Before You Leave It All Behind

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I remember pulling up to my new workplace nervous, hopeful, and still a little sad that I had quit my last job.

I’d taken about two weeks off in between, which was important because it took nearly that long just to get rid of the papers, folders, and extra stuff in my home office from six years at a company I loved.  In that time, I’d become the go-to girl for a very specific piece of the business.

Leaving, even with a solid transition plan in place, felt kind of like walking away from a marriage – painful for everyone and a little bit selfish.

I was a late twenty-something with about seven years of work experience, and hungry for a leadership opportunity my company couldn’t provide. My track record was good, but I’d outgrown the niche I’d carved for myself. My hunch was that unless I did something drastic, I’d always be “Mel, the teacher outreach girl.”

Frankly, I was bored with the work and concerned that I’d grown complacent.

At the time, a former colleague and friend needed a young leader on her team. The timing was fortuitous and I bit. Two months later, I was transitioning off the team of my nonprofit and onto the leadership team of a charter school.

Eleven months later, I was on the phone with a friend and mentor sharing the painful truth: that I was afraid I made a mistake in leaving my former company. The very attributes that made me a winner in my last environment made me stick out like a sore thumb in my new one. The people were mission-aligned, sincere, and some of the most hardworking I’d ever met, but they weren’t my people.

In this new environment, I still didn’t have the leadership opportunity I was hoping for. What I did have was a year of hard knocks that taught me a valuable lesson:  the grass isn’t always greener – and often, it’s not even grass at all.

Four weeks later, I found a way back to my old company, on a new team and in a new seat. The work has been hard and ambiguous at times, but the people, culture, and mission have been a North star confirming that I’m in the right place.

Reflecting on my experience, I figured out what my problem was all along: I assumed there was no way to find what I needed in the company I loved. When things got hard, rather than looking for a new opportunity within my company, I did what was the most intuitive– found the job I wanted elsewhere.

For many of us – those who don’t hate their company, or even their job, but just aren’t happy anymore – it may seem easier to just find something new. But like any great relationship, a strong bond between an employee, their boss, and even their company is worth fighting for.  

There are lots of good reasons to leave a company– even a great company– but many of us walk out on our employers without giving them a chance to keep us. Doing that costs us years of won equity and breakout career opportunities.

So how can we avoid the urge to jump ship too early? How can we “love the one we’re with” instead of just chasing the next shiny opportunity?

Before you quit your job, give yourself a longer decision runway

Although the easiest time to leave a job is when things are challenging, most of the decisions you make in haste you’ll regret later. If you’re feeling like you’re fed up, take a walk, a rigorous spin class, or even a mental health day– whatever it takes to clear your head. Talk to your most level-headed friends or mentors (outside the company). What do they think is happening? Don’t make a move until you’ve deescalated, had time to reflect, and have weighed all your options.

Talk to the man in the mirror

Before you jump ship, get to the bottom of what’s really bugging you– or what you really want. “Something different” isn’t enough. If you’re not sure what’s broken, I guarantee your next job won’t fix it. Spend the time to isolate whether what’s going on is boredom, interpersonal drama, overwhelm due to your workload, competitive jealousy, etc. Once you do, figure out how much of what’s wrong has to do with your job in specific – and how much has to do with things you could do better. The truth is, if the problem is internal, it will follow you to your next job.

Don’t take on other people’s drama

Although complaining to others sometimes makes us feel better in the moment, it does little to ameliorate the real problem. Instead of complaining to your peers at the digital water cooler, think about what you could do, right now, to better your situation. Refuse to be a trash can for others’ complaints as well. It’s one thing to troubleshoot problems together; it’s another to demean people and conspire together. If you don’t watch it, before you know it, you’ll find yourself taking on other people’s angst as well as your own.

Say no strategically

A lot of the reason our workload overwhelms us is because we’re afraid to say no. As in, “No, I don’t have bandwidth for this project” or “No, I can’t work this weekend – I have family plans.” There’s a time to be flexible, and a time to be stalwart. The trick is knowing when to be rigid about your priorities and what’s realistic to deliver. As long as you’re getting your manager’s priorities done, you’ll be surprised how much wiggle room you have to say no to “good” but not “great” ideas.

Don’t play the short-game

The truth is when you’re stuck at work a few extra dollars in your pocket isn’t going to make that much of a difference. Instead of nickel and diming your boss, figure out what the most strategic ask to make is– then make it. Maybe what matters most to you is making a significant career jump in the next five years: decide what additional opportunities and tasks you need experience with, and ask to do them– for free. You’d be surprised what will be given to a person who wants more responsibility and has proven themselves effective.

In short, the choice to walk away from a company you love when you feel stuck is a valid one– but it’s not your only option. One lesson I’ve learned in the last two years is there are ways to keep the fire burning and “love the one you’re with” without compromising on the career experiences and opportunities that matter most to you.

Have you ever walked away from a job, only to regret it later? What strategies do you use to stay motivated during a hard season at work?

Melanie Rivera-Duppins

“I figured out what my problem was all along: I assumed there was no way to find what I needed in the company I loved.”

— Melanie Rivera-Duppins
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LUNCH ENVY: Collard Green Burritos

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This burrito recipe is super filling despite only having veggies in it. You get a great source of vitamins and minerals and at the same time it has lots of flavor. Feel free to add or take away any of the veggies to make it your own or even replace the collard greens with kale, mustard, or dandelion greens if you want to switch it up on occasion.

