Our under 30 generation is conditioned to seek instant gratification. This idea is something that our parents and grandparents most likely look at with disdain–or at the very least view quizzically. Generations before us felt an extreme loyalty to their company. Men would spend their entire lives making a living, earning a pension, and providing a comfortable middle class lifestyle for their families. The job was less about what they wanted to do, and more about the underlying responsibilities.
With our generation the days of undying company loyalty have ended. We know that a company will fire us the minute some MBA from a consulting firm recommends that the company outsource us. We are our own marketers and career growth specialists. This is not necessarily a bad thing–options only make us more loyal to the companies that we like best and allow us to leave companies that aren’t the right fit for us.
Ok, great. But I’m at the wrong company!
So, what do you do if you realize that the company you are working for isn’t the company where you want to continue to work? Do you quit immediately? Do you bite the bullet and keep pushing on?
Perhaps you are ready to just walk out the door. That is the usual gut reaction when you “just can’t take it anymore.” Trust me, I’ve been there, and I walked. Was leaving the company the right move? Yes, without a doubt—but the timing, and the knee-jerk decision-making process I used to leave so abruptly was not. There was much I could have learned while still working at that company, all the while pursuing other job leads.
If you think that you are working for the wrong company or are in the wrong field, you’ll have that moment when it hits you, “Oh no. This isn’t right. I’ve made a terrible mistake.” Everyone does. The important thing to remember is that every action at this point has to be considered a stepping-stone to your future, because none of us know what the future may hold. With that in mind, it may not be wise to simply quit a job with only a few months experience. It may be better to stay and to turn the experience into a positive experience.
It is invaluable to observe business practices and corporate organizations, levels of authority and innumerable other intangibles that can be absorbed from daily presence in a company. It follows that saying: “If life gives you lemons, turn them into lemonade.” Use that time for YOUR advantage — observe, listen, and learn.
It is easier to find a job when you already have one
Everyone wants someone who is wanted. In dating, once you have a significant other, you become more desired—women you’ve known start coming out of the woodwork. Men whom you thought were just friends begin to reach out to you, text you, and message you on Facebook. It is engrained in us as humans to want what we can’t have.
Companies (and the people that work for them) are wired the same way. You become more attractive when you are seeking work while currently working. Employers would rather not have gaps in work on your resume (if you do, not a big deal—just make sure you spend your time off doing some great things. Stay busy. Volunteer. Better yourself)
It is also easier on you when you already have a job and are looking for a move. For starters, you’ll have a salary and guaranteed income. This doesn’t put a time limit on your job search. Settling for another job is one of the worst things you can do.
Why stay? What can you learn?
At the point where you are certain that you are going to leave your current work situation, your whole attitude changes. Now, you are no longer an underling scrambling to the directions and assignments handed down by the “powers that be.” In actuality, the balance of power shifts! Now, you are doing research to learn all you can to empower your next step. This attitude springs the trap! You are free to observe and develop insight as to how this organization is really functioning.
You have a unique opportunity to study people, positions, politics, and power in an objective and positive way. Yes, you still must be at work on time every day. Yes, you still must complete assignments and perform every task with extreme professionalism. But your future is now in your hands. You are free to ask about the decision-making process within the organization and to determine which individuals are the power players. You are free to question priorities. Look for contacts and opportunities to network. Talk to co-workers with more in-depth interest about their positions.
All of this can – and must – be done within the framework of your regular job. All that has changed is your mental outlook. You may want to keep a daily journal of objective observations and conclusions – always within a professional, business-focused manner. (Any personal thoughts and observations are better done at home, in private.)
All this may take some time, but new opportunities will come and the time will come when you can make the decision to change jobs based on a wealth of fresh insight and greater certainty.
Where are you now?
In a nutshell working for the wrong company isn’t the end of the world. Turn a negative into a positive. Focus on differentiating what you think is right from what your current company is doing. Start looking for a job while you have one. Take examples of what you’ve learned into consideration for the next company where you will work. Don’t rush your transition. After all, your next company could be the one where you spend the rest of your life!
William L. Mehserle Jr. is co-founder with Michael J. Flanigan of theExpressionary.com, a personalized gift site, and Khraze.com, a new media marketing company. You can connect with him on Twitter at @WilliamMehserle or on LinkedIn at linkedin.com/in/mehserle