Friday, January 21, 2011

Is It Time to Prune Your Rosebush?

I do not call myself a gardener, because that seems to intimate that I have some level of proficiency at planting and growing stuff. Based on the number of plants, trees and bushes I ripped out last fall because they were dead, dying or just looked like crap, I'd say P. Allen Smith's job is safe.

But in the story I did recently for Gannett/USAToday, I realize that sometimes I may need to use more of my "dump it and start anew" strategy for other areas of my life.

For you, it may be that you need to make some career decisions. Read this and decide for yourself...

Is it time to quit your job?

Contemplating such a thing even six months ago may have seemed unfathomable. But as companies begin hiring by the thousands, it's a thought that will cross the minds of more workers in the year ahead. Might now be the time to jump ship and find another job?

After all, workers are burned out. Many haven't gotten a pay raise in years, and others even have taken pay cuts and seen their benefits slashed to stay employed. Faced with more tasks and responsibilities every day, many employees are going to work feeling unhappy and trapped. The future they envisioned for their career seems to no longer be there.

That's why it's time to consider whether it's time to bring things to an end, Henry Cloud says.

"People are at the point where they think there's got to be something better than this — or mad as hell and not going to take it anymore," says Cloud, a leadership coach and author of Necessary Endings (Harper Business, $25.99).

He says workers contemplating a change need to recognize what's worth fixing in their career or job and what needs to come to an end. For example, he suggests asking yourself several questions, including, "Do I want this same reality, frustration, or problem six months from now?"

By defining where the pain is coming from, by realizing that being miserable doesn't have to be the new normal, then people can begin to grasp that they do have control.

"They can learn to take control of the things they can change that are making them miserable. They can begin to learn new skills. They can network with others. That's empowering," he says.

No one should be afraid of endings, Cloud says. Endings always happen in life and that includes those in a career.

Teams, co-workers, companies and jobs will end, but new ones will begin, he says. If we can't learn when it's time to bring things to a close, then we can stagnate in a career and become destined to repeat the same mistakes over and over.

Workers should prune their careers, much as a gardener would with a rosebush.

That means workers must get rid of tasks or duties that take away from the thriving parts of their career.

"Over your career, you generate more projects and relationships, but you can't really succeed if you don't prune away some things so that you can give time and focus to the things that matter," he says.

One of the best ways employees can make sure their focus and energy stays on important tasks is to make sure they don't take on extra duties without giving something up.

"When the boss gives you something new to do, you say, 'What is it you want me to take time away from in order to do this?' " Cloud says. "This helps keep the boss focused on where the resources should go. You're helping the boss to prune, as well."

Workers also should focus on the thriving parts of their career — just as a gardener wouldn't keep trying to save a sick plant when everything has been tried or try to revive something long dead. "Ask yourself, 'Is what I'm doing today in line with what I want tomorrow?' "

Finally, Cloud says that to ensure you move forward, make sure you create a sense of urgency by "getting close to the misery."

Be honest with the misery you feel instead of trying to medicate yourself with alcohol or drugs to avoid the pain of your workplace situation. Confront the reality and how you will deal with it unless you make changes, he says.

"Feel your vision, smell it, see it. See the reality that could be if you would only end what is," he says. "And see the reality of your future if you don't. That will get you moving."

What strategies have worked for you when making difficult career decisions?



Sara Kmiecik said...

Great post - I definitely agree that workers are getting worn out, especially if they haven't gotten a raise in years. Quitting may seem like the best option.

Derek Dostal said...

I really enjoyed reading your article Anita and loved the rosebush metaphor. You hit the nail on the head that companies will be, and have aggressively started already, looking for top talent from their competitors.

Unfortunately this does little for the unemployed and underemployed as this hiring push in 2011 will have more to do with competitive edge than anything else.

Derek Dostal

Anita said...

At some point, these people may ask themselves, "Is this really worth it?" If it's taking a huge physical and emotional toll, they may think it's not.
Thanks for your comment.

Anita said...

Companies like Google and Facebook have already started ramping up their efforts to find key workers -- including poaching them from other companies. And the fact that some companies won't even interview the unemployed means, I think, we're going to see talent churn -- but among the top performers.

BullsEyeCareers said...

Love the gardening metaphor Anita. I am glad the job market is improving and opportunities are opening up. Many people don't realize, something gardeners already know by the way - you have to prune and cut back rose bushes in order for them to bloom bigger and more beautiful flowers.