Wednesday, July 23, 2008

How to Know When It's Time to Take Your Job Off Life Support

You can't exactly put your finger on it, but somehow your job has started sucking the life force out of you.

Every day you feel a little more depressed, a little more like maybe you should just call in sick and sit home and watch "Cash Cab."

Still, the thought of looking for another job is even more depressing. There's the business of writing the resume. You know you'll face rejections. You'll have to go on interviews, and that ranks right up there with with having someone wax your entire body.

OK, maybe things aren't that bad at work, you think. Maybe you will somehow pull yourself out of this rut. After all, it's better to keep bringing home a paycheck than try to get another job when millions of others are trying to do the same thing, right? Who knows...the next job might be even worse.

Not so fast. It may be it's time to consider what your gut is trying to tell you, and it's this: Your job is headed down the toilet.

How to recognize that it's time to get the resume together? Consider these signs:
* The paper trail. I'm always amazed when people don't understand that a case is being built against them whenever they start getting those snarky memos from managers, using words and phrases like "failed" and "falls short" and "not up to standards" and "missed deadlines."
* The "whammo" performance evaluation. Sort of a Whack-a-Mole game for managers, where everything positive you bring up is slapped down. Another sign a case is being built against you.
* You have tread marks on your back. Those are signs that others have been running you over on their way to promotions that should have been yours. Missing a couple of opportunities may not be a big deal, but more than that means you're on the fast track to Doomed.
* You repel money. Pay raises? Forget it. Your budget is reduced or put under the jurisdiction of someone else. You're not part of a project that is expected to bring in big money or spend big money. The office manager always seems to lose your request for new equipment.
* Everyone is too busy for you. Your calls are not being returned, and your e-mails seem to suffer the same fate. You're not included in key meetings, and no one stops to shoot the breeze with you anymore. While you may think this is OK, it's really a sign that others perceive you as someone on the outs.

Finally, keep in mind that even though the job market is tough right now, it's much better to be looking for work on your terms. It's always easier to look for a job when you have a job. Don't wait until it's too late and you're forced to join the unemployed masses.

What are some other signs a job may be in trouble? Is there a way to recover?


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Walter Akana said...

Hi Anita!

Great post! Love how you describe the signs of being on the “outs.”

I agree that you need to be looking for a job under these circumstances; and yet, I think it’s way more than that.

It’s really critical in our increasingly flat world to always be aware of and committed to delivering value. Yes, that is hard to do in some functions and organizations – but if you’re in a situation where that is not happening you need to find a new one.

Anita said...

That's a good dose of reality you have delivered. I've seen people just ignore what is happening and hope that somehow (by magic?) it gets better. They usually live to regret their non-action.
Thanks for posting.

Miriam Salpeter said...

I don't think you can overstate your point that it is better to look for a job on your own terms. Prospective employers want to hire "passive" job seekers - the ones who already have jobs and may not actually be seeking opportunities. When the writing is on the wall, it's time to kick your job hunt into high gear.

Ideally, we'd all have resumes at the ready and a network to support our next great career step. The reality is that life often gets in the way and employees are caught like a deer in the headlights when a pink slip finds its way to their desks.

I advise clients to “drive their own career bus.” Don’t just go through the motions. Keep your eyes open and take care of yourself. In today’s job market, you can’t sit back and expect everything to just work out!

Miriam Salpeter
Keppie Careers

Anita said...

All sound advice!
I wonder how many people have the attitude that they'd rather stay with "the devil they know instead of the devil they don't?" Change can be a scary thing, and I think for many people, they rationalize what's going on and try and fool themselves into thinking they're safe.
Thanks for posting. I like the career bus idea!

Ian said...

Anita, another post that hits so close to home.
This situation happen to me when I was 9 months in to one of my jobs.
- No work is given to me, except reading on training material
- Not much project/work for the department for the next 2+ quarters
- You are sitting alone most of the time: Some collegaues have move to other departments or projects

I was lucky that any other department need help & I had other skill sets & experience to move on.
Most know that best way to get a job/network is when you have a job; Although knowing it & doing it are just so far apart.

At that situation, I knew that I should be job hunting; I only did a small search with 1 interview during a 1 month period. (Hopefully lesson learned)

Anita said...

I think you really hit the nail on the head...the "knowing and doing" gap that many of us go through. I love that you put that so well, and are so honest about it.
I think it's great that you learned from this lesson, and will use that knowledge to help you next time you start to see such signs. That is what Miriam referred to as driving your own career bus.
Thanks again for sharing your story -- it's something we can all learn from.