I’ve been grossly underpaid, felt unappreciated, and been overworked, but the one constant in every job I have held since my senior year of high school is love for the work that I engage in.
As a high school senior, I worked as a tutor in the afterschool program at my old elementary school. I loved helping the students with homework and spending time with them. One of the younger students and I formed a unique connection. She even asked me if I could be her Godmother. Of course, you know my heart melted and I said yes – even though I didn’t really understand what that meant as a 17-year-old. A little over a year ago that little girl who is now a mother of a high school graduate reached out to me on social media and asked if I was the mentor in her afterschool program. I said yes and she thanked me for being there for her. She said that because of our connection she made sure that her son had mentors in his life. I was completely surprised. Of course, you know my heart melted AGAIN.
I guess that job was a preview to my version of career fulfillment and success. When I say that I can’t NOT do this work I really mean it. Work is not worth doing if I don’t love it. But…that love can be a blessing and a curse if you aren’t careful.
LOVE! I didn’t leave my toxic job because I loved the work I was doing, the impact we were making, my team and colleagues, my program participants, and my alumnae. I had built great relationships in the community and with other service providers. In short, I had put self-love on the backburner.
When it was clear that my job had become completely toxic, I didn’t leave. Did you notice I said ‘completely’ toxic? I had decided that there were acceptable levels of toxicity. NEWSFLASH: Toxic is toxic is toxic. I made the job of everyone around me easier. There were internal and external factors that I overlooked and ignored for years. My emotions went from joy to a little irritable to annoyed to indifferent to frustrated to angry to sad. Sad was the last straw. Is that surprising? I’ve seen and heard horrific things during the life of my career and even as an empath I was always able to care and engage and then find ways to regroup and rebound when I felt down. Feeling a little down and feeling sad are completely different. Sad was deep, deep, and unfamiliar to me, and I didn’t like it. It made me realize that something internal has shifted and I had lost control. I needed to save myself.
Why did I leave my toxic job that I loved? Because it was the only way to prioritize and love Nicki.
You deserve your best! Don’t wait until things are horrible to save yourself. If you’re at a crossroads contemplating whether you should leave a job that you love, we need to chat.
Nicki Sanders, MSW, ushers high-performing women of color in mid-level social work and human services leadership through promotion to senior leadership. As Founder and CEO of Nicki Sanders Leadership Consulting, her mission is simple – to eliminate toxic workplaces by developing skilled, empathetic, and goal-oriented leaders who have the vision, support, and resources to create a culture where business prospers, and employees thrive individually and collectively. Nicki has an extensive background in nonprofit management leading high-functioning, multi-disciplinary teams. She is an accomplished professor, coach, trainer, and group facilitator who has combined her gift for authentic relationships, Master of Social Work degree, and over 20 years of diverse work experience to create a life and career aligned with her values and purpose. Nicki is a lover of cupcakes, travel, and 80’s hip hop and R&B music.
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