Let me be clear: I’m not suggesting you look at your boss as a boyfriend or girlfriend. (Shudder.) That sets you up for all sorts of emotional drama you don’t need in the workplace. But when you’re assessing your career goals, sometimes it can be helpful to compare your job to something you might have more experience with: a dating relationship. (Hopefully you know what a healthy one of those looks like.) Because we spend so much time at our jobs, because they affect not just our present but also our future, it’s important to assess not only what you’re giving to your job but what you’re getting out it. A good job, like a good boyfriend is supportive of your dreams, capable of meeting your needs and growing with you. Conversely a bad job, like a bad boyfriend …
Is too needy:
Work-life balance may be the stuff of urban legends, but if your job leaves you constantly exhausted and depleted, anxious and overwhelmed, ask a trusted co-worker if they’re having the same problem and how they cope. You may need to talk to your boss about ways to prioritize your work so you can work smarter instead of harder. Asking for help shouldn’t be seen as a sign of weakness, but rather an opportunity to grow. If it’s not, consider it a red flag.
Puts you down
As we’ve discussed before, constructive criticism is actionable and can make you better at your job, whereas destructive criticism tears you down and feels like a personal attack. If your job feels toxic, trust your instinct or seek advice from a parent, a mentor, your auntie or your HR person if your company has one. Keep a journal of negative encounters at work including dates and a summary of everything that’s said. This can give you an overview of the situation to help you see things more clearly. A toxic job rarely gets better on its own, so if you’re in one, it might be time to ease on down the road.
Won’t let you be great
A good job is one that sets you up to succeed. A good boss will champion your growth, not micromanage you into complacency. If your job doesn’t give you opportunities to shine – by challenging you with interesting assignments or realistic goals, or by giving you face time with clients or higher-ups – then it’s not in line with your career goals. Time to find one that is.
Doesn’t meet your needs
A good job will help you meet not only your career goals but your personal ones as well. When evaluating the value of the job you have or the one you want consider if it has good benefits, a competitive salary, 401k matching, plus women-friendly policies like maternity leave and a place to breastfeed. Look for diversity in leadership positions, training opportunities, as well as other polices that can improve your work satisfaction such as:
- Flex time/opportunity to work remotely
- Training or continuing education
- Mentoring opportunities
- A pet friendly work environment
- Casual dress code.
Doesn’t take you seriously
I’m a big believer that respect is earned. So just because someone doesn’t act on your suggestion or praise your contribution in a meeting doesn’t necessarily mean you’re being dissed or dismissed. However, being young and female can often work against you, thanks to mansplaining, interrupting and competitiveness, etc. I like the idea of finding strength in numbers, like this brilliant strategy women in the White House used to make sure their voices and ideas were heard. If your company isn’t female friendly however (again, look for diversity in leadership positions), you might want to find one that is.
Takes you for granted
There’s nothing more depressing than being taken for granted or feeling like there’s no reward for a job well done. Ways you know your job isn’t taking you for granted: you get positive feedback, recognition both inside and outside your department for work, maybe even comp time when you’ve gone above and beyond. Those are very worthy career goals.
Is always playing the blame game
Leadership isn’t about assigning fault but encouraging accountability. Working in an environment where people are constantly pointing fingers or throwing others under the bus can be extremely stressful and doesn’t encourage the calculated risks that are necessary for creativity or innovation. If your boss is more stick than carrot, not a champion for you but a drill sergeant, this might not be your job.
Doesn’t grow with you
Promotions … raises … a career path … sound familiar? If not, you may be stuck in a job that isn’t growing with you or helping you reach your career goals. If you feel stuck in your job, or haven’t seen any forward motion in more than a year, it’s time to reassess. But before you jump ship, however, make sure you’re doing everything you can to make sure your contribution to the company is recognized. You have to be your own best advocate at work, by meeting regularly with your boss, keeping her fully apprised of how you’re making her life easier and yes promoting yourself even if that feels uncomfortable for you.
Has disgruntled exes
Ask around or check out Glassdoor, a free, anonymous site that lets you browse reviews for companies, maybe even your own.If a company has a bad reputation for the way they treat employees, chances are there’s good reason. If it’s a company you’re already with, what can you do to help improve the culture, processes and communication? If the answer is truly nothing, time to find your LinkedIn password.
No job is perfect. But some jobs are better than others. Hopefully you read this list and, like I did, thought your current job isn’t half bad. If, however, you found yourself nodding like a bobble head doll, you owe it to yourself to find one that challenges you while cultivating your talents. One that doesn’t just put food on the table but also feeds your soul. The good news is, unlike with boyfriends, it’s ok to look around for a new one while you’re still with the old one. Remember, day-to-day satisfaction balanced with long-term potential for growth can make the difference between the job you leave and the company you keep.
Is your job like a bad boyfriend? Or did you realize you’re better off than you think you were? What are your next steps for reaching your career goals?