Employment is not unlike fitness. Getting a job is hard; losing a job is hard; staying at a job might just be the hardest of all.
It takes commitment. It takes reliability. It takes a hell of a lot of doing what you some days have no interest whatsoever in doing. It is full of discomfort, often sweating, and defined by working alongside some people who talk too much and others who are shitty at giving direction. It’s about comparison. Some people phone it in and yet get better results. Some people just aren’t flexible. At the gym and in the office, life is not a meritocracy.
I’ve been thinking about these overlaps because I’ve spent the last nearly two months plotting my next move and indulging in more carbs than I ever have. The fridge and the bathroom are just too damn close here; there’s no way to get those steps in. And it’s not like I’m supremely motivated at the moment anyway. The political theater alone is gripping, and then there is Surviving R Kelly (Oh my god you guys; Gayle’s interview was tip of the monster iceberg), and the fact that I just figured out how to cobble together a story on Instagram (new handle @superlatetotheparty).
I’m calling this a ‘mini-break’ because it feels more manageable. There has been some therapy in this mini-break.
I’ve taken some time, written thousands of words, taken more than a few catnaps-with-the-cat, and spent an alarming amount of time interacting with LEGOs — be it clicking them together with satisfaction, splitting my nails trying to get them apart, finding them in the vacuum and garbage disposal, and emitting noiseless screams when they dig into my instep in the dark of night.
But I’m back at it, and I’ve got the KO one-two punch of a solid CV and several cover letters to prove it. Also, I’ve had more networking coffees in the past two weeks than I’ve had in the past two years. I’m proud to report that despite popular imagination, Salt Lake’s coffee game is hella strong. I haven’t slept for days! There are some hopeful opportunities on the very near horizon and things are looking UP.
This is all my roundabout way of getting to the point, which is to answer my latest request for advice. It was a two-pronged question, which means I get to prattle on for even longer. BOOM.
What this friend asked me is:
How do you know when it’s time to leave or transition out of a job, sector, or even career?
And how, practically-speaking, is the best way to do that?
I’m going to answer this question in one of my favorite ways, which my kids find infuriating: ‘I’m not sure that I know. We should look into that.’ Maybe that’s why William is always asking Alexa things like, ‘Why do I need to take the training wheels off my bike?’
I think transitioning out of a job — even across sectors — is a lot like moving on from a relationship: You either have no idea it’s coming (‘It’s not you; it’s me’), or you just know. Like you know when you’re ready to take off the training wheels and balance while careening down the open road.
Usually, it’s a matter of fit. Either you’ve outgrown the job, or the career, or it’s just moving in a direction that feels wrong to you. Other times, you sail unknowingly into a shitstorm, with nary a poncho nor life jacket. So….you swim in the shit for a while, and it stinks.
But little by little, you swim against the current and one day you look around and there’s no shit in sight. You are out of the muck and bobbing in a sea of choices. This, my friends, is the open water of reflection, where U-turns are made.
This is where you take an honest inventory and start seeing things a whole lot differently. This is where denial surfaces, showing you its grotesque face before sinking down to the bottom like a torpedoed submarine.
In the breakup metaphor, this is where you realize at least half your family and a good chunk of friends are wildly relieved and have only nasty things to say about your former SO. Things come out: the questionable politics, the awful car smell, the odd love of Leftover Salmon — both the band and the fish. DAMN. How, you ask yourself, could I have been so blind?
Fear not; this reckoning is where the growth happens. And let me tell you, I’ve grown so much in the last couple of months I want someone to stretch my legs like I do for Eloise before bed because she’s growing so fast she’s got growing pains. It hurts, but it’s progress.
When it comes to jobs, sometimes you don’t know when to go and the decision is made for you, and sometimes you just know that it’s time. Acknowledge that you have a different dream for yourself you just can’t seem to shake.
Trust your gut. The older I get, the surer I feel that regret is the saddest thing of all.
As for me, I used some questions to guide me toward my next professional endeavor. I’m happy to share them, and a few of my answers, too. Then I’ll wrap it all up with some truly practical (finally!) resume advice. I’ve probably edited more than a hundred resumes and cover letters in my day, and my recruiter response rate is top-notch, for myself and others. If there’s interest in cover letter help, leave a comment!
- Unemployment can be fun, and clarifying, but also deeply uncomfortable.
- If you have the luxury — and that’s a big if — dig deep and do the work before taking something new.
- Set yourself up for success. The work is twofold; the complex — see questions below — and the taxing — crafting persuasive materials.
The CAREER Questions (with my answers):
- What is it you loved to do most as a child? Listen to stories.
- What has always come easily to you? Seeking and finding stories.
- What are you doing when you lose track of time? Writing.
- What are some workplace-appropriate character strengths? Enthusiasm. Decisiveness.
- What wouldn’t feel like working? Storytelling for a cause / culture I believe in.
- What are your culture non-negotiables? Autonomy. Authenticity. Aspiration. Accountability.
The Resume Rescue, down and dirty:
(Social media presence and in-person networking are everything, but too much to get into here)
- Clean up formatting. Goal is ease of skimming. Nothing flowery if you’re not a graphic designer. One font. Bold what’s important. Use spaces and commas, not special characters.
- Be concise. Use active verbs whenever you can. Every bullet should start with an active verb. Don’t bury the lede. Lose the jargon, but be specific on your role in every bullet.
- WHEREVER and WHENEVER you can, use proper nouns — actual names of divisions, policies, projects. It gives the hiring team something to ask about in an interview.
- WHEREVER and WHENEVER you can, use numbers — percents, etc. Resumes are all about showing impact. What / how did your employment improve the situation there? What was your impact? Why are things better because of you and how can you quantify that?
- Two pages max unless you’re a published academic.
And finally…..drum roll please…
The Beth List
Some recommendations and just one little bit of advice — I couldn’t help myself.
- These slippers have made winter tolerable. (thank you, Instagram)
- This documentary gripped me to the end in spite of Nyquil. (thank you, NPR)
- These have changed my ski game (thank you, D).
- This book is all the church I need. (thank you, Adina)
- Every day, you have the chance to get on your path. You get to decide to do it now or continue suffering until you decide you’re worth it. (Remember what I said about regret.)
Best of luck! xo