What you will need:

– 6 collard green leaves

– 1 container of kalamata olive spread

– 2 avocados

– Olive oil (about 2 tbsp)

– Red onion (1/4)

– Scallions

– Carrots

– Sprouts

Bamboo steamer

– 1 cup of cashews or almonds (raw, unsalted); soak the cashews the night before to help them digest easier

1. Wash the collards and pat them dry

2. Cut the stem out of the collards but keep the two sides of the leaves attached at the top

3. Steam the collards in the bamboo steamer for 3-5 minutes

4. Lay the collards flat to cool on the counter

5. Julienne or thinly slice the carrots

6. Slice the scallions ( as if you were putting them in a spring roll)

7. Slice the avocado

8. When the collard have cooled and dried, place one side of the leaf slightly on top of the other to

cover the gap you left from cutting the stem

9. Mix the cashews, olive spread, red onion and and olive oil in the food processor; blend until you

get a paste

10. Spread the mixture on the collards

11. Place the sliced carrots, scallions, avocados, and sprouts on top of the spread

12. Roll it up like a burrito and make sure it’s wrapped on the sides so nothing spills out

Enjoy!

Catherine Miller

What ALC Week Is Like for CBCF’s Marc Banks

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As the CBCF‘s Annual Legislative Conference (ALC) quickly approaches, we wanted to take a closer look at how the youngest conference hosts handle the insanity and make the most of their all-access experience. The beloved conference– widely referred to as CBC weekend– brings together politicos of color from around the globe, as well as the group of African-American Members of Congress known as the Congressional Black Caucus. We’ve already covered how the most seasoned and influential guests do CBC weekend. Here, CBCF’s public relations specialist shares his POV.  

Hired immediately after a media fellowship with the CBCF, 26-year-old Marc Banks is right on schedule for his quintessential DC career ascension. 

He’s been the brand manager for a media company, served as a press intern for a U.S. Senator, and runs his own burgeoning PR agency– Bankable PR. With a rap sheet like that, no wonder he’s able to juggle the demands of running one of the biggest gatherings in Washington.

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On the insanity of planning ALC

“The office goes into overdrive when ALC planning starts. As a small nonprofit with a relatively big name, we are tasked with a lot throughout the year, adding ALC to that equation doubles our work tremendously. ALC is a collaborative effort that requires all hands on deck, immense coordination, and the temperament of a saint.”

“Planning a conference for 10,000+ attendees from all parts of the world is no easy task. I like to classify what happens before and during the conference as a marathon. Meetings, site visits, briefings, walkthroughs, late nights, and certainly early mornings is all part of the process that makes the magic of ALC happen. It is really quite remarkable to see it all come together.”

On the bigger meaning of ALC

“For me, the Annual Legislative Conference (ALC) is a great opportunity for people to convene and discuss issues affecting the African-American community and the diaspora as a whole. No matter the policy area, it’s likely you will find a forum at ALC to discuss your view points, and solutions to current issues.”

“For attendees, ALC can be a place to network and connect with solution-oriented individuals who want to have meaningful conversations about the trajectory of public policy, the economy, socioeconomic matters, and more.”

On his can’t miss ALC Events

“I actually have three favorite events, and of course they’re the three biggest events during ALC. The Black Party, the Prayer Breakfast, and the grand finale, the Phoenix Awards Dinner.”

“I’ve been fortunate enough to attend ALC for a couple of years now. Twice as a guest, and once working for the CBCF. I can say that something unexpected always happens.”

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On what he’s wearing to ALC

“Most people are in business attire for the 70+ forums the CBCF hosts throughout the 5-day conference. As the day turns into night, people tend to change into an after-5 look for the receptions.”

“You’ll find me in an Indochino suit for most of the week. Because my day can go from formal to casual, having a verstable pair of Cole Haan shoes is a must. I have a closet full of Cole Haan’s that go with anything and everything.”

“By the end of the conference, I’ve ditched the tie, and taken a more business casual approach. My favorite accessory, which I can dress up or down, is my David Yurman bracelet. It’s a solid piece of men’s jewelry that can do no wrong.”

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On his 9-to-5 at the CBCF

“My day to day varies. On any given day, I could be accompanying CBCF interns to top-tier organization in DC, trekking the halls of Congress, managing a CBCF photo shoot, or in the office monitoring online chatter and strategizing a plan to reach our target audience.”

“The work at CBCF is exciting, challenging, and rewarding. I’m fortunate to work for an organization where I  get to be an advocate for programs and opportunities that directly benefit the African-American community. I’m also able to change the narrative often associated with young African-American women and men across this country.”

On what the future holds

“From time to time I get to work on cool side projects through my startup public relations firm. Right now, I just do it every now and then because it’s a lot of work. But I’d like to build a team and expand it more.”

“I love building brands, cultivating relationships, and growing my client’s influence with stakeholders. PR allows me to do all of that, and more. One day I’d love to work with the likes of Carmelo Anthony, Darren Sproles, Rep. Marcia Fudge, The United Nations, and Barack Obama– post presidency.”

The CBCF is currently hiring. Interested? Apply here.
Photography by Leah Beilhart

Ursula Lauriston