What to do when you get the ‘job ick’

Photo of author
Written By Scott Kubie

Founder and Director of Content Career Accelerator. Indie rock fan. East Coast living midwesterner.

Ew, no thank you.

The “ick” came up on a CCA group coaching call last week. Do you know the ick? 

It started as a term for a feeling about a romantic interest you can’t describe other than: “Ick.” Getting the ick is like having a switch flipped off, except now you can’t remember why it was ever flipped on in the first place. You liked them, maybe a lot, maybe a lot a lot, but now, suddenly … ick, no thank you.

Where does ick come from? Here, let Cosmo explain:

It could be that you’ve picked something up in their value system that’s completely different from yours, the way they laugh or tell a joke might completely irritate you, or it could even be just their look or smell. … 

There are many reasons to not want to date someone. What makes the ick the ick is that it’s a reason unto itself, and hard to explain to someone who isn’t you. The point of origin becomes apparent only later — if at all — after you learn a missing detail or have more time to reflect on the situation.

My coaching calls are not about dating, of course — a topic I’m wildly unqualified to advise upon — but about careers in UX and content. The ick happens in our career journeys, too. The “job ick”, if you like. You can get it from the initial message a recruiter sends, a question on the application form that doesn’t accommodate your identity, or all the way at the end of the process from a draconian clause in the acceptance paperwork. Maybe it’s just the photos they pick for the ‘Careers’ page. You might pick up some -ist/-phobic vibes, even if nothing is made explicit.

The job ick can come simply from how someone talked to or treated you during an interview. And it can be the case that the other party is perfectly lovely and wonderful, but something in your gut says “yes, but not they’re not for me.”

Our previous Question of the Week got me thinking about how the job ick and the job market can be at odds in our own careers. When asked how the job market has people feeling, the most popular answer by a mile was “Nauseous 🤢.”

Understandably so. Tough out there and getting tougher. Many folks have been “in the market” for years; long-suffering victims of the disruption wrought by COVID. And people finding themselves in the job market just now are finding that there might not be as many to go around as their last time.

When someone is in a market for a long time, or their pool of options feels shallow, they can hit a point where what they want even more than the paramour or the job is to not be in that market anymore. Because it’s exhausting, and scary, and hard. I get it, I do. You don’t know the half of how much I’ve been there. 

But I still want you to listen to the job ick

“What about privilege?!?!”, the white knight screeched. Yes, of course: People with more privilege can weather the consequences of turning down work much more readily than those without. That sucks and is unjust. Now what? Even if you’ve been denied privilege, the job ick is not something to simply ignore. If you’ve got to take the work to feed the family or keep the house, do it, obviously. Obviously! But remember the feeling. That little tickle of ick might be you detecting the outer edges of a full-on toxic waste site.

So what to do, especially if you can’t say no to the work right now? You might, for instance, want to keep your guard up a little longer around new coworkers. Or you might want to keep sending out applications, in case that worry you have about the job evaporating or being different than advertised turns out to be true. Or maybe you’ll want to sock a little more away in savings each month, or be extra-cautious about spending any money that isn’t literally in the bank yet. Maybe you’ll want to take more detailed notes about your work and workplace conversations in case you find yourself needing to tell a story to HR, or defend against a bullshit story someone is telling about you.

You’ll have to trust your gut twice: about the ick, and about your instinct on what to do about it.I’ve never spoken to someone who regrets listening to the job ick. 

Worst case, your gut was wrong and life works out anyway. Maybe you’ll even come back around on that company or person when you’re in a different headspace.

Whether in our personal or our career journeys, almost everyone has a story of regret about not listening. So that’s all I can ask of you, and the best most of us can do: listen for the job ick, and consider how to protect yourself when you get it.

Join 2,500+ focused on what's next in UX Content.

Opportunities, tips, and tools from real people in the world of UX content, straight to your inbox. Subscribe for free.

Item added to cart.
0 items - $0.00