At times, our professional life is fraught with difficulties,
more often than not we bear and keep at it. But sometimes, we
do reach a breaking point. At these times, we need someone to
turn to and that's why we created Professionelle. You will
see from this e-mail below how one member reached breaking point
and asked us for our advice:
I have been running a Company alongside an exceptionally
demanding boss, waiting for the 'big pay rise' or some enticing
offer/package to keep me on. I've been here for 3 years and worked
my way up. The main issue is lack of general office support and
thus I work my behind off every day, I go to great lengths to try
and see fruition of my hard work and nothing ever comes of it. I
feel like I have been running out of patience lately. My boss
expects me to be a miracle worker and I'm already at my limit
working 50-60 hour weeks. If I have a bad day in the office I can't
wait to get home to browse Seek, then other days will be ok and
I'll feel guilty for 'shopping' around to see what other jobs are
out there. My partner says "If I'm not happy then just leave" yet
other days he'll talk to me about ways I can get around some issues
and reminds me of our large mortgage - His answer probably revolves
around what mood I'm in! My question is: What's boiling point
…..what makes other Professionelle members decide to look for
Sarah Wilshaw-Sparkes offers the following advice:
Thank you for your e-mail - you raise
some great issues. As well as the boiling point one it seems to me
it might be useful to consider:
- What do I need from my next role (at this employer or another)
to ensure I keep developing and progressing towards my goals?
- What can I do to be sure I've given this my best shot and that
it's time to look elsewhere?
Yep, we've all got them and you can be sure they differ. What
would drive me insane would be a minor grizzle to you. What's more,
boiling points will vary for the same person, depending on what
else is going on in her life. Falling in or out of love, a new
house, illness… The explosion, when and if it comes, could well
have more to do with events outside the office walls than the
irritations within it!
My advice is: you don't want to make a decision at boiling point
because it will be reactive and negative, not proactive and
positive. By all means go with your gut instinct in the end, but
only after you've given your gut some facts first. I'm reading a
book on women entrepreneurs and it quotes this from the Center for
Women's Business Research (2006):
The highest ranked factor influencing women
entrepreneurs when making business decisions is being sure they
have all the relevant information and data available. Second in
importance is whether or not the decision is consistent with a
strong gut feeling.
As the book's author, Heffernan, says, this means that women use
the full capacity of their brain to understand what to do. They do
not expect only one form of thinking to be adequate!
It sounds like your gut has been sending you some strong
signals, but it's worth taking mental stock before you act.
Here's a quick diagnostic for you to begin thinking about the
positives of your current position:
- Do your values align with those of your company, or the part of
it you work in?
Some of those 'bad days' may have been caused by behaviours that
felt wrong to you. Getting clear what your values are will be very
valuable if you do decide to look elsewhere.
- Does your current role use your strengths?
Strengths aren't your skills, which I'm sure your role does use.
Strengths are positive personal
characteristics, like creativity and perseverance that you
bring to situations. Using these characteristics builds your
happiness. If people around you also express appreciation for these
strengths, that's even more satisfying.
- Can you see continued opportunities to learn and grow and do
they support your goals?
I know you're in your early or mid-twenties, with a degree behind
you. This is not a time to stagnate in your learning! Think about
what new experiences would broaden you and increase your value to
an employer (and to yourself). Recruiting sites often provide free
tools and exercises to prompt your thinking, such as writing a
career plan. Realise that most recruitment agencies will meet with
you and talk you through the opportunities that exist in your
market even if you're not applying to them for a particular role.
If you're still not sure what you need to progress, try to find a
mentor to talk to.
- Is a career progression path clear to you, and available?
You say you've worked your way up, so the answer to this may be a
clear 'yes'. However, you may be in a small firm (since you're
co-running it after only three years) and the pyramid above you may
now look very flat. If so, is your company growing rapidly, with
new business units or offices likely to come onstream? If not, a
sideways move to a larger operation with multiple advancement paths
could be what you need.
Part of giving something your best shot is not just working
incredibly hard at it. As a broad generalisation, we women do have
a tendency to think that our hard work and effort will be
eventually be noticed and rewarded. Often, that's not the case. We
have to be prepared to market ourselves and we have to be prepared
to say what we're looking for.
In your case, I'm wondering how much you've talked to your boss
about the issues you have. Have you told him what kind of reward
you feel your work and your growing experience now merit? (I'm
assuming, by the way, that you know what the "enticing
offer/package" would look like!) Is your boss sailing on unaware of
the impact of inadequate office support on your morale?
If you haven't talked to him, you need to, even if the idea
makes you uncomfortable. We have advice on such courageous conversations. It isn't about being
aggressive and inflexible. It IS about knowing your position,
thinking ahead to what responses he might make and being prepared
for them. The issues you have sound wider than simply pay, but you
may also find our advice on how to handle pay rise requests helpful too . We recommend
starting with market-based facts there, too!
Test the Market (before you jump)
There are different ways to do this.
A low key and low risk route is to sign up with Quiet Agent. It's an online service to keep you
in touch with the job market when you're not necessarily actively
looking. If a prospective employer likes the sound of your
anonymous CV, QuietAgent forwards you details of the job. If you're
interested, you accept and take it further. If you're "just
looking", you simply take note of what the market sees you to be
As Galia laid out in "Should I Stay or Should I Go?", there is the
more traditional route of visiting recruiting firms to talk about
options, and preparing a CV and applying for jobs. There are
somewhat greater risks with being 'found out' before you're ready,
but this option also has benefits:
Going through the exercise of searching for a new
role can help you focus and perhaps re-direct your career,
regardless of the outcome. It's hard to take the time to think
strategically about your career - this will force you to do
A third option, which you can read more about in "How to Keep Up With Job Opportunities", is to
tap into your networks and contacts. Opportunities can come from
the most unexpected places!
Back to Your Gut
OK. You've thought about what you want to achieve. You've
reflected on your values and strengths and the fit with your firm.
You've got a feel for what's out there in the market and how your
skills and experience are viewed. You've spoken to your boss about
what you need to progress and feel valued, and he's given you some
sort of an answer.
You've thought about it all. Now stop thinking and see what it
Let me finish with a little story. Over the summer break of
2006-7, Galia and I had to find a name for this online community
for professional working women. We generated loads of names and
asked friends and family for more. I made up a score card of
criteria and points, and I applied it rigorously. Three names came
to the top. I wrote out the results and sent them to Galia.
Thing was, I liked the one that came in at #7. Thing was, so did
And that's why this site is called Professionelle, not
Womenatwork, or Womenzwork or Assisther or any of the other
All the best with your big decision.
© Professionelle Ltd 2008