Looking For Work When You Already Have Work
by Megan Reynolds
There’s a tricky art to looking for another job while deep in the trenches of your current one. There are doctor’s appointments, dropped hastily into an email at strange hours of the day, one after the other. When lunch normally means a salad inhaled at your desk while typing with one hand, an hour and a half in the middle of the day to sit across a table from a stranger at a cafe feels illicit, like cheating.
As you awkwardly navigate the terrain of career advancement, you become skilled at the tricks of the trade. If you must “go to the doctor,” you start to act more sickly at the office in a half-baked attempt to legitimize the fact that you’re ducking out around 11 a.m. dressed a little better than you normally do. Your radar for other people sneaking up behind you as you write chipper responses confirming interviews sharpens. You start to find the best places in your office to make clandestine telephone calls, speaking in your interview voice, an octave higher and much more polite than the tone you use to say hi to the woman who always seems to be standing in your way in the kitchen. The tasks you do every day are fueled by a quiet rage and carelessness. “Soon, I’ll be out of this place,” you think to yourself as you willfully half-ass the task in front of you. “Soon, I will be on to better things.”
Looking for another job while you’re already employed tests the limits of your ability to tell little white lies. Maybe it’s about how badly you want it. If you’re someone with an inability to lie effectively and are fearful of displeasing the authority figures in your day to day, then this is harder for you than most. It turns up the volume on the anxiety, yet somehow lets you blissfully split into two different people. It’s a real wonder to watch yourself blithely lie to your boss about yet another doctor’s appointment while you sweat on the inside. The human mind’s capacity for duplicity is incredible to watch.
On some level, it feels ungrateful. Say you have a job: a good job, a stable job, a job that you don’t really mind. Careers are fluid, dynamic things. To want more beyond what you have feels greedy at times. It’s already hard for many people to find a job in the first place. You have a job and it is fine. Be grateful for what you have. Stay the course. Settle. Be content with the work that you do because it is work and because it pays the bills and because it lets you do the things you really like to do on the weekends.
To settle is fine for some, but settling is also borne of fear. Change terrifies us because it sneaks in through the cracks and shakes the firmament. It unsettles, wrenching familiarity and comfort out of your grip and tossing you into the unknown. It’s okay to stay in the same job if you want, but it’s also okay to look for more opportunity. We are creatures who are remarkably skilled in the art of adapting. Change begets opportunity, and upward mobility is never a bad thing. Seize the day, take your shot, feel empowered in being able to look at what you’re doing and realize that you can do better.
For some, the desire to find a new job only arises when their current situation becomes untenable and miserable. The impulse to look for work here is akin to dating, a grass is always greener mentality that makes you antsy after six months and positively furious as your year anniversary approaches. You’ve never stopped getting automatic emails from Indeed.org because you know that there’s something else out there for you that could be better than what you currently have. Advancing in your career is a given — you know your value and you’re confident in it, so why wouldn’t you do your absolute best to find a way to capitalize on that? Others are content to really dig in and get comfortable, settling into a job because it’s a job, because it works, because it’s what they’ve always done. The settlers are the ones that need the support, the quiet affirmations that the choice they’ve made to better their careers is okay. They need the quiet, whispered reassurance from friends that it’s perfectly fine to see what else is out there and take charge.
Here’s something to remember: You are not ungrateful because you’re looking for a better job. It is not ungrateful to take opportunities as they arise. It is not ungrateful to look at job boards on your lunch break and write cover letters on your phone on the way home from work. Work is work — we all have to do it, and we all are lucky to have the opportunity to make our own money and go our own way. To acknowledge that you could be doing something better for yourself isn’t squandering the faith that an employer has put in you, it’s just telling yourself that you are capable of more. Nothing about that is a weakness; it is all strength.
It’s powerful to admit to yourself that you deserve better. Settling comfortably leads directly to stagnation. There’s no reason to feel complacent in a career you hate or feel ill-suited for because opportunity is around every single corner. Someone you meet in a dark bar, sitting across a table from you and talking shit about reality television manifests into an email you send the next day which turns into a job. Keeping in touch with that person you didn’t like very much in college could work in your favor. You’ll never know unless you actually try, and sometimes, trying is the hardest part. Admitting to yourself that you can and should do something other than what you’ve done your whole life, as if in a fugue state, is the first step. Making the moves to exact that change is the next.
Megan Reynolds lives in New York.