The scene opens with a solemn-faced individual sitting at a desk in an office seeming plagued by the trappings of his surroundings. People come in and out demanding “crisis mode” work and inquiring about deadlines. No one notices or commends him for his tireless work over the weekend which saved the company hundreds of dollars. There are 200 emails waiting to be opened. There are 4 hours left in the traditional work day. He has not eaten lunch nor will he get the chance. Two more meeting reminders linger on his calendar and a long commute awaits him.
He desperately wants a different job and wants to be able to work and live differently. So start searching, you say?
Once at home, he has the chance to spend a few hours of quality time with his loved ones even though he’ll have one eye open and barely enough energy to walk through the door. Johnny has a science project that is due tomorrow. His in-laws are coming in for the weekend, and Susie has a soccer game.
The character I described above is just a version of so many true stories of the underemployed. These are people who lack fulfillment in their jobs in one way or another. Can you find yourself in this situation somewhere?
Meanwhile, well meaning friends and family are encouraging our main character, we’ll call him Bob, to revise his resume, network, search for opportunities, create social media profiles etc… In addition, there is discouraging news about the economy regarding jobs everywhere you turn. Many experts say that you should expect a job search to take 6-9 months before you land an opportunity, and this is IF you pound the pavement every day.
I was never a math wiz, though this does seem like a simple word problem to me. Unless Bob wins the lottery and either decides to quit working or is able to leave his miserable job and take a few years off, where is he going to find the time to do all of this job search work for the next 9 months? Go back through the short story above and see what you find. Go ahead, I’ll wait… (No cheating. Bob has to sleep just like the rest of us.)
Done? So where did you find time for Bob to conduct his job search? Nowhere? So Bob is just out of luck?
Not so fast…
How do you “make” time for something when you really don’t have the time? How did you go to graduate school while working full time? How did you have children and start a family amidst a full and busy life? How did you care for your mother when she was sick? How did you buy a house in the middle of your company’s merger? ENERGY SHIFT.
People talk about priorities, but if everything is the first priority, then nothing is a priority.
The reality is that Bob’s hours are his own, and it will serve him well to reclaim them. Yes, he works for someone else, and yes, he needs to earn the money and not lose his job. He has a strong work ethic and loyalty, and it would feel counterintuitive to use any of his energy to focus on his job search, as that would be taking away from his current job. There are also many articles that describe the number of hours that employees really work during the day. It is usually far less than what their employers prescribe for a “hard day’s work”. A lack of personal motivation and elements of a negative office culture can get in the way including superfluous meetings and the hierarchy involved in making simple decisions. Many offices operate by focusing on “the latest crisis” or “the newest shiniest object”. In addition, poor office culture can cause a “sing for your supper” atmosphere where Bob feels compelled to create for the sake of creating rather than for a purpose and so he can make a splash at the next staff meeting. He foresees his boss’s miscalculation and decides to stay up all night designing a solution so he can look like the hero for a management team that chronically undervalues his talent. Now, look at this depiction of Bob’s situation and see where he could spend more time on his job search.
Am I suggesting that Bob incorporate his job search efforts into his energy for work and – GASP – his time for work? Yes I am. Let me put it this way…
I am suggesting that Bob take a fresh look at the 24-hour day and his goals and commitments. With today’s increasing 24-7 workplace expectations, how is Bob going to get ahead in his job search if he is spending 100% of his time and energy seeking an A+ grade in a class he doesn’t care about, or for a teacher who doesn’t even give A’s, or for a school he no longer believes in? With these efforts, what outcome would you expect? Probably the same situation he is trying to escape.
Do you understand how to put this concept into practice? Yes, you have to do that end-of-year report, and every year you spend countless hours making it the best report the company has ever seen, that is, if the company reads all of the end-of-year reports. If you know that you could spend 3 hours on a report on which you typically spend 16 hours and receive the same results at work, why are you spending 16 hours on this report? Let it go! (Hint: 16-3=13, so this gives you back 13 hours of precious time and energy) I am suggesting that you give your extra mile to your job search rather than your unfulfilling job.
If you want to be somewhere else, you have to shift your energy towards that goal. I am not recommending that you blow off your boss and your co-workers or break any rigid policies and risk getting fired or acting in a dishonest way. In that case, you might as well just quit your job. (If you are in a position to do that, then great!) If you are really honest with yourself, you know what you absolutely have to do at work, and you know what you do simply because if anything is done with your signature on it, you want it to be spectacular. Great! Put your signature on your job search.
You know how to impress people, and you know how to assert yourself. You already worry about being on time for every meeting at work and you anticipate your boss’s catastrophic emergencies. You know how to drop everything and run to the latest whim of a senior employee. So, use this momentum and don’t be late for networking conversations. Don’t blow off opportunities to follow up with a stellar connection. What would it look like if you went for a B or a B+ at work rather than an A or an A+? What if you go for “Job Seeker of the Year” rather than “Employee of the Year”? Could you do it? What would you do differently in order to shift your energy in this way?
Chances are, if you are unhappy in your job and you want to be somewhere else, these desires are already infiltrating your work. So rather than fight yourself every day, why not use those desires to propel you forward in your job search? Are you looking for permission? Well then, give yourself permission.
You cannot add hours to the day, but you can choose how to spend your hours. As the knight who guarded the holy grail encouraged, “Choose wisely.”