Why would I leave this job? By Ron Swanson
“Stuck between a job and a hard place.” Like it or not, that describes a lot of our career paths. Sometimes we’re put in positions where we’re being shepherded along in a job that doesn’t really feel right for us, but we stick with it anyway. While money, familiarity and stability can make it hard to leave, other factors — such as favored coworkers leaving the office for different jobs, or new management coming down and making life more difficult — can make it feel impossible to stay.
This is a common problem, and it’s one that our latest coach-ee is struggling with. His name is Ron Swanson, and he might just be the most single-mindedly free spirited person we’ve ever coached. The man is an oak tree in human form: he’s solid, built to outlast a storm, and practically impossible to uproot without some serious machinery. Despite that, he’s come to us for help in solving his current crisis.
Ron’s problem is that he’s struggling to see why he should stick with his current dead-end job in parks and recreational development. His motivation to leave? Ron hates all things government, doesn’t enjoy the work he does, and feels like his only important responsibility at work is to block others from getting work done. Not very inspirational, is it?
On top of this, Ron has a dream to do something bigger, more impactful, and meaningful with his life. Preferably, he’d love to own a cabin… and skin an elk while the surrounding wildlife look on in abject horror (his words, not ours).
We’re going to help Ron out today by reading his journal entries to us, and we’ll see if we can give him some proper coaching on how to move forward at this point in his life. Stick with us if you’re facing a similar problem as Mr. Swanson — if you’re currently struggling to decide whether or not to stay in your job or move on for greener pastures, this one’s all about you.
Ron’s first journal entry: steering without direction
“Dear Sir or Madam, I am trying this coaching internet website at the behest of my friend Leslie Knope, whom I owe several favors to. Recently, I have watched as my fellow coworkers have left the Parks and Recreation department where I work, and they too insist that I should consider where I am heading. Though I have already given you far too much of my personal information already, I will mention that I am a staunch libertarian and I hate the government. So why would I ever leave this government job? Hehehe. Is there anything I hate more than the government? Certainly. Skim milk, liars, and veganism. But I don’t dedicate nearly as much time to destroying those things as I do making sure this department does as little as possible while still being allowed to exist. Every bone in my body. Every fiber of my being wants me to get out of this poorly made balsa wood chair and into my own business. To feel truly useful. But something keeps me here and I am not sure what that is, but I can be sure about one thing….I like it less than I like fish meat, as meat. It’s not. End of communication.” — Ron Swanson
Well, one thing is certainly clear from Ron’s initial journal entry: he’s definitely set in his ways. We don’t like to make assumptions here at Character Coaching, but I think it’s safe to say our client has a pretty black-and-white view of the world, and that doesn’t leave a whole lot of wiggle room for new possibilities. Not that that’s a bad thing — that’s part of who Ron is, so we’re going to work with his mindset, rather than tell him he’s going about this whole job-crisis thing wrong.
For starters, just because Ron comes off as stubborn or close-minded, that doesn’t mean he’s necessarily “stuck” in his job. Being in a stubborn or close-minded state doesn’t mean Ron will always be this way, and that’s true of anyone who feels stuck in their current position. You may feel rooted right now, but there are always paths forward, as long as you’re open to considering new possibilities and options.
Another possibility is that despite his frustrations, Ron might actually still like his job. It sounds like he’s considering leaving because a lot of his coworkers are moving on, but Ron might like the dependability and stability of his job. Sometimes that’s true of all of us — we start thinking something isn’t right for us simply because other people are making different choices around us. So, we need to get more deeply at the heart of what makes Mr. Swanson tick in order to really discern what he’s looking for.
Does he want something new and exciting? Or does he find his line of work fulfilling as it is? What would the alternatives to his current job look like? And does he really feel “stuck,” or is there something lying underneath that feeling that’s really motivating this line of questioning? Moreover, what’s going to give him that same level of joy he feels when eating… yes, you heard it right — bacon wrapped shrimp?
Let’s ask Ron those questions, and see what bubbles up to the surface.
Next: finding bacon-wrapped excitement
- When you think about all the things in your day that occur, from the people to the bacon wrapped shrimp, what gives you some sense of joy or excitement?
- What would your own business look like?
- Is it that you feel stuck?
