Having it all, but giving it up

Dear Joan:
I had the whole thing: $35,000-a-year job, company car, and an unlimited expense account. I also had a boss I couldn't stand, and it meant living in a city I didn't especially care for. I got up one morning, looked in the mirror and said, with feeling, "I can't stand it another minute." In a nutshell, I simply wasn't happy. I wasn't burned out, but it was only one short step this side of burned out.

Now I'm job-hunting and all I hear is: "Over qualified." The only jobs I'm applying for are those I feel I would enjoy and could sink my teeth into. I don't want $35,000 a year; I want a job I can enjoy.

What do I do - lie on the application? Most don't even call me for an interview, and when I hand in the application, I'm told this job wouldn't pay nearly what my previous one did. Do they think I'm so stupid that I didn't know that before I applied?

Where do the over-qualified go to work?

You're sending conflicting messages.

The only job you want is one "I would enjoy and could sink my teeth into." On the other hand, you don't want a job that pays $35,000 a year.

I'm confused. No doubt potential employers are, too.

If $35,000 represents more responsibility than you are willing to accept, then you need to come to terms with that.

However, if a lousy boss and a city you disliked are what you walked away from, don't get those things confused with all $35,000-a-year jobs.

I suggest another talk with yourself in the mirror. This time take a long, hard look at your performance on your past job.

Ask yourself: What did I really enjoy about my last job? What did I really have? If I had had a different boss and worked in a different city, would I still be on that job?

How closely did my last job fit my abilities, personality and interests? Did the reward system fit my natural sense of motivation? (For example, if you worked on straight commission, did you feel terrified rather than challenged?)

Did I dislike my former boss because he was putting pressure on me to perform?

If I had a magic wand and could have any job I wanted, which job would I be in right now?

Your "mirror, mirror on the wall" may help you answer these tough questions. It's essential that you know what you ran from before you can figure out what to run toward.

If you discover that you were not a good fit for the job you had, it's easy to understand why you'd chuck it all. It doesn't matter that others may have envied you for "having it all." If it wasn't right for you it didn't matter.

What's important now is learning from the experience. Fight the desire to avoid examining the details. After all even a $10,000-a-year job can be in the wrong city and have a lousy boss.

If you decide you'd rather find a job with less responsibility, you're going to have a tough time convincing an employer you're a good match.

Most employers would rather hire someone who's qualified to step up to the job rather than down to it. Their primary concern is that you'll leave as soon as you find a job that really suits you. If you stay, they fear you'll soon be bored and unmotivated.

If you tell them you are looking for less responsibility, they will think you'll be unwilling to assume extra duties on the job. They will also fear that you'll become dead-ended and unable or willing to move up.

You have to be aware of how your potential employers are interpreting the signals you're sending.

Joan Lloyd is a Milwaukee based executive coach and organizational & leadership development strategist. She is known for her ability to help leaders and their teams achieve measurable, lasting improvements. Joan Lloyd & Associates, specializes in leadership development, organizational change and teambuilding, providing: executive coaching, CEO coaching & leader team coaching, 360-degree feedback processes, retreat facilitation and presentation skill coaching and small group labs. Contact Joan Lloyd & Associates at (414) 573-1616, mailto:info@joanlloyd.com, or www.JoanLloyd.com 
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