Dear Sam: As I returned to work this week, instead of feeling energized about the new year, I felt stuck in a job that doesn’t appear to be going anywhere and is not what I thought it would be when I excitedly accepted the role 18 months ago. To no avail, I have tried to fit myself into the corporate culture, stepping out of my introvert comfort zone, participating in social events, and awkwardly engaging in water cooler conversations, but it’s just not me. I like the work I do (accounting) but the organization is so flat, I can see few-to-no opportunities for promotion in the foreseeable future. To top it all off, the job I have is not challenging me; I am not developing myself as an accountant, and, instead, am simply performing rote functions I have known how to do for practically my entire 10 years in the field. What would be your recommendation for moving forward? I am scared to look like a job hopper, but I am also just as scared to jump ship into a new and similarly unfulfilling position. — Ashley
Dear Ashley: I am so sorry to hear of your struggle and, wow, can I understand your feelings! As an introvert (now, a learned extrovert) I can remember those early days in my career when the realization set in that my future with a company was not solely driven by the quality and quantity of my work, but also by my social skills and ability to maneuver within an extrovert’s world. Now, 20+ years later, I have become more comfortable in the world of extroverts we live in, but I am still an introvert, at heart, who really enjoys buckling down in her office and writing, reading, and listening to clients in total peace and solitude! In fact, one of my coworkers bought me a pair of socks for the holidays that read “Leave me alone, I’m introverting!” Anyway, I digress…
First, you have chosen a field that seems to fit your social preferences well; you just need to find an organization and a culture that mesh a little better with your social preferences. Perhaps a larger corporate environment where you are responsible for very targeted aspects of your field would fit better, while also providing for the upward mobility you seek. Here are my top recommendations for you in order to ensure you wake up excited to head to the office…
Prepare your candidacy — If you haven’t already, be sure you have updated your resume with your latest role, taking the time to fully explore how you have added value despite your hands being somewhat tied when it comes to career growth. Review any past performance reviews you may have received for ideas and seek LinkedIn or written recommendations from peers you feel comfortable confiding in about your current career transition goals.
Launch your job search — It’s the busiest time of year for hiring activity. Now is the time to start circulating your resume, connecting with your network online and offline, and exploring new opportunities. You have been with your current employer since 2016, so you will not be seen as a job hopper; instead, you will be seen as an accountant seeking the next challenge in her career.
Prepare your interview script — Ensure you are prepared for the inevitable “why are you seeking a new position” question during your interviews. Focus your answer on the fact that you are seeking opportunities for professional development and that your past employer was fairly flat, so opportunities within your field were very limited. Avoid pointing the finger at your employer’s culture, and instead, reinforce that through your research, you believe this potential company’s culture is very aligned with your work style preferences. Bottom line: Be prepared for uncomfortable questions and focus on where you want to go next.
Research corporate cultures — Access your network in order to get a clear understanding of company cultures before you apply and interview. Seek out organizations that share your passion for “buckling down” and reward quality and quantity of work. Read company reviews on Glassdoor, request informational interviews from current employees, and do your due diligence while finding an organization that syncs with your personality.
Seek personal and professional development — We likely will always live in a world which favors extroverts, at least outwardly. Hence, stepping outside of your comfort zone—kudos to you for already having made strides to do so—to engage in social and networking events and strengthen your learned extrovert skills will help you in future situations while also opening potential networking opportunities. Have you joined your local young professionals group? Start there to engage in a group of your peers which, I am certain, will contain people just like you who you can connect and grow with.
You are young in your career and already have so much insight on what you do and don’t want in a position and employer. I am 100% confident you will be successful, given the professional perspective you have already gained. All the best!