The other day a friend called from across the state. She was considering a job in another part of the country in an area where I grew up, and she wanted to know what it was like to live there. We talked about it, but the conversation soon shifted from the locale to the new job and what she’d be doing.
My friend is a smart, articulate, good thinker. But, even the smartest among us can get confused—especially when seemingly easy decisions become complex as heaps of personal and professional issues get piled on. That’s where my friend was at the moment.
Been there. Done that myself. Here are three ideas to consider.
First, get the question right. For my friend, the question seemed to be, “Should I take the job?” Ultimately, that’s not a bad question. Yes, the job would bring her closer to her family, it paid well, and it was very stable. These were important criteria for my friend.
But the answer to a different question gave another perspective. When asked if she’d really enjoy doing the work, the answer was, “Not really.” My friend is an outgoing, fun-loving person who spends most of her work time helping people solve problems. The new job (call it “a heads down job”) would entail much individual work with little interaction with others. Even though it would address some of her important criteria, long term it wouldn’t be a good fit.
But this seemed like one of the only jobs that would get her closer to her family. Not taking it was troublesome.
Here’s where the second idea comes in: Look for other doors to open. In the same way that there are rarely (if ever) single right answers to problems, there are always other opportunities on the horizon. The belief in limitation or even defeat is self-fulfilling. Accepting that there are options and other possibilities presents a series of opening doors—if only we are willing to see them.
In my friend’s case, we talked about the people who would, based on her reputation, be willing to explore options with their colleagues. She turned the job down and is actively looking for the next open door (or window for that matter).
And finally, stay on top of your game. That’s right up there with some of mom’s other wisdom such as always wearing clean underwear. Staying on top of your game can get difficult during times of change, but it’s essential to delivering your best performance, doing it consistently and being ready for the next opportunity that comes along.
Although my friend is usually on her game, some of us may not be—especially if we’re in what feels like a dead end job, or one we’ve taken because it was all that was available. As a result, we may take on a half-hearted attitude, just putting in the hours and hoping for something better to come along. Maybe you’ve run into someone like this or been there yourself at some point.
One way around this (or through it, as the case may be) is to find “the hook” you can buy into as your reason for being there. Maybe you provide customer service today, but your real goal in life is to be in marketing or to be a teacher. The hook might be to be the best at what you currently do: to be enthusiastic, provide good information and advice, and to help your customers be successful.
This may sound a bit pie-in-the-skyish, but it works because it focuses us on the moment and what is going on, not on a future that has yet to materialize. All the while, you’re doing your best, a best that people around you see and appreciate. It’s not that you don’t think about the future, make plans and follow up. Those are all good things to do. Rather, you deliver the best you can at the moment without reservation or holding back.
It’s not always easy, that’s for sure. But it helps you find the right questions and to be alert and ready for the next doors to open.