Sep. 05, 2013 | Cindy Lee
[THIS POST IS PART OF A SERIES ON NAVIGATING YOUR CAREER TRANSITION WITH INTEGRITY, WHICH IS OPPOSITE FROM YOUR TYPICAL "BACKWARDS" APPROACHES TO JOB SEARCHING.]
We’re at the tail end of completing your job search criteria as far
as knowing yourself well enough to navigate your transition with
integrity. We’ve discussed core values, personality, skills,
passions/interests, and constraints/parameters as five key aspects that
define who you are as a candidate for employment – as you’re
establishing a solid list of constraints/parameters to your job search,
let’s strengthen your list of boundaries because it is the least
forgiving of the five concepts we’ve been covering.
We discussed the freedom to explore within the safety of your
boundaries; now we’ll face what happens on the other side when you
choose to overstep or compromise these limits. Just as each person’s
list of boundaries and limitations is unique, the weight of importance
on each limitation depends on the individual. The damage done if you
fail to uphold your boundaries depends on how much pain or anger or
frustration it causes you.
BUT, one piece tends to stay the same – you will weaken your ability to trust yourself with each time you compromise your boundaries.
This is a complex process which I’ll keep simple for our purposes here.
Imagine a friend says he’ll do something but ends up letting you down.
You’re gracious about it, but the next time he commits to something, you
can’t help but have the slightest nagging thought that he might break
it again. Though you want to trust this friend in his new commitment,
you find it hard to freely do so. This is a completely natural reaction.
Now, internalize it. Basically, each time you soften or break your
boundaries, some part within you is disappointed. The “hurt” can remain
relatively harmless in your subconscious until the next time you set
another boundary. Then, it reminds you of the disappointment from before
and tries to prevent any further hurt. At the conscious level, this can
seem as little as a glimpse of self-doubt or as huge as paralyzing
fear. Whatever the case, the result is you’re not as “free” to explore
possibilities and move forward as you were prior to compromising.
This sabotaging force within us is pretty powerful, so we don’t want
to set these boundaries lightly. Continuing the list from last time,
here are a couple more potential pitfalls in dealing with your
constraints/parameters, again with some tips to avoid/address them and
real-life examples (some actual quotes, some paraphrased) –
- “Softening” Your Boundaries – many different
circumstances can cause you to shift where you’d ideally place your
boundary. There are times when you learn more evidence that adjusting
your boundary is a wiser decision… here, however, I’m referring to the
times when you don’t exactly have helpful evidence yet nor an “educated
hunch” – it’s more like a weakening of or backing down from your values.
You rationalize and convince yourself that it’s better than where you’d
place the boundary if you were to honor yourself fully. One common
circumstance is when you feel a sense of scarcity – like, “there’s not
enough jobs available, so I should really be willing to do what I
normally would not…”
- Tip: If you feel you must soften your boundaries, prioritize your constraints/parameters and at least fight unwaveringly for your non-negotiables.
If you MUST compromise on something, choose carefully and be mindful
not to underestimate the “damage” it may cause like I mentioned under #1
- Example: “I’m a bit
too old now to do the crazy hours. I did it when I was younger and
single, but now I’ve got more important needs at home. But, well, I
guess I could do it again if I had to…” The most honoring option here
seems to be avoiding the “crazy hours” because you have higher
priorities at home. But it doesn’t sound like a non-negotiable in this
case. So, if you can’t get out of it, consider what’s expected of you in
these “crazy hours” – perhaps you find working every other weekend
doable because the kids are busy on weekends anyways, while working late
on weekdays is a non-negotiable because you don’t want to miss dinner
with family and putting the kids to bed for the majority of the time.
- Some other examples:
- “Maybe having my weekends free is a luxury I can’t afford right now.”
- “Many of my peers have started their own companies already. I do
want to start one eventually, but I don’t think it’s my time yet. But,
maybe I should start now anyways, as conventional wisdom says that if I
don’t do it soon then I will miss my window of opportunity…”
- Breaking Your Constraints / Boundaries – if you intentionally go against
what you consciously know is not good for you, you can end up
unsettling something within you that can sabotage your performance or
even paralyze you later. Similar to the scarcity concern in #3 above,
usually the temptations to break your constraints come from an emotional
or unexpected situation – sometimes rational yet often irrational.
Often they are driven by some form of fear.
- Tip: Remember that
the constraints you’ve established came from a very thoughtful and
practical process. It’s likely that you also had a very strong
experience that strengthens your conviction to hold a certain boundary.
Your concerns are valid and your fears may be very real, but be careful
not to throw it all back in the air because of new information and
certainly not for a momentary lapse in judgement. Instead, refine and strengthen
your list of boundaries in light of the new situation by creating a new
constraint to address it, and DO NOT compromise it.
- Example: “This role
doesn’t pay enough for me to cover my basic needs and bills. But, I’m
sure if I worked hard there I can get promoted or at least some sort of a
bonus. And I’ll keep looking on the side for something better. At least
it’s a job and will pay some bills, right? I think I might just give it
a try…” Unfortunately, bills are not like people who can extend grace.
There are deadlines, and they must be paid or there are difficult
consequences that can make your situation more complicated. 1) Perhaps
you have some savings and thus a bit of runway, so you may decide to set
a constraint that requires a salary of x amount to meet your needs and
choose to hold off for an opportunity that matches. Or, 2) you may not
have any runway and decide to take this role to begin paying some bills
right away, meanwhile planning to continue looking for more suitable
employment. If you choose the latter, you MUST establish a constraint
that limits your time spent working in the role so that you actually
have time to keep looking. More often than not, the role will consume
your time and energy and it actually becomes more difficult to keep
looking… and thus your work stress on top of financial shortage will
exacerbate the stresses you faced when you were previously unemployed.
- Some other examples:
- “This new company says that they are pretty intense and
hard-working. I’m driven and I perform well in that world, but I left my
previous job because of the intense environment. My health suffered and
I couldn’t stay any longer. But, I’m worried I won’t find anything
else. Maybe I’m supposed to learn perseverance and take this new job to
- “It looks like it will take me away from my family quite a bit, but I
wonder if I should just be grateful and take it. I know some people
would love to have this offer.”
As I mentioned last week, a client recently got married and realized
that her previous work lifestyle didn’t match up to the new lifestyle
she wanted with her husband and community. (Her schedule included late
hours, weekends, and 25% travel, and she now wanted her evenings and
weekends back.) She brought it up to her boss and fortunately he was
supportive. He suggested she propose some options of what could work, so
she worked out a proposal that addressed the hours spent working late
and traveling, but she “felt bad” asking for weekends off also. She
figured the weekend phone calls would be manageable, and her boss signed
off on the plan. Long story short, as the weeks progressed, her weekend
phone calls increased since she was less accessible than before. Though
she’d be with her friends and husband on the weekends, she was
constantly stepping away to take calls and log in. This created an
awkward tension in her relationships but even moreso within herself, and
she began to resent this job that she previously loved…
Imagine if this could’ve been avoided by giving a full and complete
account of her restrictions and non-negotiables for her new work-life
I happen to know that her not completely honoring her needs and her
boundaries led to a whole slew of internal turmoil revolving around
losing trust in herself – she didn’t trust her ability to make
decisions, to keep her commitments to her husband and friends, to do her
job well, to maintain healthy boundaries between work and fun…
Can you further tighten your
list of boundaries? Can you think of ways that can help hold you
accountable to fully honoring and keeping these constraints you’ve
Stay tuned as I wrap up the series and tie it all together next time!