Guest Post by Alejandro Cabral.
It was one of those pivotal moments in my life. I remember because this sort of moment becomes important, relevant, unforgettable. A moment when I changed.
I was on the phone with my manager, whom I only saw twice that year because she lived in another country. I had grown a lot with her, formed part of my character and career under her guidance. She had enabled me, fostered my ideas and helped me, but I had grown restless. I wanted something new, different, more challenging.
She said she had found me opportunity that I couldn’t pass up. Only, I couldn’t take it because it involved moving to another country. I couldn’t do that. This “opportunity” was her answer to my question about what it would take to become a manager.
I had reached a moment in one’s professional life when you feel a change must come. Back then, I used to think changes only came from outside, hence I would wait and wail, but never act on it. I got to the point where I was making ultimatums. I said to my manager “Help me reach the next level, or else…”. Of course I didn’t use those words. No one does. But it was what I meant. I remember working on a plan with her for a full year, a plan that had gotten us to that moment when she was telling me “this is a great opportunity for you, not just because of the promotion,” and all I was hearing was “I didn’t get what you wanted, instead I got you this.”
What she offered, I didn’t take. Instead, I found a managerial job within the Company in another function, one I didn’t know at all. That experience was critical to helping me become who I am now. But at that moment, it felt like the worst possible job move I had ever made. That’s a story for another time.
What I remember the most though was the struggle. I had no tools to properly overcome the struggles, and my manager also didn’t have the tools to help me. After I left that job, I would run a whole list of “what ifs” in my mind, going through what I thought I had done wrong and how I had been wronged. Deep down though, I just couldn’t face the fact I had I created a change that didn’t work out, then tried to blame it on everything other than myself.
Years later, I was able to put together what had really happened: me not facing my own own struggles and projecting them onto my manager. I was waiting for an opportunity I felt I deserved.
I reacted to not getting what I wanted, never acknowledging the real problem was me.
Sometimes a job is just a job, and you might get bored or simply not like it or outgrow it. Most advice I’ve gotten around changing jobs is focused on one single fact: changing jobs is way simpler than changing yourself. So back then, that’s what I did, I changed jobs. Only later did I realize this simply put a temporary bandage on a larger issue. Back then I felt I was ready for promotion, and I was angry at my manager, at the Company, at everyone not seeing what I saw: I was ready to move on.
What most articles around changing jobs tell you is: evaluate your context, draw a line symbolizing the beginning of your career within that Company or at that role and see where it ends. If that line doesn’t extend beyond your current position, then it’s time to make a move, draw a fresh new line and see where that one takes you. I believe that applies to situations where you’re bored or want a bigger paycheck or better perks, or want a new boss because you can’t stand your current one.
If you feel that struggle, if you’re restless and confused or torn between what you feel you deserve and what you’re getting in return, then maybe the change needed is not about your context, your employer, your colleagues, or your projects. Rather, the issue is about your own beliefs and behaviours. It’s about realizing your issues don’t stem from your environment. It’s about realizing your issues might just be coming from within.
If you’re ready to acknowledge this, the change is already happening. All you need to do is face it, embrace it , and start asking yourself the right questions: What is really frustrating you? Is it a promotion you are not getting, or the fact that you know a promotion will not satisfy you? Is the issue about others not recognizing your strengths or you not making your value obvious enough? Are others to blame for your lack of progress, or are you not promoting yourself in the right manner? Maybe you’re not aligning yourself with the right stakeholders. Maybe you’re not demonstrating the skills they want to see.
If you’re restless, maybe your job isn’t the only reason. If you’re frustrated, maybe your boss or environment aren’t the only reasons. It might be you. Which isn’t so bad. Recognizing this signifies growth. And that’s what we all want out of a job, right? Growth.
Changing jobs may be a reasonable stop gap solution, but eventually, you might feel that tug in your loins again. If you find yourself in this pattern, at some point, you will need to take a hard, honest look at yourself, figure out what you may be doing wrong, and change yourself.
About the author
Alejandro Cabral has worked in the IT Industry for over 17 years, having spent over half of that time coaching and leading teams. He has specialized in mentoring and runs “IT is what IT is”, a blog dedicated to both IT and Career Advice. Follow him on Twitter @alecabral.