and simply hasn't?
Whatever your answer, it's valid. It's okay to want that thing and look for alternatives when you aren't getting it. It doesn't mean you are abandoning your efforts, your team, or anything else. You are simply admitting the truth-- which is that you deserve to feel better with the waking hours you have.
Once you get very honest with yourself about what isn't working and accepting that it's okay to want more (otherwise you wouldn't be so frustrated by your work), your first step is to allow time to not necessarily know what's next, but consider the possibility that it could be much better than what you've been doing.
You Don't Have to Have all the Answers
If your first inclination is to ask “But what could be better?” You are in the majority. Most people need to know what's next to even consider leaving what they have. We need to feel safe to make big choices.
You don't have to have all the answers. You simply allow the idea that something else could serve you better... and that leaving where you've been struggling for so long isn't giving up-- it's opening up to what's next.
So what if you didn't have to figure it out all by yourself? What if your approach to finding your purpose work or dream job wasn't anything like the stress of your current job? Working with someone who is on YOUR team for once can be extremely freeing. Someone who provides the exact structure, information, and even connections that it takes to change career paths. Someone who knows that this isn't a process of giving up-- it's a process of lovingly letting go.
This is very different than simply “giving up.” We both know you aren't a quitter. You did try to make this job work for you. You aren't the type to walk out without giving notice in some kind of dramatic “F-you” to management. But you deserve better than this, and it might be time to lovingly let go.
If you're ready to create some space to consider the possibility of something better, let's talk. It's free, fun, and freeing.
Career Clarity Now