“Stuck? No. The only thing that would make me stuck is the thought of bacon-wrapped shrimp at a buffet table. It’s my 3rd favorite food wrapped by my first favorite food. When I think about joy, that’s what I think about. I feel a sense of loyalty to the people who remain in the department. These people that I’m surrounded by won’t let me leave. Oddly, that makes me happy. They’re not friends, but they are here every day doing the work for the people. They are idiots. When I think about my business, I think about me being in my cabin far away from everyone. Me, a whittling knife, and a variety of tools that I will not tell you about because it is none of your concern. What will I make? None of your business... Am I stuck? No. I’m Ron *@&#&#(@ Swanson.End of communication.”
Very interesting. Now we’re starting to get at the root beliefs Ron has, and they’re helping us figure him out a little bit better. For starters, it seems like Ron has two conflicting desires: he loves his job because of his (self-described) idiot friends, but he’d also love to be out in a cabin, whittling away and doing hands-on work.
At face value, it might seem impossible for Ron to do both of these things at once. But is it actually unfeasible to have the essence of two separate dreams at once? Notice I’m not saying Ron can necessarily have his cake and eat it too, but it’s highly likely that there are other ways he can find fulfillment without completely neglecting one aspiration or the other. Right now Ron doesn’t think he can have the essence of both of his favorite things — his friends and his outdoorsman lifestyle — but I’d like to challenge that line of thinking and see if it’s really true.
Is there a way for Ron to be around his friends while also pursuing his own business opportunities? And how much does he really value both of these things? Is his business actually a true desire, or is it not bacon wrapped shrimp levels of exciting? These might sound like confrontational questions, but they’re going to help us really nail what Ron wants for his future.
For your part, consider your own goals and aspirations. Do you ever find yourself caught in an either-or thinking trap, where you believe you can’t keep your job and keep your friends? Or maybe it’s the other way around — maybe you feel like you can’t leave your job without having your own sense of stability, even though you did just fine before you got this position. Food for thought!
Okay. Let’s ask Ron a few final questions before giving him some time to reflect and respond.
- Why don’t your friends want you to leave?
- Do you feel the same joy when you think about your business as you do when you think about bacon-wrapped shrimp?
- Do you want to be surrounded by these people in the future, even if you don’t like them? Is work the only place you can see them?
The check-in: the best damn job a man can have
“Only 2 things have ever made me cry. When I got hit by a bus when I was 7, and when Lil Sebastien died. But I think you are…right. I like being around these people, and if I don’t have to stay at the damn government to be around them, then hooray for me. Soon I will be in my cabin building the best damn furniture a man can craft with his own two hands. And then I will put the money I earn into a hidden underground safe that neither you nor the government will ever find. I hope you will get a real job like I plan to. Good day. End of communication.”
Much like we started this journey with Ron, our communications have ended in a straightforward, stubborn yet charming way. I think we’ve succeeded at finding Ron’s comfortable middle ground — we’re not necessarily forcing him to make some black-and-white decision here; instead, he’s found a way to make all of the things he cares about compatible with one another.
Will he keep his government job? Maybe. And will he actually start his own woodworking business? That’s also a big “maybe.” But what we do know is that Ron has officially broken out of his one-way thinking trap and started examining new ways of seeing the world, which is what’s really important.
For anyone out there in a similar position as Ron, the lesson here is (like Mr. Swanson himself) pretty straightforward. The truth is that sometimes in life you do have to make choices about important things, such as whether or not you should stay at your job, but that doesn’t mean those choices have to completely eliminate other possibilities. As long as you’re able to envision a path forward that gives you more of what you want, there will be ways to achieve those things.
So if a new job feels right to you, go for it! You can always find ways to have the bits and pieces of your old career that you loved. And if you really love the stability of your job, but feel yourself pulled toward other threads by coworkers or other outside influences, you don’t have to “move on” just because someone’s telling you to do so. Being happy and comfortable in a job you know well is nothing to be ashamed of.
Hopefully you’ve gleaned something from this! If not… well, then you might be just as stubborn as Mr. Swanson himself. But, again, that’s not a bad thing. And if you think you could benefit from your own journaling journey with us, stop by our blog to learn more about how to sign up for your own coaching crash course.
Looking for more Character Coaching goodness, check out our episode where we coach the elusive Donald Draper.