The high cost of staying put
Growing up, I saw my mother unhappy at work. There was a lot of political stuff at her office (it's perennial, I know), people one-upping each other and plenty of discrimination.
There weren't many protections in the workplace like we have now, and even if there were, she was a single mom and wouldn't have risked rocking the boat – anything to avoid retaliation or worse – unemployment.
I would ask Mami (Spanish for "Mommy" – pronounced the same way) why she didn't find another job and go somewhere else. But she always put me off.
Mami was stuck.
For 17 years, she languished at the Community Affairs office at the local hospital, underpaid, exploited and overshadowed by people who weren't blessed with her quickness or intelligence.
But they did have better English skills and more importantly, the confidence to wield their language and positional power to stay on top, all while depending on Mami to run everything.
She would say she stayed because of the job security and the proximity to home (across the street!).
But years after she retired, she confessed to me the real reason she stayed.
She was scared. And it broke my heart.
Then years later it happened to me, too.
There were a few years where I was in a job that was killing me… and not softly. But we were in a recession, jobs were tough to get, it was close to home and we desperately needed the money… sound familiar?
In those years, Mami lived outside of New York, so she didn't really have a sense of what was going on. But when I confided in her, she reacted quickly!
She said I needed to stop settling, get going, start looking, and see what was out there. I needed to MOVE.
Because she knew what happens when you don't move. You get stuck.
You know this to be true. Remember the first year of the pandemic? Where you didn't move for months and then all of a sudden everything hurt? You know exactly what I mean.
It's inertia, plain and simple… "a disposition to remain inactive or inert."
Inertia takes over your body, your mind, your relationships, and your career.
Unless you move or take action.
So what does movement or taking action mean in your career?
It means your career is active, not passive.
It's about more than just waiting for your 3% raise every year – if you get a raise at all. It has to do with keeping up with trends, understanding where your industry is headed, and maintaining or increasing your skills and your engagement in the work.
It also means knowing when you're disconnected and need to walk away to do something new, whether that means you get a new employer or enter a new industry altogether.
And it means you do scary things in the name of YOU and for your own sake.
Because success is when preparation meets opportunity and the most frightening acts you can make are making the decision to prepare yourself and then saying yes to opportunity.
Mami wasn't prepared.She was too frightened of the unknown. And for a while, I was, too. But she knew to push me, and it worked.
I was so blinded by my desperation and hopelessness around my work that I didn't realize it would take courage to move forward.
So I took it one step at a time: preparing myself by getting my resume together, applying to positions that fit and some that didn't, and asking around to see if anyone knew of any jobs.
Eventually I was able to move on and up, and Mami was really proud of me for doing what she couldn't.
So…. do you need a push to move?
If so, consider this your call to action. If you don't like where you are, move. If you're not in a good place, move.
Just take that first step. Mami is not with us anymore, but she believed in me, and I believe in you.