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Do you still like your job? This career assessment exercise can help determine how you feel about your job. Then we'll tell you what to do about it.

Do you get Sunday-itis, where you dread going to work on Monday morning? Do you find that you're tired or depressed even when you're not at work? Has just getting up on a workday morning become a job in itself? Face it. If any of the above apply, it's time to take a real hard look at your career and your role in it.

Reorganizations, changing leadership and procedural changes are happening every day and the ripple effect can turn a job you once loved into one that you hate. It's easy to be an outstanding performer when you're doing work that interests you and fulfills and satisfies your inner motivations. It's tougher to perform well when there's a mismatch between you and your job.

Employees don't always recognize the warning signs of impending job trouble. Clues usually show up before an actual blowup erupts, but workers are often slow to admit even to themselves, when a problem is brewing. Perhaps the qualities that first attracted you to the position no longer exist or you've outgrown the assignment The problem may even rest with your boss or the work environment. Some healthy introspection may reveal that your own lackluster performance is at fault and that you've been ignoring important signals warning you of forthcoming danger.

Now, more than ever, executives feeling the itch of discontent need to take time out to assess their situation and make necessary changes. Start with the questionnaire below, excerpted from the book The Career Decisions Planner.: When to Move, When to Stay, and Men to Go Out on Your Own by Joan Lloyd (Copyright 1992, Joan Lloyd. Reprinted by permission of the publisher, John Wiley & Sons Inc., New York, $14.95).

Take a pencil, some paper and a moment to answer the following nonscored questions. Your answers will help you assess your current "fit" to your job, boss, corporation and chosen career. Lloyd, a Milwaukee-based syndicated career advice columnist, offers suggestions and comments after each section of the questionnaire that will help you in your assessment and to decide whether or not you need to make a change. Your conclusion may surprise you.

GENERAL FIT

1. How do you feel about returning to work on Monday morning? (choose one):

* Pleasant anticipation.

* No feelings one way or the other.

* Dread.

* Feelings of depression, irritability or physical symptoms such as tightening in your stomach.

(If you chose one of the last three answers, complete the following questions.)

2. What do you dislike the most about work? (Your boss? Your peers? The work itself? The company? The politics?)

3. Why do you think it bothers you so much? (List all the reasons you can think of.)

4. How long has this been a problem?

5. Why do you think it began when it did? (Was there a reorganization? Did your attitude change? New boss?)

If most of your answers to these questions are positive, then in all likelihood, you like your job and it suits you. But d you view your position as just a job, or merely a stepping stone to something better, your fit within your organization is somewhat skewed and needs to be evaluated.

Because most people get their jobs by stumbling, backing or being thrust into them, they often find themselves ill-suited for certain aspects of their position. A creative, animated, flamboyant communications expert may find that he's got the skills but is totally miserable doing corporate public relations for a conservative, bureaucratic, slow-paced insurance company. He might find a better match doing similar work at an advertising agency or record company.

A "this-isn't-it" feeling about your job is an indication that the general fit you have within your organization may be off. To bring this vague, but often gnawing feeling into focus, a little more probing is necessary to pinpoint a specific problem area. Don't discount vague feelings of unease, no matter how nebulous they may seem. If your unease has persisted for more than a year, you probably need to take action now.

JOB FIT

6. What do you like about your job?

7. What percentage of the time have you bee able to spend on the things you like during the last two months? The last year?

8. What percentage of time have you spent on the things you dislike about work during the last two months? During the last year? (Don't confuse this with tasks that are routine, that you neither like nor hate. They are a necessary part of every job.)

9. Do you think your skills and abilities are a good fit for the requirements of your job?

10. Which things attracted you to this job when you started work?

11. What changed or didn't turn out as you expected? (Consider both positive and negative changes.)

If you like doing something, you're going to give it your best effort. Analyze your responses in this "Job Fit" section to determine how much of what you're doing you like or don't like or feel you have no aptitude for. There are unpopular, routine aspects to all jobs, but if you view more than 40% of your tasks this way, your skills and interests may not be a good match for this position. And chances are you're having trouble motivating yourself to excel at work. If more than half of your job is unchallenging, it's time for a change.

BOSS FIT

12. What have you done in the past two years that probably hurt your standing with your boss or set you back in your job?

13. What has your boss done that has disappointed you or made you angry?

14. What has your boss not done that you feel should have been done?

15. Has your boss (or others at work) suggested that you should improve in some area? What area?

16. Do you agree with his or her assessment of this need to improve?

17. Could you lose your job if you don't improve? (When contemplating this question, consider if other people have lost their jobs in your company for similar reasons.)

