by: Annette Richards, Guest Writer
The J-O-B is a reality for millions of women. At some point in time they entered into a contract with an employer to be good corporate citizens. For some those arrangements began early in life — maybe with a part-time or after school job in teenage years; while others entered the workforce a little later.
Whatever stage in life it became necessary or appropriate for you to begin exchanging your time and skills for money, when you signed that employment contract, you made a promise to bring the best of you to the table everyday, within the context of the employment, and to help an organization achieve their goals. Bonus, if in the process, you can achieve your own goals, too! After a few years though, or sometimes even as short as months, the patina wears off and the honeymoon ends. That bright star that entered the workforce — with the drive to effect change, make a difference, and be the best she can be — ceases to shine. And where fire once burned, there is now a little glow of the gem that came to this marriage of sorts.
It’s an all too common situation. So many get lost in the drudgery of long-term employment and can no longer find the thing that made them rise before the alarm clock to go to work. For so many reasons: the salary is no longer sufficient; you haven’t had a salary increase in years; the work is no longer interesting; there are no growth opportunities; you are not challenged; the organizational culture has changed; work relationships are strained; you were hired for the job of one person, and now you’re doing the job of three. The list goes on. And sadly, you’re showing up as a mere shadow and reduction of your former self, just counting the hours everyday to exit the building. On some days, 5 pm of the 9 - 5 seems too far away. And during the week, you live for “hump” day. On Wednesday a little smile returns to your face because you’ve only got two more days until Fri-yay!!
If that’s where you are today, in that stage of “I have to find a way to end this marriage, relationship, employment contract — monikers for the "time for money exchange" — I have a suggestion for how you can salvage the relationship with your employment, and rekindle the fire and shine of your former self. If this is not you, and you’re still on the employment honeymoon, still fired-up, loving your work and inspired to show up in the office and make a difference each day, this strategy will work for you, too. Here are four steps to achieving success on the job without losing yourself.
(1) Be honest about your abilities and capabilities. This means starting the employment relationship out right. Don’t fudge your resume and don’t pretend to be what you’re not. You won’t be able to keep up the facade for long, and you will spend your time trying to hide the fact that you weren’t who you said you were when you signed that contract. It also means that if new challenges arise on the job for which you lack the skills, speak up! Admit and show that you’re willing to rise to the occasion, but you’re going to need some help in doing so. Then create a plan to level up. The truth will set you free! Instead of spending your time and energy cloaking, (that’s a Star Trek reference!) you can spend it working on your personal professional improvement and development in full disclosure. One less load for you to carry!
(2) Be honest about your capacity. In any relationship, and the employment contract is no exception, “Yes” cannot be the only word in your vocabulary! It’s only a matter of time before the load breaks you, and stress fractures reduce you to a lesser version of yourself — physically and emotionally. Not everyone in a responsibility of oversight has the insight or is thoughtful enough to say, “she has a lot on her plate already.” You will have to do that for yourself. So, respect the value of your “No.” Be your own advocate. Don’t suffer in silence thinking that if you’re asked to do something, it means you have to find a way to get it done, at all costs. You will be the only one footing that bill when you become ill, stressed or simply out of commission. When you’re doing 5 things and you’re asked to do the 6th thing, work with your team to decide on the real priorities. What is urgent? What can wait? Which project really needs your attention first? Can someone else do some of it? You want to do your best work, and that will require having the physically and mental capacity to do so. So, raise your hand when your plate is full.
(3) Be honest about your aspirations. You should not come last in this or any relationship! Your needs must be met, too. I know sometimes it really is just a job, and you’re there only because you need to pay the bills. But the best way to ensure a win-win for everyone in the employment relationship is to be honest about what you want out of it. Yes, you’re exchanging your time and skills for the dollars, but are there any growth opportunities for you? It might not always equate to more pay. How can this relationship move you closer to your goals? Are there any opportunities for advancements? Do your research. Use the interview process, if you can, to scope this out. This will help you to determine if you will be staying for a couple years or if you can expect a longer employment stint.
(4) Know when it’s time to end the relationship. In every area of life, the nicer people often stay way too long. You know the honeymoon has been over for quite some time, but you’re hanging on. You’re not enjoying the job anymore, but you’re still there. You’re doing the work of three people, but you’re still there. You will never advance past where you are today — laterally or vertically — but you’re still there. I get it, especially in uncertain financial times, it seems easier to suck it up and stay because you’re scared to even imagine what’s on the other side of not having this job and guaranteed paycheque every two weeks. I don’t suggest you walk away from financial certainty without a plan. But if you know it’s time to go, start devising your exit strategy. Not all employment relationships are meant to last until you retire from the workforce, and they certainly should not be held up with bubble gum or bandaid or until you’ve lost yourself.
These four strategies are important for more than getting the job done. They will help you to remain the best version of yourself. Make no mistake, you were not hired just for your skills and abilities. You were hired for the “package” that is you — your shine. So, if everyday your job rubs off your patina and reduces you to a lesser version of yourself, no one wins. It’s also likely that you bring the stress of your work home and the drudgery seeps into other areas of your life. In the process of delivering on the expectations of your employment and honouring the people who are paying you to produce results, you are obligated to keep that promise, but you must also keep your shine! Give of yourself (your time, your energy, your expertise, and the wisdom of your experience) but don’t sacrifice yourself. Yes, in the curious waltz … Be honest about your abilities and capabilities. Be honest about your capacity. Be honest about your aspirations. And, lastly, know when it’s time to end the relationship.
Annette Richards is a self-professed full-life enthusiast. She thrives on self-expression, the pursuit of personal best and a life driven by purpose. A passionate writer, teacher and the consummate cheerleader, she founded Life in Revision - a platform to support and cheer others on their journey of life and learning. Life in Revision is designed to motivate and empower individuals to move in the direction of their dreams and find the highest and fullest expression of themselves. Connect with Annette on Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn.