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Career Management: Your Job Isn’t the Last One on Earth

My closest girlfriend ended an almost year-long, romantic relationship three weeks ago.  She thought she’d feel better by now, that some of the pain would have subsided.  But it hasn’t.  She’s scared and lonely, and worried that he was her last shot at the life she envisions for herself.  Of course, this isn’t true.  A very small part of her brain knows that. But that part is on medical leave right now, and what’s running the show is the irrational part.  The part that says she’ll end up like Ms. Havisham in Great Expectations (you know, that horrendous classic we had to read in 9th grade), with a house full of cobwebs and cats.

She held onto him and the relationship much longer than she should have because she was afraid – afraid of not finding someone who was a better fit for her.  So she tried to make the relationship work.  And many of us are doing the same thing at work.

We are in the wrong company or in the wrong job.  We know it.  Our boss probably knows it.  Our friends and spouse know it, because they hear about it ALL THE TIME.  But we’re afraid.  The job market is bad.  [There aren’t any good men.]  You should be grateful to have a job [Any relationship is better than being alone.] The grass is always greener. [You’re too picky.]

I’m not telling you not to compromise.  You won’t get everything you want at the same time.  You may find a job you love, that pays so-so.  Or a job three miles from your house, but there’s a lot of travel.  Or the work is interesting and challenging, and you can wear jeans to work, but your boss is a jerk.  There is always something.

You have to know what you need and what you want in a company and in a job.  And needs and wants are not the same thing.  What you want is nice to have, but not having it won’t kill your career, your spirit, or your checking account.  Get clear on what you need.  Until you know what you need, you will continue to take the wrong jobs and date the wrong people.

Unfortunately the only way to discover what you need is by having it.  For example, I didn’t add fun and tolerant to my list of dating requirements until I went on a date with a man who was neither.  I didn’t add needing an office until I had a job with a cubical that was louder than a bar at happy hour.

We figure out what we like to do and what we need in a job by working.  So take jobs for the experience.  And when you realize you are in the wrong job or at the wrong company, get out. Don’t spend two years trying to convince yourself that your current situation is ok and could be what you want.  It’s not.

You’ll make yourself sick trying to fit where you simply don’t.  If it’s a collaborative culture and you see team as a four letter word, you will be unhappy.  If you want to leave at five everyday and it’s a workaholic, face-time culture, you will be miserable.  Miserable defined:  You can’t be yourself.  When we can’t be ourselves we fake it.  And we can only fake it for so long.

Career management requires you to identify what you need and want in a company and in a job.  Determine if you can get what you need at your current company.  If you can, ask for it and then work hard to demonstrate that you deserve it.  And if the job you want isn’t available at your current company, start looking for a place where you can find it.  He isn’t the last man and you aren’t in the last job.


Shari Harley is the founder and President of Candid Culture, a Denver-based training firm that is bringing candor back to the workplace, making it easier to give feedback at work. Shari is the author of the business communication book How to Say Anything to Anyone: A Guide to Building Business Relationships that Really Work. She is a keynote speaker at conferences and does training throughout the U.S. Learn more about Shari Harley and Candid Culture’s training programs at

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