Write a good ending

February 20, 2011

Career counseling

On a difficult Monday morning a few weeks ago, I placed a panicked call to my career consultant. I was ready to walk out on my current job. I had worked myself up into a frenzy of rationalizations, convinced that it’s all a waste and I need to use my time in other ways.

She talked me down off the ledge. The best thing she said was, “You don’t have to like the situation; you have to like yourself in it.” Walking out, not delivering what I promised, and leaving them in the lurch is not going to boost my integrity or confidence. Try to find ways to use the situation for personal development.

At our next regular meeting, she turned the incident into a new assignment for me: Describe the best possible ending at my current job. Write it out in great detail. With my emotions in check, I was able to document a vision of a good ending that includes me doing right by myself and a short list of people who have invested in me along the way.

The first part of it involves feeling certain I have explored every opportunity within my current company. There are lots of good things about this company – maybe there’s another job that’s a better fit, or a transitional role that gets me closer to my ultimate career goal. And having gone through this process with my consultant (it ain’t over yet), I will have specific information to give HR about what I want to do. If there’s not a match, I will feel good about having given them an honest opportunity.

The second part comes when I decide to leave. I see myself with well thought out yet exciting plans for where I’m heading next. And I make the time and effort to articulate it to the handful of people that have helped and supported me during my tenure.

The biggest thing about the “good ending” document is that it exists, in detail, on paper. And I wrote it. It’s an invaluable reference on bad Mondays. Calm down, take a step back. We’re working a process here and it’s not finished yet. I need to keep my day job – and like myself in it – until I have done the work to make a change in the right direction.

A good ending is a big step toward a good beginning.

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Image: Peter Kaminski

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