You signed on the dotted line of your employment contract a few years ago now.
Together with that agreement was an unspoken promise to absorb the culture and become a part of the team. Although many companies encourage people to “be themselves,” there would be anarchy if there weren’t some expected norms for behaviour and processes, and you soon found yourself behaving slightly differently to your natural preference. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and you told yourself that you would get used to it.
It is like when you get a new class teacher at primary school. This year’s is a little stricter than last year’s, and any spontaneity is frowned upon. You adapt your behaviour to the circumstances, but you cannot fully be yourself. In this case, the more straight-laced kids flourish, but the bouncy creative types are somewhat stifled.
So, for the last few years, you have been fitting in at work, toeing the corporate line. You enjoy what you do most of the time, and switching on your “work persona” every morning is increasingly easy as the months roll by. Except one morning you look into the mirror and don’t recognise the person who is looking back.
They say that people leave their jobs because of their bosses or because they want to take the next step in their careers. This may be right, but I think that there is a deeper reason. People primarily leave their jobs because they don’t recognise themselves in the mirror anymore – they are no longer being true to who they are. There might be many reasons for this, and a nightmare boss may well be playing a part, but essentially they have strayed a little too far from themselves.
When you let work define your life, this is a genuine possibility.
Luckily, our working lives are becoming ever more flexible. The era of a job for life is gone, and job hopping is even now seen as the pursuit of the ambitious rather than the desperate. If you have mad skills and want to move to an employer where you think that you would feel more personally fulfilled, why wouldn’t you move? Companies are so much more open about their cultures and making the “right” choice about where you might be happiest is so much easier.
All it requires is one choice. You have to choose to look in the mirror. Is the person looking back really the person that lives inside you? Is he or she really pursuing the career of their dreams with an employer where they feel at home? The answer is probably “no” as no employer offers a perfect reflection of everything inside of us, but if the differences are significant, then why don’t you do something about it?
You only have one career, and your happiness at work has a huge impact on the rest of your life. A tough workplace can taint your life for years after you leave, as unraveling the destructive behaviours takes time, so if you feel “lost” in your current job, why waste any time? At least think about what options might be out there. There are always options.
If you are not true to yourself, you are cheating yourself of a better future.
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