The "Boss Fit" questions help you assess one of the most important aspects of your job--your boss. Your boss' perception of you is his reality. If he thinks you're not performing up to par, it doesn't matter what you think--you probably won't get promoted under him. You might in fact work under a poisonous boss who, no matter what you do, will sabotage your credibility within your department Ask yourself: Am I the only one he has a problem with? How valid is his feedback? Can I live with it? If you can't you'll probably wind up leaving.

But maybe you're the problem. We're quick to blame the boss, but some introspection may reveal personal flaws that need to be addressed. If your problem has to do with performance, attitude or attendance, you don't get a vote. The onus for change is on you in this instance and not to do so will be detrimental to your career. Despite the source of the trouble, it's up to you to take the initiative to straighten out the conflict Networking and establishing a good reputation in other areas of the company may give you more leverage. However, if numerous attempts to amend the rift prove futile, you should begin looking for employment elsewhere. This is the time to be realistic. Some relationships can't be repaired no matter how hard you try.

COMPANY FIT

18. In general, do you like your company?

19. Would you leave your job to work for another company if you could?

20. Has your company been acquired or had a change in leadership in the last two years?

21. Has your company been having financial difficulties or problems competing?

22. Are you fairly paid, compared with others in comparable positions in your field?

Are you a creative person working in an analytical environment? Do your values conflict with the company's practices and ethics? Is your area of expertise not valued or unappreciated by your firm? A yes to any of these questions indicates a potential problem in the "Company Fit" category. Unfortunately, these very issues often don't become troublesome until you're firmly entrenched in your position at your firm. At the same time, a mismatch here can't be overlooked or underestimated.

A major change in leadership usually signals the beginning of a new culture. If you joined the company under the old culture, it may be time to move on. Budget cuts, layoffs and reorganizations are other signals that a big change may be ahead for you. And if money is an issue for you in a traditionally low-paying position, you can rest assured that your dissatisfaction with your job will deepen.

POLITICAL FIT

23. In your company, do you think it's more a matter of who you know rather than what you know that counts?

24. Is your educational background, work experience, and/or personal background similar to coworkers with whom you are competing for promotions?

25. Do you try to avoid playing corporate politics?

26. Has your company's culture changed in the last two years?

Understanding your corporate culture is key for your advancement and longevity within your specific company. So if your answers to the "Political Fit" questions bring up negative feelings toward office politics, you might miss out on valuable information that can enhance your position at your firm. The organization's goals should come first in the thoughts of any good team player. Negative political players do just the opposite, causing disruption and dissension among the ranks. If your company's culture has recently changed, you will need to buy into the new direction in which it's going. Otherwise, you'll be vulnerable should your disenchantment become apparent to your boss.

Not having the "right" education, having unrelated former work experience or coming from a socioeconomic or ethnic background that differs from those in upper-level positions can place you at a distinct disadvantage.

Your differences may distance you from key assignments, thwarting your inclusion in the decision-making loop; keep you relegated to low-priority, low-visibility projects that receive little or no recogniton; and eventually exclude you from ranks of power hitters. Knowing this should prompt you to develop strategies to prevent your career from derailing.

ADVANCEMENT FIT

27. Do you think you can achieve your career/job goals at your current company?

28. Have you been promoted within the last four years?

29. Do you continue to learn new things on your current job?

30. Why have you chosen to stay in your job?

Looking around at coworkers who were hired at about the same time you were is a good benchmark for measuring your own advancement. Have they moved up, while you remain in the same spot? Are they given challenging projects and assignments while you find yourself routinely relegated to the more mundane tasks around the office?

If your status has remained the same for more than four years, you need to assess whether this is the right company and job for you. If you haven't learned anything new in the past year, you may be wasting time in a job that doesn't challenge you. The, "Advancement Fit" questions can help you to evaluate your potential for promotion within your company. If this has gone on for more than two years, you could hurt your future advancement potential if you don't make a move now,

Be open-minded in your evaluation, though. Advancement can be made up of things other than raises and title changes. In fact, with management compression and downsizing, more people are moving laterally. So don't just use promotions as a measure of achievement. Your personal progression is relative to your own motivations and needs; only you can determine your success or failure in this area.

ENTREPRENEURIAL FIT

31. If you could do anything you wanted, would you choose to be your own boss?

32. Do you have a history of chafing at authority imposed by parents, teachers and bosses?

Since the recession has proven there's no such thing as a safe, secure job, a lot more entrepreneurial enterprises are cropping up. The trend is toward smaller, more compact businesses. More and more people are striking out on their own, rather than being restricted to the rules and regulations of a corporation.

