I Do? – Deciding Whether or Not to Marry Your Career

By Audrey Rome 

wedding-bouquetsIt was love at first sight. You found everything you ever dreamed of and more. You found the open door that will support your future, hopes, and dreams.

Suddenly, you are a few months or years into this relationship and you’re starting to second guess yourself. Maybe this wasn’t the picturesque life you were hoping for. Your creativity has been replaced by a mundane routine, but you are oh-so comfortable knowing that the hard part is over and you’ve found a place to call home.  You can’t help but reflect on how much more exciting your life was when you weren’t yet settled. Is marriage in the cards or is it time to split?

If you’re seeking advice about your significant other, I don’t have any answers for you (but please let me know who does). But now that we’ve gotten that disappointing news out of the way, let’s talk about your relationship with your career. Is your job the one, or is it time to go fish?

Head Over Heels

Your first dates were a hit: you nailed the phone screening, interview, orientation, and training. You get the job, love the job, and make friends on the job. You stay late at work and call your friends on the way home to tell them funny stories or great news from the workplace. You meticulously lay out your clothes for the next day and brainstorm ideas for work before going to sleep each night.

Consider leaving if: You don’t experience this thrill and excitement within the first few months of working. Every new opportunity should offer you enough incentive to enjoy getting out of bed and going to work, even if you’re exhausted. It only gets harder after that, so if you don’t feel the spark now, it might be time to go back to the drawing board.

The Comfort Zone

You’re officially an “item,” and the novelty of your job has started to wear off. You’re finally at ease and no longer feel like you have to work so hard to make a great impression. Although routine has set in and things have become a bit dull, you wouldn’t sell your vehicle just because it loses its “new car” smell.

Consider leaving if: You find yourself calling in sick or taking a questionable number of personal days. There is nothing that excites you or motivates you to get up and do your daily routine, whether it’s a fun toothpaste flavor or an inspiring YouTube video to share with your coworkers.

The Proposal

When my school district granted me with tenure, thoughts of lifelong stability and extravagant summer vacations danced in my head. Maybe you’re at the point where you’re doing so well at work that you’ve earned a promotion, a raise, or exceptional accolades. You know that this means you’re in for the long haul and it makes you nervous since your relationship is getting very serious.

Consider leaving if: You feel trapped. Don’t confuse worries with bad feelings; nervousness is normal will often push you to do your best. However, if the only light you can find is the one at the end of the tunnel when you’re ready to retire, you are going to have a grueling journey ahead. If you let 40 or more hours of your week become a perpetual countdown to payday and the weekend, you are throwing a lot of your life away.

If you’re still struggling to make your decision, remember that you don’t have a deadline.  Worst case scenario, here are your possible outcomes:

The Honeymoon and Beyond

You decide to stay and live happily ever after. Okay, it’s nowhere near a fairytale, but you realize that this job is probably your best option. And if you decide at some point that it isn’t?  Lucky for you, changing a career is (usually) a lot less messy than a marital divorce. In that case…

The Breakup

If you do decide that it’s time to move on, don’t look back. Take what you learned from this experience and use it in your future. Don’t burn your bridges or do anything extreme on your way out the door. Don’t apologize, but don’t scream, “So long, suckers!” Take your last paycheck, the connections you’ve made, and the drinks your colleagues will buy you at your last happy hour.

If that’s still too severe, you could even have a trial separation. If your company offers a paid sabbatical, by all means, take it. Use your vacation days to interview, research, and explore other career paths. Take the time to step away from your job as much as possible and decide whether or not you miss it. No harm done, and no one has to know your motive.

Take your time and weigh your options before choosing whether to stay or go.  Regardless of your ultimate decision, just remember that your own personal happiness is the key to success in any relationship.

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