Not ready to commit to a job? Here’s why
Most of us these days are looking for a job to love. Society calls our generation “serial job hoppers”, as if we weren’t able to settle down and commit to a monogamous relationship with our work. But what’s really going on is that we’re on a quest to find “the one”.
Surprisingly, as much as we do want to fall madly in love with what we do, we don’t seem to notice that the answer might lie precisely in our romantic experiences. This is how lessons learned in the love arena could improve your relationship with work:
1. You should “date” (a lot) before you are ready to commit
Nobody considers asking a five-year-old who she would like to marry when she grows up. First, because she would probably reply “daddy”; second, because finding a partner for life is pretty much a trial-and-error process. We don’t identify “our type” by imagining how would it be to marry a funny guy or a solution-oriented gal. We don’t look for training on how to date a smart person or how to maintain a relationship with an introverted partner. We go on dates with people who seem likable, experience all the upsides and downturns, go through beautiful love stories and awful break-ups, and once we’ve dated enough, we find out what works for us and what doesn’t.
On the other hand, most of us have, from an early age, been confronted with the question “what would you like to do when you grow up?”. Our answers, that tended to range from “princess” to “astronaut”, were a reflection of extreme exposure to Disney movies and idealization. When we actually grew up and started thinking about College degrees, our answers started to change: “I will study Medicine to become a doctor” or “I don’t know what I want to do yet, but I plan to work in the corporate world, so I’ll pursue a Business degree”. We sounded much more grounded in reality but the basis for our decisions was pretty much the same: exposure to external influences and fantasizing. That’s why Herminia Ibarra, a Professor of Organizational Behaviour at INSEAD, argues we should date our career fantasies. She calls it “the test-and-learn approach”. Only by experimenting with different activities and testing our possible identities can we reflect, come to conclusions and make decisions, not the other way around.
2. You shouldn’t jump too soon into a new “relationship”
Let’s face it, we’re all afraid of being alone. So, when things start to go wrong in a relationship, and we start wondering if that is the person we want to spend the rest of our lives with, most of us experience deep fear. Some people try as hard as they can to keep the relationship alive. Others look as fast as possible for a potential replacement (sometimes even before breaking up). But all of us will, sooner or later, understand that taking time to process loss is an essential part of building healthier relationships in the future. We need to let go of the person, but also of all the beliefs, expectations and plans we had for that relationship.
When things start to go wrong at work, fear comes into play as well. Once we start trying to picture ourselves in a different field or occupation, we start imagining everything that can go wrong, and the most likely conclusion is “I’m not suited for this”. So, the result will probably be either giving up on the idea (the equivalent to holding on to the relationship) or jumping too quickly into a new job opportunity (the equivalent to looking for a replacement). As with love, we need to give ourselves time to think and process this failed relationship.
Without careful reflection, love and career changes can result in no change at all. So, before moving on to your next job, make sure to ask yourself some questions:
- How am I contributing to the way I feel?
- What can I do differently to change the way I feel?
- How is this job contributing to the vision I have for my life? If it is not, how so?
- What would I like to change about this job?
- Am I able to address those changes? Is my employer?
- If those changes were made, would that be enough for me to stay?
Only after you’ve been through this reflection, and if you conclude that no change would be enough for you to stay, you should give yourself permission to go back to “dating” (a lot).
This is the second of a series of articles intended to dive into the not so obvious relationships between love and work. The first one, Why should love be more like work, elaborated on the idea that some learnings from the work context could be transferred to, and positively impact, our love lives.