“I’m in a rut. I hate my job. I’m underpaid and I’ve applied to everything that comes up, but I don’t even get to the first round of interviews. I obviously can’t leave… I can’t afford to not have an income. I feel doomed.”
This is one of the most common dilemmas I hear from my clients. They become distressed due to the lack of opportunities coming up in the job market, and they become embittered due to the dire outlook with their current employer. They feel underpaid, underappreciated and unable to get ahead.
What to do when you find yourself stuck in this rut? There’s a clear imbalance of power and you do not have the upper hand. Briefly stated, you need to flip that situation over, so that you have control over the situation and the freedom to choose your outcome. It will certainly take work, but it is much easier than you think.
First step: Remove all emotions from the situation you are in. Think of this as a long, drawn out game of chess. It probably took you years to get stuck in your rut, so get comfy- it’ll take at least a few months to turn this game around in your favor. If you continue to emotionally invest as much as you have thus far in a toxic environment, you will be too drawn out to see this through completion. Believe me it’s worth it… you know you’ve dreamed about that day when you are FREE to either decide to stay for more money, or leave for a better offer.
Take up yoga, meditation or anything that helps you tone down the anxiety generated by your current predicament without turning you into a completely “disengaged” employee. Don’t give them a reason to let you go. In fact, up your game and make yourself indispensable.
Step two: Make yourself indispensable. Take on the extra projects, spearhead new initiatives. They need to know you are loyal and trustworthy- become a fundamental cog in the proverbial “machine.”
Step three: Know what you want. What do you do best? What do you want to do? Now, common advice dictates that you should follow your passion and figure out a way to make your dream job happen. That’s true to a certain extent, but in the interest of time and removing you as soon as possible from a toxic situation, let’s stick to what is it that you do best and what you could get paid for doing.
Step four: Change the rules of the game. Why keep waiting for jobs to be posted? Polish up your resume and reach out to companies all over the country expressing your interest in a role with them. Make a list of thirty to forty companies. Don’t make your contact email too colloquial or too formal- start building trust with this new potential employer and make sure to show genuine interest in each one of these institutions. It may sound like a lot of work, but in the grand scheme of things, sending out forty emails is not that hard. Most of us send way more than forty emails on an average day!
I know you are thinking “but I don’t want to leave this town.” And to this I say: Don’t put the cart ahead of the horse. We are building your bargaining power for when you go to your current employer. It doesn’t mean you must leave, but you need to have opportunities to choose from if you want any say in the conversation. Walking away from your current job needs to be perceived as a very real threat by your employer if you are to be taken seriously in your current predicament.
Step five: The waiting game. You quietly wait for responses to your queries. Follow up as necessary. Continue to be indispensable at work. Hopefully you only must go through one round of step four, but if you are not seeing results, it’s likely that either your resume or contact email is not conveying your message correctly. Have you selected a wide enough sample of employers?
Once you start receiving responses and offers, THEN you start crafting your negotiation.