When I was 25 years old, after taking a year off from my engineering career to study music in Los Angeles, I went looking to re-enter the “working world”. I ended up getting a job in my home town of San Juan, Puerto Rico. But what sounded like a great situation at the time resulted in one of the worst job fits I can imagine.
The position was with a large, established firm that recruited and groomed recent graduates from the top local engineering school. And here I was, a graduate of MIT, “bringing my talents home” after having lived in the US for seven years. What could go wrong, right?
They told me to look for another job
I could say a lot of things to explain my disenchantment with that job. I could talk about some of the firm’s rules and practices that seemed archaic to me. That employees were required to enter the building through the back door because the front door was for clients (well, and everyone else who wasn’t an employee). That they piped Muzak through the PA speakers all day long – yes, like what you’d hear as you ride the escalator in a department store. And my favorite: they rang an actual bell – yes, like in high school – several times a day to signal when it was time to go to break or return to work. I felt I was in the Twilight Zone.
I could say that I had no chance of surviving in that work environment. But the truth is that, as much as I felt like an outsider there, I was DEVASTATED when I was called in for my one-year review and told to look for other work. How could they?!
It was a terrible fit, but I was still devastated
Now, after so many years of personal growth, and so much more awareness about who I am and what I really want, I can admit something that was unthinkable to me at the time: I WANTED to get fired.
How could that be? Well, it makes sense looking back now. I knew somewhere, deep down that I wanted out. I knew I wanted a different kind of career, and a different work environment.
Deep down, I wanted to get fired
But what I didn’t know was that I had the power to change it. I didn’t think of taking the initiative and the time to brainstorm. I could’ve been working on creating the solutions I ended up creating after I got fired. Instead, I waited for someone else – my employer – to make the decision for me and spur me to action.
So why didn’t I take action sooner? Maybe I was complacent? Maybe I felt that my circumstances should change without me having to change anything. Maybe I didn’t feel that I deserved it, or that I had the right to leave a “coveted” position unless I was thrown out. Who knows?
I know I’d deal with the situation differently if it happened today. I would feel more empowered, and I wouldn’t wait to get fired to work on creating solutions.
THIS WEEK: Ask yourself, are you where you want to be? If not, what are you waiting for? Whose permission do think you need in order to get yourself out of a situation that’s not a good fit, and into one that’s right for you?