The Stress and Strain of Job/Career Changes on a household
Right out of the gate, I want to thank my husband, Matt Wojcik, for his suggestion on this blog. This topic is all too familiar to us, and something that we are still navigating our way around. Because this hits close to home, and it has also been a common theme I have heard from many, many people, and because, quite frankly, it is so fresh in our minds, I felt it worthy of exploring.
About a year and a half ago, without going into too much detail, it became readily clear, that my husband needed to leave the organization he had been with, at that point for 17 years. About the same time, it became clear to myself, that I needed to make the leap into private practice. Slowly, both of us started our own individual processes of (in his case) getting the right job offer, and for me: finding the right office, and taking the steps necessary to leave group practice, and venture out on my own. For both of us, it was a painstaking process. And for both of us, third time so to speak, appeared to be the charm. Matt had 2 prior offers, that were not the right offers. I had 2 prior offices that fell thru. And then, BAM! In his case, the 3rd offer was the right one, and the 3rd office ended up working out for me. Never in a million years however, could I have predicted, that they both would happen at the exact same time. And never could I also have predicted, the stress and strain that comes along with all of that change at once. As you might imagine, after all of the time, and hard work, and disappointments along the way, the feeling of elation, and joy was incredible. We both were on cloud nine.
I remember humming the Jeffersons’ theme song: ‘Movin’ on up’, and the words of Martin Luther King were constantly on my mind, ‘Free at last, free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!’ And while, nothing has changed there-I still feel that way, I now know that the reality of the situation(s) is not all joy, and not all elation, and that cloud nine does not last. Change (especially when so much of it is going on at the same time) is hard. There is an old saying that goes like this: ‘People change and they forget to tell each other’. I believe, that this is applicable to so many situations. Things change, and people forget to talk about it. People move from house to house and forget to talk about how that change will affect their whole family. People move from dating to getting married, and forget to talk about the impact of that leap. And so it is, that people change jobs, and they forget to talk about the strain and stress that changes will (or could) have on relationships, the household, and finances. Not to mention, the adapting to a whole new system, and structure of an organizations(s).
Lets face it. If change were easy, we would do it all the time! If change were simple, and did not involve the element of at least some type of risk, it would be a no brainer. While we may be miserable in our present jobs/careers, and in the presence of high levels of occupational toxicity, especially if we have been in that environment for a long time, there is also somewhat of a security in knowing the predictability of how things flow.
In Matt’s case, when all was said and done, he was with the same job for 18.5 years. In my case, I had been in the security of group practices for about the same length of time. And while we both were unhappy, and not feeling that we were moving forward at all, there was still that predictability factor! Kind of like a warm fuzzy blanket, and an old hat.
Then the change came, and as I have come to realize, it is similar to what you always hear people say about having children. Nothing can really 100% prepare you for having a child. You are never 100% ready for what comes. There is no manual that the Dr. gives you, that says, ‘follow this, and you will have the absolute perfect angel child. Everything will be perfect’.
There is no manual that you are given, where you are told, ‘read this, and this big job change and new venture is going to be perfect!’ Far from it….
Emotions/Feelings that you will experience when changing jobs/careers
Think about when you are riding your favorite roller coaster. If you are like most people, you experience this incredible nervous anticipation of what is to come as slowly, you are headed up to the top of that hill. And then, before you can barely even catch your breath, you are zooming down that hill faster than the speed of light. What a rush! How exciting! But then, here comes another hill… and the nervousness starts all over again. Up down, up down. There is a reason why people that change jobs/careers will say, ‘it is an emotional roller coaster!’ It is scary. Nerve racking. But then, there are those moments, when it is worth every second of that nervousness, as you feel the rush and excitement that comes later after little victories are celebrated, and you remind yourself of why you took the leap. Why you took the chance.
The following are both negative and positive emotions that you will likely experience when changing jobs; truly, any big change for that matter:
1.Depression and Sadness: It is going to feel like a break up or divorce. You are going to grieve (especially if you worked at the job for at least 4 years so the experts say). There is no need to feel that this is in any way out of the ordinary. Look at it this way: when people go thru a divorce, do they walk down the aisle saying, ‘Well, there is always divorce!’ No, it was not something that they saw at that time-coming. When you started the job, you had high hopes-you saw yourself being at this job for a long time; perhaps for the rest of your working years. It can be a sad time, to admit, that you need to leave the job, in order to better yourself and your future. When you initially started the job you are exiting, you didn’t think that this day might come, or, that you would eventually have to say goodbye to the relationships that you developed and cultivated over the years.
