“It’s not you – it’s me.”
That by far, has to be the most popular break-up line of all time. We have all heard it at one time or another. Maybe we have said it – or was on the receiving end. And for me, it can be easy saying it to someone more irritating than poison ivy or just a total turd. But sometimes you’d come across a genuinely good one and it was harder to say. You would think about it and toss it around more when things usually became stressful. Maybe it was because you were bored and just getting that “itch”. Or a new, exciting, more attractive option came along – without you even looking. Sometimes there wasn’t a better option but you just needed to be alone and re-group – or be “on a break” – for a while. You had spent some good time together – years maybe – and for one reason or another, it was time to move on. Sound familiar? It definitely did to me many times – about a great job that was my loyal partner for over 20 years. By far, my longest and most stable relationship. So what made me want to trade it in many times for a sportier – and riskier – option?
With every relationship we have – even when it comes to our jobs – there are stages we all go through. Think of it like this:
The Courting Phase: Ahh, to be young and in heat. You spot this hot, exciting new opportunity (most likely on an online site, maybe from “swiping”, possibly through a friend or whatever else the kids use these days to find their dream date – err, job). You do your homework and find out whatever you can through legitimate research online – or through stalking on social media (don’t act like you have no idea what I am talking about…) to see what little nuggets you can uncover in order to put that best foot forward and score a first date (err, interview). And it pays off. You get an interview and nail it.
The Proposal: Not only did you score an interview with your potential dream job, it could not have gone better. You immediately click, feel completely at ease, the conversation doesn’t lag or have weird moments of silence. You nail every question, ask lots of your own (that actually come naturally and aren’t from that pre-prepared list) and you could not be having a better hair day. You have made the best impression possible – and then after a few days of silence on their end, you get an offer for that second date (err, interview – I’m really getting caught up in this). You nail that one too – and the official offer for the job comes through. You coyly think about it – and say “I do”.
(I am going to take a slight detour here. While a solid commitment with longevity is what you are seeking, it may not always have to go that way at first. Don’t immediately say no and turn your nose up at a “JWB” – job with benefits. They can suit a purpose – they keep you busy, may teach you some new moves, can keep you relevant (and in practice) and could be a needed confidence boost. And even better they could provide literal benefits – you know like medical, paid time off and a 401k (what benefits do you think I’m referring to? The kind you’d get from a FWB or friend with benefits?). Word of caution – DO NOT GET TOO CAUGHT UP WITH A JWB. It can be hard because they may seem like an easy out, but do not get sucked in. Enjoy them while they last but make sure you are keeping your eye on your ultimate goal and have your exit plan ready. Never say never – but a JWB is most likely short lived and is not ultimately in our best interests. Keep your guard up and see them as a potential means to an end. Just saying. I’ll proceed now.)
The Honey Moon Phase: You said yes, you’re getting used to being together nonstop, there’s very little each other can do wrong just yet. It’s all still very exciting. You’re still very much in love and in awe of your dream job. You may be slowly starting to realize nothing is perfect but for now there’s still a lot of ego stroking and kissy face going on. This is a short lived and pretty self-explanatory phase (and therefore deserved a short explanation from moi).
The Comfort Zone: This is usually where we spend a lot of our time. We have settled into our routine and role. There aren’t that many surprises that will come up anymore, but the ones that do still keep you challenged, smiling and very satisfied. We are confident, happy, look for ways to generally keep the status quo – or shake it up just enough to reinforce this is still the place you need and want to be. You’ve established a solid, mature relationship. It may not be as young and sexy as it was when you once pursued it. But it has given you a wonderful life. You found a partner in this job that has been stable, reliable and has provided well for you. Life is good. And can remain as such as long as you don’t enter….
The Uncomfortable Zone: We pretty much know what to expect – and may actually start to become annoyed when things do stray from what we have come to find as the status quo. Or we are just feeling annoyed in general – all the time because the status quo just doesn’t do it for us. We are starting to feel restless that this job isn’t giving us what we need in some ways anymore. We are not challenged at all – or are challenged to the point of exhaustion with no reciprocation (is there anything worse than something that doesn’t reciprocate in a relationship? This is a two way street, buddy). We discuss our concerns and are assured they will be addressed. But that doesn’t seem to happen. We constantly weigh the pros and cons of staying in this relationship. The pros are still outweighing the cons – and usually come down to money. But at what cost to ourselves? You psyche yourself up on a pretty regular basis to get through the day. You know something has to give but you don’t have the strength or will to cut the cord yet. Newer opportunities start to catch your eye – but you almost feel guilty – or are just too tired – or scared – to act on it just yet. You know this has run its course and you need to find the strength to move on. You’ve arrived at a serious fork in the road here and need to decide on the next route.
The Break Up: I’m sorry. I can’t. Don’t hate me. A famous break-up line ala Sex and The City – but let’s not ever break up – or quit – on a post it note. You have come to terms with the fact that this job is no longer for you. You have thought about it long and hard and as hard as it is, it’s time to part ways. When you actually “break up” do it respectfully and with care. This was once your dream job and a place you hung your hat for some time. It provided a place of learning, growth and stability – and in any relationship (except if you’re dealing with a complete turd of course) you should never burn bridges. You should always remember in this circumstance to be kind – and always treat someone the way you would want to be treated on the receiving end.
For me – I never actually had to do the break-up – things were made easy for me since getting laid off meant I was the one broken up with! But, considering I was finding myself in “the uncomfortable zone” more than I had cared to admit – for a lot longer than I had cared to admit – this particular break up turned out to be the best thing for me – and frankly, made things a lot easier on me since the decision was made for me. What I think we all need to do (and admittedly fell victim to myself) is to work hard at NOT becoming too comfortable – or worse, feel or become complacent. I know – MUCH easier said than done. But as with any relationship – it takes hard work, commitment and a yearning to want more for yourself in order to know – and have the strength to say WHEN. In my case, I was already starting to plan my next chapter to start my coaching business long before my break up came. And that’s certainly what I’d prompt anyone to do – especially if you’ve gotten to the uncomfortable zone. To give some much needed attention to what could be next for you and to ALWAYS HAVE A PLAN! Do your homework, research possibilities, talk to people and start making the connections for your escape so you’ll be ready to break up – or get broken up with.
Breaking up is hard to do – but as we all know, it is not the end of the world. It can seem that way at first. But here’s what I’ve learned and I’ll share it with you. No matter what, it’s not the end. It’s the start of a new beginning. Of courting the next new, fresh and exciting experience. And finding that next perfect one to say “I DO” to.