After surviving the past couple of months, I now understand why some people stay with the same company for decades at a time.
Changing jobs is an exercise in patience.
I’m thankful it’s one of those things that doesn’t come around in life too frequently.
Applying for a new job when you already have a fulltime job is tough.* You have to sacrifice precious free time outside of your workweek. Your brain may be exhausted after a day of work and a miserable slog home through traffic, but you need quality mental energy to spiff up your resume, search for openings, drudge through mile-long online application forms, click through ridiculous personality tests and draft individual cover letters.
Maybe you’re just too tired after work and instead cram in your job search activities on the weekends when you’d rather be outside walking or in the kitchen. Something has to give, even if it’s couch potato time (a.k.a. doing nothing and giving your mind and body a break, which has value too.) This is like having a second job, people! It takes dedication and persistence, and there’s a lot at stake.
But it’s not impossible.
I’m lucky that my most recent job search did not take long. I decided I was unhappy with my current situation and ready for a change. After a short period of applying for random positions on the internet, a great opportunity kind of found me, and I lunged for it. The job is back on the college campus that I left only about a year ago, doing work very similar to the one I had before. I missed that place, and the thought of returning made me feel warm and fuzzy inside in a way I hadn’t felt, well, since I left.
My crew of guardian angels – those gracious references and others I knew from campus – helped me more than I’ll probably ever know by putting in good words for me here and there. I’m grateful for these people. If you haven’t already figured it out, understand that your work relationships are important and require work, just like any good relationship. When you cross paths with good people in your professional life, learn from them and work hard for them. They’ll come to respect and value you, and they will be there when you need them (like the next time you’re looking for a new job, whether its 11 months or 3 years down the road).
I went for the 1-hour interview. That’s all it took. I landed the job.
Easy enough, right?
It seems so painless when summed up like that, but the entire process required so much patience on my part. There were times when I didn’t know if I was going to survive.
I didn’t have a choice. I had to go with the flow. I was not in control.
“What if I actually got that job I applied for? Then I wouldn’t have to do X, Y or Z anymore! I wouldn’t have to deal with this person or worry about that project. And I wouldn’t have to answer that dumb phone.”
Thoughts like these are distracting and kind of destructive. They’ll creep into your mind at all hours, but try to avoid them.
There are many, many periods of waiting:
- Submit application, wait and hope for invitation to interview.
- Schedule interview. Wait until the big day comes.
- Attend interview, send thank you notes and wait.
- Your reference lets me know she has a call scheduled soon.
- The call went well. Repeat with another reference.
- Miss call from hiring manager, receive voicemail. Sneak out to my car to return call. Receive offer, negotiate salary.
- Wait for word on salary. More calls and emails, more waiting. Forms must be submitted and signatures received for approval.
- More waiting. More missed calls, voice mails, trips to the car for phone calls.
- Accept final offer. It feels great!
- Wait for official offer letter.
- Sign and return offer letter, submit forms for background check.
- Wait for my boss to get back in town. He’s traveling and I want to deliver the news in person.
- Wait some more. Deep breath. Give notice.
The waiting is over, right? It’s party time now.
Wrong. More waiting…
- For the official announcement to be made to my coworkers… next Tuesday. By that time, the entire office has already heard it through the grapevine, which adds to the discomfort.
- For the “transition plan” that never materializes.
- To share the news with the client accounts I manage. One at a time, in person, over the next two weeks.
It becomes two weeks of awkwardness that I just have to get through. Uncomfortable conversations, some hints of envy. A few kind and genuine encouragements and also some faked pleasantries (both to you and by you).
“We’ll have to do something like lunch… you know, if we aren’t too busy…” Thanks, but no thanks. And by the way, I won’t miss how you whistle Top 40 hits at high volume from your office, while walking through the halls, and even from the restroom.
Lots of whispered conversations among my coworkers. At first they pique my interest, then after 30 minutes of nonstop whispering, I stop caring and forget all about it. I don’t think I’ve ever whispered for more than a few sentences. Then a few days later, the tables are turned. Someone is whispering all kinds of gossip at me, and it kind of just makes me feel icky.
“It’s Cinco de Mayo and to you, we say Goodbye-o.”
My last day arrives – finally! It happens to fall on Cinco de Mayo, and, this being Texas, we love the annual excuse to throw a party and eat tacos. We admittedly don’t appreciate the meaning behind the holiday, but we do appreciate that tacos are best enjoyed with margaritas. Tacos!
So the office manager arranges for a nice Tex-Mex lunch catered by Marianos (sans margaritas), which she would have done regardless of my departure. It sort of becomes a pseudo-celebratory lunch for me, which is both fun and uncomfortable. The weather is perfect so we actually eat outside (my favorite!), and the office manager even picks up a decadent farewell cake for dessert. Wow. After an carb-coma’d afternoon of pretending to work, I say a few goodbyes and get the heck out of there.
Whew. Done. With. Waiting.
Transitioning to a new job is a special circumstance we all face eventually, and hopefully it’s because we’ve made the choice to move on. Changing jobs is tough, but you will make it through it. You might even develop a new threshold for patience you never knew you had. I’m convinced I have.
Remember, you’re fortunate to have the privilege of finding a new job while already employed in a position that other people would love to have. This is a rare opportunity to take the reins and know that you’re making a step to improve your situation.
If you don’t love your job, don’t waste a day longer hating it. Life really is too short to work a job you dislike. Resolve to make a change today. Patience will be required, but it’s completely doable, and you’re worth it.
*Having a cushy desk job is a privilege. I’m incredibly grateful for my circumstances. I wrote this post so that others who haven’t been through transitions like this can learn and grow from my unique experience.
What was it like the last time you changed jobs?
What advice would you share to those thinking of making a change?