2.Guilt: As exciting as the job change can be, there is a sense of guilt that often comes, with realizing that you are leaving behind co-workers that may have to deal with some very messy things that you were always responsible for, and/or, the sense that you are moving on, and they cannot. While this is normal, it is important to not let this consume you, because, we are all, in the end, individually responsible for our own happiness, and what is best for us.
3. Fear and Anxiety: This one alone, is the one that most often prevents people from making a job change. Specifically, fear of the unknown. You cannot control the future. But really when it comes down to it, people that are reluctant to change, will often stay put in work environments because of the predictability factor. They would rather have the element of familiarity than run the risk of defeat. Here is the thing though-even when things are relatively predictable, you cannot predict the future. Does anyone remember the great recession of 2006-2011? How many people were issued pink slips (at least here in Michigan) that worked for the Big-3 car companies? Some of those folks had been with their respective companies for 30 years or more! Could anyone predict?
My point here, is that fear of the unknown, and the associated anxiety along with it, is normal, but you cannot let it control you. The unknown is always there. In that, it can be argued, that life, in and of itself is full of one big gambling casino!
1.Acceptance: This one can take a bit, depending on the length of time you worked at the job you are leaving. As mentioned above, one of the most negative emotions one can experience is guilt. If we have a strong work ethic, and have been incredibly valuable employees, we tend to develop the idea, that the former job cannot survive without us. The guilt overcomes you, and it is hard to accept that you have to move on. While you may have already even gone thru the motions of submitting a resignation or whatnot, it may not sink in quite yet, that you are in fact, physically leaving the establishment. It feels surreal. As time marches on, you begin to see the value that the prior job had in your life, how it helped you grow professionally, and accept that the next step that you have taken is a necessity (whether it ultimately works out or not).
2.Relief: Remember my earlier relaying of hearing Martin Luther King’s words in my head when Matt first got his job offer, and I knew I was going to be making the leap into private practice? ‘Free at last, free at last.. thank God almighty, we are free at last!’
That is relief. It is a powerful and super exciting emotion to feel. A sense of rebirthing. A sense that things are going to be new, and fresh. It is invigorating. And underlying that wonderful feeling, is knowing, that you will not have to experience the negatives of the job you are leaving, or left, ever again. Some have even said, that they felt like they knew how it felt to be let out of jail, prison , or in slavery. Freedom. It tastes so good
3. Motivation and Determination: Coinciding with relief, comes motivation and determination. You are excited. You know, that what you are doing is the best thing you could possibly do for yourself. There is no doubt. There is no fear. You are 100% ready to dive in. Go get ‘em Tiger! And even, when there are days when you may be less than motivated to go into the new job, you know, that in the end, it will be worth it. I liken it to hard core exercise. Do we always want to do it? No. But with motivation and determination, you know, that afterwards? You will be glad you did.
I want to mention here, that there is no necessary sequence to these 6 negative and positive emotions. It can run the gamut, and varies depending on the person. On one given day, for example, you could experience guilt, but also relief! This is 100% normal when going thru a big change like a job/career change. Eventually, the dust settles. You get off of the roller coaster.
As a final note, remember, that none of us really like change, and the process it entails. As I said earlier, if it were so simple, we would make leaps of faith all the time. My hope with this blog, was that it would help people feel that all of the aforementioned is normal. To feel validated, and not feel that something is wrong with them-by any stretch of the imagination. And moreover, to be truly prepared for anything- both positive and negative. It is going to be a bit of a bumpy ride for a while. Matt and I are still learning that. We were not so prepared for the roller coaster. We have learned so much thru this process the hard way-which is the other point I had with this blog-to ‘pay it forward’, in the hopes that it helps someone, or some people out there to be a little more prepared when one or more members of your household makes a big job/career transition.
And on those days when the roller coaster is pretty tall: the following has come to help me so much. It takes me back to that initial moment, when I knew that we both were moving forward in a positive direction with the respective job developments. It always makes me smile. Especially the line, ‘now we’re up in the big leagues, getting our turn at bat’.. I give you- The Jeffersons’ theme song ?