From The Straits Times    |

Artwork: Jane Tan

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As I’m taking my midday mindless Instagram scroll as a five-minute break from work, out pops a memory reminding me that today is my one-year anniversary in my current role.

That might not seem like a big deal to most, but it’s the longest I’ve stayed at a job in the last five years. Before I get accused of being a job-hopping millennial (even though that’s exactly what I am), not all of my job hops were fuelled by ambition. Some were due to the tumultuous nature of the pandemic (and just plain ol’ retrenchment), while the rest were, in my opinion, a necessity due to toxic working environments.

The one common thread that ran through these decisions? I never regretted jumping in, and then jumping out when I had to, regardless of how long I worked there. When I think about the textbook definition of agility, one’s ability to move quickly and easily comes to mind. And that’s exactly who I am to a T.

For years, I prided myself on my ability to adapt to my environment quickly, and without much need for an adjustment period. Utilising this skill, I had a solid game plan when it came to my job progression as well – every role I took on had to establish the next part of my career ladder, whether it be picking up writing skills, art direction, video production, digital technicalities, and so forth.

I wanted to have whatever it took to become, as my friends lovingly call me out at my most insufferable moments, “a tier-one media journalist”, I’d take on new tasks and skills of whatever my roles required without batting an eyelid, choosing to figure things out on my own as a personal challenge.

However, in the process of doing so, I became good at everything, but excelled at nothing. In my quest to tick off a box on my skill set checklist, I would succeed at something and be pleased with that shallow one-time success, before making my next move. After all, you can’t be considered a failure if you weren’t in it long enough to make a mistake, right? I became a chameleon at my jobs, altering my skill set and, more crucially, my personality to whatever the role required, just to hit whatever barometer of success the job called for.

As I advanced further in my career, I chose to move to a more conventional workplace in a different but adjacent industry. As someone with a larger-than-life personality, I’m not for everyone [Ed’s note: This is Cheryl’s polite way of saying that she’s loud and outspoken], especially within the workplace. But I decided that I was ready to take on new challenges with my new professional – albeit muted – personality.

But it was here that I realised what gave me an edge at all my jobs, and the ability to adapt so quickly, was inherently due to my personality. In an attempt to excel in a foreign environment, I had been reduced to a shadow of my former self. While I hit professional and personal goals that I had set for myself, ones that I was especially proud of in a job I had no experience in, I was miserable, because I had no idea who I was anymore, apart from being a job-hopping “shape-shifter” made to please corporate management.

And so I left, and made a move that the old me would have thought of as very “un-agile” – I went back to my old, new job in media. I came back to it refreshed with a fresh perspective on what I had given up prematurely the first time, and a new-found appreciation for many aspects of it.

Maybe I had to leave to fully understand what I needed from a role – which was a place that appreciated who I was as a person, a collaborative and creative environment that valued my ideas, and a sense of camaraderie with colleagues who just “get it”.

And guess what? Everyone’s better off for it. The company, my bosses and colleagues get a shinier and improved version of me, and more importantly, I’m finally at peace and accepted at a place where I can be authentic, even within a professional setting And as a sign of commitment, I’ve decided to finally turn off the “open to work” panel on my Linkedin.

Well, at least for now.