Wednesday, August 22, 2012

On dumping deadbeat boyfriends and dead-end jobs

Breaking up is hard to do

Shortly after I turned 25, I quit what I had thought was my dream job and made a lateral leap of faith. The more hand-wringing I did over this decision, the more it hit me: This felt familiar. I had been dating the same guy for awhile, and had almost forgotten how breaking up feels, and how much it sucks. Even though I was terminating my employment and not ending a romance, it felt nearly indistinguishable.  I felt guilty and sad, but also excited and relieved. I hoped my ex employer was able to find a suitable replacement, and I dreaded running into mutual friends at social functions.

Once I made the deadbeat boyfriend/dead-end job connection, it got easier. I felt more justified, like I deserved better. So I flipped my hair with purpose and marched out the door, onward and upward.

For the benefit of fellow ambitious young people who’ve been convinced they’re lucky to have a boyfriend that doesn’t hit them or a job that pays minimum wage, allow me to illuminate the ways in which leaving a stagnant job is like dumping a bad boyfriend (and why you should do it, do it now):

Move forward or Move on:

If your role evolves but your title won’t, whether that’s from assistant to associate or significant other to spouse, you’re wasting your time.

How long would you date someone before meeting his or her parents? How long would you live with someone before making plans to make it permanent? There comes a point in either relationship — personal or professional — when you realize it’s not going anywhere. And when you stop moving forward, you have to move on.

No bluffing:

When I left the first job I ever loved, my boss asked me why I hadn’t just demanded more money. I had thought about taking my new offer back and laying out an ultimatum, but decided that, in the end, it wouldn’t rectify the root problem.

It’s the same with relationships.

Could you stomp your feet, make empty threats about your imminent departure and demand some grand gesture? Sure. But what would it change, really? Flowers die, and that 2-percent raise doesn’t even cover inflation. I’ve learned first-hand: boyfriends — and bosses — don’t change.

Stop looking and you’ll find it:

It’s when you’re not looking that love — and a job you love — seem to fall into your lap. For me, the fact that I wasn’t willing to accept just anything that came my way meant my next opportunity was worth the wait. I was able to articulate to my prospective employer exactly what I was looking for, what didn’t get me going and what I wanted my day-to-day existence to look like.

Had I gone in reeking of “rebound,” I would have made a less attractive candidate and I wouldn’t have been chased the way I was or treated as well once I was caught.

It’s not me; it’s you:

Sometimes it’s not about diminishing affection or any love lost, you’re simply not being treated well enough. The timing was off.  The effort was unbalanced. Your needs weren’t getting met.

Take ownership of your decision to end it and make your exit with grace; appreciate everything you learned and abandon any resentment or bitterness for your employer or your ex.  After all, you never know when you could use a good reference.

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