Making the Most of A Bad Situation

Three weeks after we came home the mythologizing began. A few months after that, the
(yet another ) miserable apartment became the thing of stories.

Like the placein Rome where, if you didn’t squeegee the walls daily, moss would grow. What was awful,  just becomes a memory–mostly a funny one. The streetlamp that lit up our bedroom, making it so much brighter than our living room where reading, except on our iPads, was impossible. But we could bothlie in bed and read a book solely by the light coming through from the street. 

And so, maybe not next year, but certainly by the one following, even though we both swear we are done with these trips that are not vacations but work, and really not fun (though we have fun) while we are doing them, we just may, as we did this year, forget the reality and only focus on what the reality has become.   And, despite our best intentions, we just might say yes one “last” time. 

Work is often like that.  One little thing can make a good job feel bad…and a bad one feel good. The problem comes when you work on the immediate without considering the longer view.  

I’ve done that.  My first fundraising job was one that I loved. Then there was a bad bump.  Instead of trying to work it out–trying to make it better, I jumped into another position. It was a better title, and a lot more money – both good reasons to say yes. But I was too focused on what was currently wrong with my situation to understand the new one. And, for me, it turned out not to be a good move–something I should have seen before I leaped.  

At least I was being proactive. So many people are in bad situations and don’t do much to rectify what is wrong until something blows up and they have to start thinking about next steps. Those steps could be looking for a new job or they could be considering how to change the climate where they are. Either is good. But, sometimes, connected to neither of these, things start getting better. 

That can be terrific–if you are being gimlet-eyed and seeing what is really going on. Too often, however, we are not. Things are working now–that’s good and you keep doing whatever it is you had been doing– and soon the good thing is back to the thing that wasn’t very good before. Worse, you’ve stopped all the proactive things you were doing or about to start, and are back to square one–or perhaps even a bit behind that

Mythologizing is fine, if you keep your wits about you. 

My neighbor worked in the same company at the same job for almost 30 years. The thought of that could make me crazy. But while her title remained the same, she was very good at shaping the things that made up her job to suit what she wanted them to be.  What her job ended up being was very different from what it had started out to be. It took vision—seeing what was important to her and how she could convince her boss that this was good for the organization.  And that took negotiation.

Good negotiating requires that you are clear on what you want, what would be acceptable, and what is the point at which you walk away.  Smart work requires nothing less.  Consider what you really, really want your job to be.  Think about your current situation and be realistic at how close that comes. If you are looking for another job, be very clear what you want that job to look like. And then–because nothing is ever perfect–get real and strip it down to what is acceptable, both for your current situation as well as for another job altogether.  Don’t undersell yourself, however. Think also about the point at which you would walk away– from where you are and where you might be considering where you might go. Knowing where that point is an be critical.   

This is your (one) life; make sure it’s as good as it can be. 

Janet Levine can help you make the most of your job and of your fundraising. Learn more at While there, sign up for the newsletter and do arrange for a free, 30-minute consultation





About janetlevineconsulting

For over 20 years, Janet Levine has worked for and with nonprofit and educational organizations, helping to grow their advancement programs. Her consulting company, Janet Levine Consulting, serves a wide range of organizations from small, all-volunteer agencies to major national organizations. She regularly teaches courses in non-profit management, fundraising and grant development, both face-to-face and online at In addition to her nonprofit work, Janet brings years of experience as a business and sales manager in the for-profit sector. She has an MBA from the Graziadio School of Business at Pepperdine University.
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