Straying from the Path

A woman seeks advice about whether or not she should quit her job.

Your Career Coach

Off the Path?

Dear Michele,

I recently made the choice to step into a management position, a nine month contract, not outside of but on the outskirts of my main career path. My intention had been to gain valuable experience to take me further toward my own personal career goals. However, I’ve now found myself working 12-14 hour days, six days a week for the last two and a half months. My immediate superior quit over two months ago (approx. two months into my contract) and since then I have been performing his job duties as well as my own as one cannot function without the other.

I’d been overwhelmed by the tasks now sitting in my lap, but have slowly gotten it all organized to my own system. I did apply for my superior’s open position, my education and experience more than met the posted job requirements, and I was doing it in any case. But in spite of my success as evident by my monthly numbers and hard working staff, I was informed by the director that I am “Unqualified” and perhaps in four or five years I would be suitable.

I am now frustrated, I was left with a mess to deal with, no one to help me -in spite of asking – yet I not only kept the business functioning, I made it profit further. When I have asked for guidance in unfamiliar matters I am told by my director “He’ll take care of everything” Not at all what I am asking for and I have clearly spoken this. I’m very strongly considering returning to my main career focus, but my contract still has four and a half months left and this company could make (it is a prestigious recommendation if given) or break me, literally, I have had panic attacks at work and even after exhausting days, I don’t sleep.

Quit or Stick it out if I can? I’ve recently demanded a second day off a week, but I get a lot of hassle about it and usually some ’emergency’ (interim manager wants night off) has me going in anyways. I’m not afraid of hard work, sometimes I find moments I enjoy in those 14 hours a day. But I’m starting to think this situation is going too far, and there is no other replacement for at least another two possibly three months.

— Overworked and Sleep Deprived

Dear Deprived,

I am going to focus on what you said about your success — so, your monthly numbers are good and your staff is hardworking? You’ve been doing your job successfully, and have also picked up the tasks of your departed supervisor? And you’re not qualified to step into the open position? OK, here’s where you start to drill down with your director. What exactly would you need to do to be more qualified? What would he need to see? What do you need to demonstrate?

Listen carefully to his responses, because he will reveal whether it will be at all possible for you to be promoted. If he’s vague and loosey-goosey, then that means either that he doesn’t really know what he wants, or that, for whatever reason, you’re not going to be promoted as long as you work for that guy.

This is what author Seth Godin refers to in his great book The Dip — life has peaks and valleys, and the key thing is to determine whether you’re in a valley (or a dip) with the possibility of going up into a new peak, or whether you’re stuck in a cul-de-sac, an endless circle around a situation that’s never going to change. If you’re stuck in a cul-de-sac, the best alternative, Godin says, is to quit. It’s not that “winners never quit and quitters never win” — it’s more like real winners know when it’s the right time to quit.

If you’re at this point, get your ducks in a row so that when your contract is up you can step into a great new peak for your career.

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