A long time ago, I was in a job I didn’t like too much. It was a matter of interpersonal dynamics rather than a problem with the job itself. In some ways, the fact that I wanted to succeed so badly in this job made everything worse. I worked hard, I did what I was told, I was technically stellar, but my inability to achieve a fully productive footing with my supervisor seemed like a humiliating disappointment.
One day, annoying little things happened and I dashed off an angry text to a friend. We’ll call him Jim. His name isn’t Jim.
Me: “When can I quit this job?
(two minutes pass)
Me: Give me a date…A specific date so I can count down – I want to mark those days off on a calendar. I need a date.
(another two minutes)
Me: How long EXACTLY do I have to work here?
Jim: Until two weeks before your next job starts.
It’s a phrase I keep in my back pocket for everyone who is disappointed in their job. Jim’s response reminded me that flexibility is critical for happiness. There was absolutely no point in getting frustrated (with myself, my boss, or the organization) because this wasn’t my fairy tale ending. It’s not my perfect combination of personal fulfillment and organizational benefit. Not every job can be that. People happen. Situations happen. Life happens.
It was time to reframe my expectations and change the game. Maybe I don’t get to leave an indelible mark on this organization, but that doesn’t mean that I couldn’t benefit from putting in my time at the organization. I continued to do my work, considered their feedback (knowing that I won’t always be wrong…not by a long shot), identified the professional development opportunities that would allow me to fill in the biggest gaps on my resume, and learned something. I stopped sweating the details that didn’t matter to my larger plan, and by doing so made my own life far less miserable.
And then I moved on.
Featured Image: Jon Liu, flickr.com