In my experience, there are 5 phases of employment once I start a new position.
Phase 1: Euphoria
“This job is the best thing that has ever happened! Not only in my life, but in your life too. Nothing in this history of the world has ever surpassed this joy.”
Phase 2: Uncertainty/Awkwardness
“Hm, this is kind of hard, actually. I have to talk to new people and they’re going to think I’m weird because I don’t have cable, and I have to learn how to use the coffee maker and pretend that I’m an enthusiastic person.”
Phase 3: Complacency
“This job is actually okay, I guess. I don’t hate every single day, but I still wouldn’t be upset if I were to win the lottery.”
Phase 4: Disdain
“I have never been more bored/stressed/angry* in my entire life. I hate this job and I’m leaving!”
*While the emotion in this phase varies, the important part is that it is extreme. It is the worst, and I cannot possibly tolerate it for another day/week/month.
Phase 5: Shutdown
“I don’t even care what happens here, because I already found a new job and it is going to be the best thing that’s ever happened. I’m going to cry happy tears every single day just because I am so lucky to wake up as me.”
In most positions, this process has taken me approximately 12-18 months to complete, at which point I usually applied for an internal promotion, and usually received it. I have always been incredibly lucky when applying for jobs, but I’ve always been sort of low-effort. That may sound boastful, but believe me, it is not always as fortuitous as it sounds. Getting by with minimal effort may be fine in an undergraduate program or an entry-level position, but it really sets you up for failure if you ever have to do anything that is actually difficult. By coasting along for all those years, I never learned important skills like ‘perseverance’ or ‘studying.’ Any time I’ve ever encountered anything difficult on my path, I have simply changed direction, which is actually a huge personality flaw. It’s like that old saying: “If at first you don’t succeed, give up immediately and settle for something easier.” (Right?)
Anyway, getting back to the life cycle, it usually takes me about 12-18 months to get tired of a job and start looking around. In my most recent position, for various reasons, the entire process took me 6 business days. I knew immediately and urgently that I did not want to be at this company any longer, so first I called my old boss and begged for my job back. He played the role of the wise father-figure, and I left the conversation feeling like I should probably try to stick it out a little longer, as though I was at some summer camp where the other kids were mean to me.
After about a month, I applied for a job at a company that I sort of had some connections with, and I scored a phone interview through some name-dropping on my application. The phone interview went well enough, and they invited me in for an in-person interview. At this point, I’m getting more and more optimistic, because I am an excellent interviewer. I dressed professionally with every hair in place, firm handshake, warm smiles— it was a textbook interview. When I left, I felt like it was a slam dunk, and I went home to patiently wait for the phone call that would allow me to leave my job with 2 middle fingers held high. (the likelihood of this happening is very small, because that would be very rude.)
That was over a month ago, and I’ve heard nothing. Not even a “thanks, but no thanks” auto-email. I can’t help but feel like I’ve been stood up after a blind date. I mean, I thought I nailed the interview. I don’t think I would have done a single thing differently, so I guess what I find most concerning is that I obviously didn’t actually nail the interview. This means that it’s not JUST my interview skills that need to be polished, but my judgment skills too, which are a lot less tangible.
So at this point, as I’m stewing over my defeat, a few things are happening in my head (in the shape of an outline):
- I still hate my job, but still relying on their compensation to pay for things I don’t hate, like:
- I’m still stalking job boards daily, but sort of mentally beat down about applying, because:
- What if I get an interview and they don’t hire me either? Or worse!
- What if they do hire me, and it is somehow worse than this insane place?
- I need to get more skills somehow, but I am skeptical of graduate school, because I’m still:
- Adverse to difficult things.
- Not sure what exact career path I want.
- Not rich, and hesitant of becoming less rich yet.
- I can feel inaction creeping in because:
- Other jobs will be different from this and could be harder or more miserable.
- I have 12 days off over the holidays, and I sure do love not being here.
- One way to prevent disappointment is to avoid getting your hopes up in the first place. (I just made that up, but it sounds like something girls would post on facebook and somehow attribute to Marilyn Monroe, who is probably pretty surprised in the afterlife about how prolific people think she was.)
So the answer to all of this crazy-talk is to come up with a plan. I’m not there yet, but hopefully I will get there soon.