Awhile back, psychologist and fellow Psych Central-contributor Elvira Aletta published a great post about the frog in the pot:
Did you know that if you boil a pot of water and throw in a live frog that that frog will hop right out, saving his life to croak again another day (ha, ha)? If, on the other hand, you place a frog in a pot of cold water and turn the heat up slowly, that frog will stay in the pot. He will not jump out but slowly acclimate to the increasingly hot water until it boils to death. Truth or urban legend? To prove it I’d have to cook a live frog and that’s not going to happen. It sounds true and so should be because of what it teaches us.
The day after I was laid off from my job, a fellow co-worker emailed me and said, “This is your next assignment … instructions on how to jump out of the pot…. But not necessarily the way you did!”
Here, then, in Paul Simon style, are 7 Ways to Leave Your Job (if it is, you know, starting to boil you to death)…
1. Network with your friends.
This is your best shot of finding something better. Friends will advocate for you within their own companies or to friends of friends. Just like finding my husband, almost all the jobs I have held in my past have come because of my contacts with a friend of a friend. If you have no friends, then check out my post, “10 Ways to Make Friends” or John Grohol’s “10 More Ways to Make Friends.”
2. Use social networking.
I never thought I’d be so grateful for LinkedIn and Facebook, but they really do connect you to folks you would never meet outside a social networking forum. The fact that you can peruse a friend’s contact, or enter the company name in a search and have it show you which connections of other connections work for the company is nothing short of miraculous when you are determined to ditch your job.
3. Be yourself.
This is what got me fired and then hired. If you are yourself at work, you will either thrive or wither, and if you wither chances are that you are in the wrong place to begin with. Moreover, people will pick up on your skills and talents if you are using them. If they are buried underneath a stack of papers you could care less about, then your light is hidden from the world. Be yourself and fate will drive your future.
4. Network with colleagues (carefully).
This is risky. Because you really never know who you can trust. I mean, the guy who said he would try to help me find a new job is the same one who fired me. However, aside from him, I had a small group of friends who were totally honest about their love-hate relationship with the company and were exploring other options. We were there for each other and shared contacts, ideas, recommendations. But proceed cautiously.
5. Get past your fears.
The reason I took a corporate job was to get good healthcare. And the reason I stayed at that job, when my head was spinning around like the chick in the Exorcist, was cheap healthcare. Now our family is back to paying a ridiculous premium which covers nothing—and I will write about that at some point, how healthcare in the country has now dominated people’s career track, because it is virtually impossible to be creative and have good healthcare.
Anyhow, for me, the big nut to get around—the fear that was holding me back—was healthcare. And although we are paying an arm and a leg right now, I know that, on some level, it will actually cost us less, because I am not getting sick as often as I was. Moreover, writing assignments have come out of the blue to cover some of the cost that I knew that we’d absorb. In short, it’s not as bad as I thought. The lesson? Don’t let your fears keep you suck in a toxic job.
6. Make up some rules.
Even if you aren’t recovering from a major health condition or mood disorder, coming up with some personal rules to live by will keep you balanced and whole, and possibly even sane and happy, because it says that you control the work situation, instead of it controlling you.
My two rules were these: I was not willing to pull all-nighters (I made a stink about needing at least seven hours of sleep), and that I would not work over 80 hours a week. When I saw that the majority of my co-workers did pull all-nighters and worked over 80 hours many weeks, I knew it was time to pull the plug. Make a list of conditions you are willing to put up with, and also a list of deal-breakers, so that you work this job according to your rules instead of theirs.
7. Go with your gut.
I don’t know about you, but my gut is more rowdy and opinionated with each passing birthday. It’s full of judgments and preferences, and when I don’t follow them, there is outrage and turmoil. So I’m trying to do a better job of going with my gut the first time round, like when it says, “I don’t see you happy in this job.” Or the second time, “I still don’t see you happy in this job.” And definitely by the third, “Are you moron? Leave!”