Entrepreneurial endeavors are not for everyone, however, and if you are a prospective business owner, first test the waters with a small venture or business project before jumping into entrepreneurship full time. You may find that your customer is tougher than any boss you've ever had. Before venturing out on your own, consider taking small business management courses at a local college or university.

WILLINGNESS FIT

33. Are you willing to do what it takes to change to a better work situation? (If your answer falls in a gray area, explain.)

34. What is the biggest obstacles to leaving your job?

Considering the amount of time we spend at work, doesn't it make sense to make it as enjoyable as possible? Individuals must be accountable for their own career progression. If you see writing on the wall and don't take action against it, you have no one to blame but yourself for falling short of your goals.

Everything may indicate that you should leave your job, but it's up to you to either take that step or find options that make the current situation more palatable and rewarding for you. The motivating force should be what you're going to be able to say at the end of your career: Either, "I just let it happen to me," or "I took steps throughout to make it a satisfying and worthwhile part of my life."

HOW TO GET WHAT YOU WANT

Novelette V. Barton faced a dilemma. After four years with First Charter Life Insurance Co. in New York City, her position as assistant controller for the company was in jeopardy. When the firm announced its plans last October to merge with and move to another insurance company in Pearl River, N.Y., Barton was given two options: move to a subsidiary firm in Philadelphia at the same salary but with no guarantee of the same title and status, or commute upstate with First Charter at the same salary and title, but only on a limited assignment, to be terminated in March. "Neither option held much allure for me," Barton says.

Today's ruthless and stingy job market has rendered the notion of job security obsolete. This restrictive climate has forced many workers who've been spared the final cut to assume additional responsibilities and diversified roles to plug up the gaps left by less fortunate, downsized former coworkers. Facing cutbacks, salary freezes and the threat of layoffs, these employees may be understandably reticent to rock the boat by asking for well-deserved raises, promotions or enhanced compensation packages.

While the economy may have forced your company to tie its purse strings especially tight, this doesn't mean you shouldn't ask to be fairly compensated for work well done. In fact, wise employers know it's in their best interest to try to reward exemplary employees, for productivity's sake. However, it's important to realize that compensation can come in other guises besides money and title. It's up to you to be creative and broad-minded in your approach to satisfy yourself as well as your boss in your settlement. And you must be willing to negotiate.

Barton, for instance, decided to go upstate with her company--but on her terms. "I was the only person at First Charter with the level of expertise to handle various accounting funds and software packages required to keep the department running," says Barton, who researched her monetary worth to the company at the first hint of impending changes. Armed with documented proof of her value and a clear sense of career direction, she subsequently negotiated a severance package more in line with her needs and goals. When the dust settled, Barton had bargained for a $3,500 salary increase, a car for commuting, a three-day work week, retention of her full benefits package and four months' salary plus one month's severance pay once her assignment ends next month. "After that if they still require my services, they'll have to pay for them at consultants' rates," says Barton.

"There's no such thing as the status quo in business," says Nella G. Barkley, president of Crystal-Barkley Corp., a career management firm based in New York City. "No position can be right for the same employee indefinitely, since people as well as companies are constantly in a state of flux," Barkley explains. Therefore, it's important that professionals not get so settled into their jobs that they can perform their duties by rote and eventually lose the edge that made them competitive in the first place. By adapting the negotiating skills you employ in business to your own career advancement, you can reposition yourself for more challenging and rewarding assignments while increasing your value to your current employer.

Doing your homework before repositioning yourself within your job is critical for any notable career advancement As exemplified by Barton, "empowered negotiation is 80% preparation and 20% implementation," affirms Nicole Schapiro, who conducts negotiating seminars as president of Nicole Schapiro & Associates, a management consulting and training firm in Mill Valley, Calif. The goal of successful negotiation is to maintain as much control over the situation as possible. This can only be done with prior research and thorough preparation.

"The bargainer who... knows where he is going and who can set up the other party's expectations starts with enormous power," says John Winkler, author of Bargaining For Results (Facts on File Publications, New York, $16.95). Winkler further contends that anyone who doesn't know the rules of negotiation, or cannot recognize when he or she is in the negotiation phase of a discussion, will be at a distinct disadvantage.

