N.B. The following blog post was originally published on the 2nd February 2012 on my very first website/blog. This essay was the seed that helped me write and publish my book, "It's Not You, It's Me: Break Up With You Job, Make A Difference And Live A Life You Love". Where I shared my journey of how I managed to land my dream job at the Movember Foundation and also whereI compare the similarities between quitting your job and leaving a romantic relationship. Today I believe this analogy is more relevant than ever and I plan to distill the idea behind it, develop it, and share it on a TEDx stage in 2017. Until then, here's the original un-edited version of my blog post:
Ever since I decided not to settle for anything less than my dream job, I’ve come to realise that searching for a new position while being fully employed sort of feels like looking for a new girlfriend while staying put in a relationship. It feels kind of wrong. It doesn’t matter how versatile you are in the trades and tools of sneaking around, you’re still having to do it: pimping yourself out once in a while, finding yourself rushing out the room to take a sensitive phone call, dressing up for no particular reasons, trading holidays for meeting potential employers, covering your tracks etc. But deep down you know you’re on your way out. It’s just a matter of time. It’s just a matter of finding the “right one”.
Welcome to the world of corporate adultery.
You see, sensible people in general will always tell you never to give up your job before you find a new one. A bit like a monkey shouldn’t really let go of his branch while swinging mid-air if he hasn’t spotted the next one. Things could get ugly. But at the same time, mixing your daily work duties with your nocturnal job searching activities can be exhausting to say the least. Add to that traveling abroad for job interviews, being turned down, and you’re basically left drained like a soggy towel. It takes a toll on you both physically and morally.
But then again, “sensible people only do sensibly well”.
Now imagine trying doing the same thing while being in a relationship. What would you do? How would you go about it? Would you want to be that guy or that girl? I hope not. There’s a certain sense of morality involved in relationships. Some might claim that it’s the same in a business or corporate environment. You might say that the honourable thing to do is to break up with your employer before heading off with a new one.
Think about it for a second. Why would you stay with someone that didn’t bring you satisfaction, that left you feeling unfulfilled and didn’t contribute to anything positive in your life, just because you haven’t found something better yet? Would you get up everyday and tell yourself “God, I don’t want to go and see my partner today!”? You’d probably say “hell no!”, and shake off that monkey off your back. But enough with the monkey comparisons.
So why would it be any different with your job?
Well, here’s the difference. In a relationship, although you might find yourself sticking to it because you just haven’t found a better option yet, you’re hopefully not getting paid for it. It’s hard work, don’t get me wrong, the whole nurturing and growing your relationship thing. But you’re not exchanging your feelings (labour) for hard cash (salary). If you are it’s not called a relationship, it’s called a business transaction. And that kind of transaction usually takes place in either a motel or in the back of a van on the side of the road.
So is that it? Is it the salary issue that’s keeping you from letting go? I agree. The biggest difference is that breaking up with your employer has certain financial implications to it. But wouldn’t you have the same thing if you went through an ugly divorce? Would the financial implications stop you from going your own way? My guess is that eight times out of ten the answer would be no. So maybe like in a relationship, the reason why you’re not leaving your job is because: a) You’re too scared to leave, b) You’re lacking of cojones, c) You like to weigh in your options or d) You don’t know what you’re looking for so what’s the point in leaving?.
You could argue that comparing intimate relationships with business relationships is border line socially and morally acceptable. But is it really? Are they really that different? After all, most of our adult life is spent at work, which would explain why so many flings and ‘forever afters’ kick off at work.
On the other hand, being out of work, like being single, suddenly makes you a little less attractive. Something with being too available. Employers like to see that you’re employable and cashable, while new partners like to know you’re not desperate. Because let’s face it, when you end up being single or unemployed for more than 24hrs it’s written all over your face. It’s like shooting fish in a barrel. Too easy. Plus, it’s all about leverage. When you’re employed, as you’re not in a hurry, you’ve got some leverage to negotiate your new salary and other areas of the contract.
Same goes with a new partner. I’ll let your imagination guess where I’m going with this.
It’s a catch twenty two. On one side you’re sticking to a ‘situation’ you’re unhappy with just because you haven’t found your next big move yet, and on the other side you break free from your ‘situation’ and find yourself with more space and more time than ever before. But all of a sudden you become less of an attractive catch. Or do you?
It’s important you weigh in your options and realise what you value most.
My point is the following: If you’re not happy where you are and you know you shouldn’t be there, then break up with your job. Or at least do something drastic to get yourself going, like hand in your notice saying you’ll leave in three months time. That should give you enough time to secure your finances and find your next ideal job.
The only reason why you’re still sitting in your chair behind your desk bitching about how much you hate your job is because you’re scared. Scared that if you do go after what you want you might not get it. Or worse, you might get it and won’t know what to do with it. Scared that you’ll struggle financially because you just got too comfortable with your lifestyle and you have now become financially dependent. Scared that you won’t be able to provide for your family. Scared that you’ll face rejection one more time.
Well, it’s time to get uncomfortable. Dreams weren’t built around being comfortable. They were built by going after what seemed impossible and reaching out out for what seemed to be out of reach. “Great challenges create great opportunities.”
Here’s my message to you: If deep down you know that you’re in the wrong place and that something doesn’t feel right, that you know you’re not meant to be doing what you’re doing, then break up once and for all, move on and go for it. I would give you the same advice about a relationship if you were in the same scenario. Be hungry.
As long as you know that at the end of the tunnel is your promise land, it’s all worth it. Because no matter what, you should never settle for anything less than who you truly are. The more I speak to people around me, the more I realise that everyone is misplaced in their jobs today. It’s as if we were all meant to do something, and then came the job storm, swept us all away and re-placed us in something that would just “pay the bills”. Of course you will come across the rare few who are actually doing something they truly love. They don’t need to say it. You can see it on their faces. A flashy billboard that almost screams “Oh. I’m sorry to hear you’re not doing something you love. Because I sure as hell couldn’t do it!”.
So ask yourself the following question: Next time someone asks you “what do you do? ” and follows it up with “and do you enjoy it?” what would you rather answer? “Let’s just say it pays the bills” or “I’m living the dream because I do what I love”.
It’s your call