When I decided to study psychology, a number of people said that I wouldn’t be able to get work. I was very fortunate to actually have gotten a job, but in a way, I wasn’t.
The person who hired me was awesome and someone I admire to this day, but hiring me seemed like they were doing me a favour as a friend of my family and not because I was particularly qualified for the position. Nevertheless, I took the job in gratitude as I had been unemployed for several months.
I think a lot of us can relate to being given a position that you don’t really want but because it gives you money, you take it. You say to yourself that you want to use it as a springboard to go do what you really want to do. Maybe you want to start a business or go back to school.
But a very curious thing happens instead. You get comfortable. So comfortable, in fact, that leaving seems threatening to your livelihood.
I was a researcher and the job paid well. I thought I was so lucky. However, the climate of the job was difficult for those around me. Certain red tape and political decisions really frustrated the people who wanted to be there while I was relatively calm. It didn’t matter as much to me. Unfortunately, this would come to bite me in the ass later.
When my contract ended and I had the money I saved up, I put it into a business venture that didn’t bear fruit, but I enjoyed myself thoroughly. It was such a humongous contrast to the researcher job. I was happy, but the scary notion that overcomes many twenty-somethings swept over me: am I doomed to make money doing what I don’t like and to never be successful doing what I want to do?
That’s the problem with nepotism. If you’re lucky enough to get a job doing something you want to be doing through some link, fair play to you. But if you get a job because of connections and it stifles you, what then? You become dependent on a paycheque, routine and the known. You become wary of being financially insecure, change and the unknown.
It’s a short-term solution that may lead to negative long-term consequences.
The contrast of doing what I loved and being a researcher was too great. I vowed never to return to the job, but when no money was coming in and I became desperate, I took the contract they offered me. I would sign on the line and transform from pauper to sultan.
But, of course, with the monetary pinch alleviated, the professional punch would hit me over the head. I had to change my attitude towards the job and embrace my role. However, in doing that, the same red tape and bureaucracy now slapped me in the face and left me very frustrated too. What’s more is that you can’t fake you who are. As much as I embraced the job, it wasn’t for me.
I would meet people who would join the job later who were so much more devoted than I was. I felt pathetic. Even though I knew more than they did, their passion was undeniable. My co-workers and anyone else who cared for the job deserved it way more than I ever did. Did I leave? No, not yet.
When other researchers had left their positions for greener pastures, I felt like I had to stay to make up for the workload. Furthermore, I was the de facto conflict resolution guy. I couldn’t leave now! Too much was at stake. It wasn’t my responsibility to deal with other people’s problems but I tried and I tried, until I couldn’t anymore.
Every day was torture, and I knew I was doing it to myself. I was trying to play a martyr for a job that I didn’t want and didn’t suit me all because I was offered and approved to take it from a friend who was looking out for me. I couldn’t blame them, I had to drop the blame and co-dependent excuses and leave.
One half of my co-workers celebrated my leaving, the others were not as supportive. That’s natural. So far, I’m glad I took the leap. I was nervous when I left, as you would expect for stepping into the unknown. But it is clear now that it was by far the better option.
I learnt a lot on the job: work ethic, patience, how to handle concoctions of traits bordering on Cluster B personality disorders. And interestingly enough, I threw them all out. Why? Because they were useless to me. What I learnt was how other people worked, how to moan when things aren’t the way you want it and how to tip-toe around people who were difficult.
All of those were useful in a context of me in a job that I never wanted; but for a job that I actually wanted, I would have to learn new skills on work ethic, patience and how to handle difficult people.
So when one is offered a job or even a relationship or opportunity that isn’t quite a good fit, bear in mind that the benefits may one day trap you in a position that you never wanted in the first place. Furthermore, you can’t fake who you really are. Sooner or later, something’s got to give.