To be adequately prepared, know your worth within your industry, understand your boss' and company's needs, goals and motivators and produce proof of any of your bottom-line achievements or decisions. This will provide ammunition for your negotiations, since it's easier to convince your boss to reward your success in saving or making the company money, boosting profits or increasing productivity.

Becoming involved with high-profile projects or those in which the company places great merit can give you visibility and exposure and give you more leverage at negotiation time. "The smart people are where the action is. Once you identify the influence peddlers in your business, align yourself with them," says Mario F. Sanabria, managing partner of The Sable Group Inc., a human resources training firm in Weston, Conn. Also, voluntarily updating and upgrading your technical and interpersonal skills can give you a bargaining chip in your negotiations, as they paint you as a valued employee who keeps abreast of breaking trends and changes in the industry.

Once you've done your research, focus in on where you want to go and what you want to do, both in your current job and beyond. Just remember: Today's work environment may dictate that you not only look up, but out, around and maybe even below for your next pit stop along your chosen career path. "Because organizational structures are flatter, many middle management positions have been merged into other positions, or eliminated altogether," says Randall White, Ph.D., a specialist in glass ceiling issues at the Center for Creative Leadership, a management development and training firm in Greensboro, N.C.

Consider other options besides a raise or promotion your negotiation plans. If i turns out that your boss is truly unable to financially compensate you at this time and that's the only form of recourse you've considered, your conversation might be over before you've had a chance to sit down. Perks such as flextime, enhanced medical benefits, company-sponsored health club memberships, stock options, increased vacation time, enrollment in advance degree programs and company-subsidized day care may be worth their monetary equivalent to you in lieu of the actual cash. You might also campaign to head a particularly challenging assignment with the written agreement that your compensation requests will be reevaluated upon the successful completion of the project.

Honestly assess what you've done to merit a raise, bonus, promotion or other type of special acknowledgment and prepare to firmly defend your contention that you deserve compensation for it And be clear about the issues on which you will and will not concede. Any savings in money, time or resources that result from your actions should be mentioned in your compensation discussion. Having a rehearsed script and a focused. game plan can put you in the driver's seat of your negotiations and lessen the chance of surprises, unforeseen curves and obstacles designed to throw you off course.

Now pick a time to negotiate. "There may never be a perfect time, but some times are more opportune that others," says Sheryl Colyer, director of human resources development for The Hechinger Co., a home improvement enterprise based in Landover, Md.

"Be sure you approach your boss in a non-confrontational manner, and straightforwardly ask for what you want," advises Kenneth W. Bentley, director of community affairs for Nestle USA Inc. in Glendale, Calif.

Also, backing your boss into a corner or goading her into a confrontation or argument won't do anything to champion your cause. In fact this stance will more likely move your manager to dig in her heels and remain rigid against even the smallest concessions.

The smart negotiator comes from a team player perspective, justifying his compensation request and underscoring his contributions to the company. "Always ask for more than you expect to get but let them know that you're willing to compromise," advises Nicole Schapiro. Be clear, firm, realistic and flexible as to your desires and any reasonable boss will try to meet you at some point in the middle. The key is to shoot for a win-win situation, where both parties, although perhaps not completely satisfied, can walk away from the bargaining table satisfied that they both got a fair shake.

Pick a good time to negotiate your terms. Make sure that your boss is free to listen to your script without interruption.

Says Novelette Barton about the merits of planned negotiating: I figured I had nothing to lose, so I gave it my best shot. I must say, I came out okay."

ONCE YOU'VE DECIDED TO CALL IT QUITS

You've been flexible, patient and have done your best to make your dissatisfied fit within your company a more comfortable and tolerable one. But it's finally become apparent that your attempts to hammer your square-peg skills into your company's round-hole culture are futile. If your reasons for leaving far outweigh your incentives to stay, then the time has come for you to make that move.

Your goal now is to leave smart Quitting in a huff will not only burn some bridges that might be needed later, but may also leave you unprepared to pick up and smoothly move on to a more suitable environment. Instead, view your departure as an opportunity to strategically plan to position yourself in a new job more in line with your career goals and advancement aspirations. The following 10 steps can help make your transition a little easier.

1. Think before you leap. Rather than resulting from a blowup or snap decision, your decision to leave should be made months prior to you actually taking the plunge. This leaves you time to properly assess your options, pool your resources and plan a course of action that gives you leverage and control over the conditions under which you exit.

2. Network! Network! Network! Make sure people in a position to help know you're seeking employment elsewhere and enlist their support. Mentors, headhunters, contacts, clients, family members and friends can be excellent sleuths in tracking down leads and making crucial introductions to help you snag that new job. "Some people have a vested interest in your success or have invested in you and your career development. Be sure to enroll them in your search," advises Randall White who is also the coauthor of Breaking the Glass Ceiling: Can Women Reach the Top of America's Largest Corporations? (Addison-Wesley Publishing Co. Inc., $19.18).

3. Update your resume. Disseminate it before you make your intentions known at your present company. "Response to your resume can help you gauge how vital and in demand your current skills are," says Mario Sanabria. If response to it is slow, you may need to reassess your goals, reevaluate the job prospects in your field or industry or update and diversify your skills before you publicize your plans to leave.

4. Assess your skills. If you find them to be lacking or obsolete, upgrade your skills as much as possible before you go. Enroll in development courses, take on new and different assignments or investigate and learn new technologies used by your firm that you haven't yet mastered. "To remain competitive, smart professionals, regardless of their level within the company, take advantage of company-sponsored professional training programs," observes Nella Barkley" if your employer won't subsidize your development, then you do it, but make sure that it gets done."

5. Review your finances. Analyze and realistically assess your financial situation and the impact a job change will have on your savings and investment portfolio. Consider the benefits you may lose (retirement plans, employer-matched savings incentives, stock options) when you part company with your firm. Optimally, the fiscal incentive offered by your new employer will make your move worthwhile by allowing you to maintain your current standard of living or even raise it. If not you need to keep looking.

6. Read your employee handbook. Review company procedures and regulations regarding benefits rollovers, resignations, compensation for unused time and any other sections that pertain to your leaving. Knowing your rights, responsibilities and restrictions will lessen the potential for unpleasant surprises when you are ready to negotiate the specific terms of your departure. Ask your human resources manager to clarify any policies that aren't clear.

7. Be discreet about job-hunting. This is particularly important if you have to do this on company time. Also, avoid using company supplies and facilities such as stationery, fax machines, copiers and telephones in your endeavors. Aside from increasing your potential for exposure, such behavior is blatant unauthorized use of company services and won't be held in high esteem if it's found out. Also, discreetly photocopy your Rolodex in preparation for your departure. The last thing you want to do is start from scratch searching for contacts at your new job.

8. Handle advance notice with care. Telling your boss more than two to four weeks in advance of your plans to resign almost always turns out to be a mistake. Once he learns of your intent to leave, "the boss usually stops seeing the employee as part of the [company's] future and mentally cuts him out of the action," says Joan Lloyd. Once notice is given, you may be asked to leave sooner, if not immediately. You may no longer be viewed as being part of the team and your boss may feel uncomfortable with your being privy to "family business," so be prepared. In light of this possibility, do not mention anything to your boss before you have a firm commitment of employment from your new employer. Of course, the appropriate amount of notice given depends on your organization and your level within it. In general, the more senior your position, the more advance notice required.

9. Remain professional. As you break the news to your boss, you should sensitivity convey your regrets about leaving the firm. "Praise the boss and the company, give objective reasons why you feel your decision is best for your career, name specific areas you feel could have a positive impact on the company during your time left and give some ideas on the choice and training of your replacement," advises Joan Lloyd. No matter how disgruntled you might be, keep belligerence and bitterness out of any discussion of your boss, the company, coworkers or your impetus for leaving. Bad-mouthing superiors, colleagues or your firm will put you in a bad light to both your former as well as any prospective new employer, so don't do it.

"Be sure to keep your work performance and energy level up to par" until you leave, says Sheryl Colyer. Any indication of disinterest or lack of cooperation on your part during this period won't be forgotten should your boss be approached for a reference later.

10. Cover your back before you leave. Make sure your employee file, which among other things includes commendations, promotions or disciplinary actions, accurately reflects your complete work record with the company. Take a copy of your file with you--it's your right. Also, get a written commitment from your boss if she has agreed to serve as a positive reference for you. Even if you're not parting on great terms, your boss can still speak favorably of your work performance and abilities if they've been satisfactory. Says Nicole Schapiro: "Legally, your employer is only required to attest to whether or not you were in her employ. Volunteering any judgments about you or your character can open her up to being sued."
COPYRIGHT 1993 Earl G. Graves Publishing Co., Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
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Title Annotation:includes tips for leaving an employer in a constructive way
Author:Baskerville, Dawn M.
Publication:Black Enterprise
Date:Feb 1, 1993
Words:4886
Previous Article:What's new in high-tech careers? To remain competitive in the global marketplace, companies rely on the innovations of information technology...
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