You get out of bed. You think about the day ahead at the office. Ugh. You feel your body become tense. You ask yourself “How many more days can I do this?”
This is not how we’re meant to feel about our jobs. We’re meant to be energized, excited, challenged and happy. Most of us work because there’s something about having our own career that jazzes us. When we end up in a situation where we’re miserable, it drains and debilitates us. How do we know whether to stick it out or get out?
When we’re unhappy in our job, it can be hard to sort through what’s really going on. Sometimes we just know we’re miserable and want the pain to stop. The voices in our head are constantly at us, offering more confusion than clarity. The more we dwell on the situation, the more stressful it becomes.
Yet to deal effectively with the unhappiness, we must avoid being reactive and focus on a productive response to the situation.
The best solutions come from a place of calm and clarity.
Slowing down our thought process can give us the mental space to gain clarity about the situation. Before you read on, take three deep breaths to slow down your thought process as you read. One…two…three…Now read on.
Five questions to ask yourself if you’re not happy in your job
- What is the root cause of my distress? Is the source of dissatisfaction is related to lifestyle (e.g. hours, travel, flexibility)? Is it a person/s? Is it the environment? Is it the type of work? Are you getting the recognition and opportunities you desire? You’ll need clarity on this point to help you determine your best course of action. The key here is to be strategic and intentional.
- Is the situation temporary? We can tolerate many situations if we know they have an end date. How long can you tolerate your situation?
- If it is temporary, am I developing my skills or my advocates to get me closer to my goals? There are times when we take an assignment that isn’t our favorite but it benefits our career. Maybe it’s working for a key advocate or gaining exposure. Alexander Hamilton was George Washington’s aide-de-camp during the Revolutionary War at a time when Hamilton was itching to lead in battle. The visibility and advocates he gained during that period served him well in his efforts to shape our country’s future later.
- Am I or my values being compromised? This involves assessing the culture and people with whom you work. Working in an environment that aligns with our core values is one of the keys to satisfaction and ultimate success.
- Does my profession allow me to build on my strengths and passions? We all perform at our best and are happiest when we are doing work that plays to our strengths and energizes us. If you are in a situation where your work now and in the future points to the same degree of misery, then a more serious and thorough assessment of what you want out of your career is merited.
What it means to “go”
After you’ve assessed your situation, you can take action to alleviate it. How extreme that action is depends on you, your risk tolerance and the situation itself. Here are a few possibilities, in order of increasing degrees of change:
- Find small ways of coping: I call them distractors, relaxers and attractors.
- Distractors are the parts of your job that you enjoy. Focus on those as much as you can to distract yourself from what you don’t like.
- Spend time in activities that take you away from the source of pain (relaxers). Examples are exercise, hobbies, fun times with friends and family.
- Attractors are little sayings or affirmations you can use that bring a more positive attitude into your day. When you’re in a situation that triggers a negative reaction or feeling, what can you do or say to yourself in the moment that will put the situation in a lighter perspective?
- Transfer within the company: Ask for a transfer to a new department. How you do this can be sensitive, but with help from your advocates, a good business case and some political tact, your odds of success will increase.
- Change companies doing the same type of work: Maybe you’ve stayed in the company because the industry is in a downturn. Or perhaps you’ve been there a long time and you can’t imagine leaving. However, there’s little risk in checking out the market. It gives you a comparison. Be sure you know what to look for so you don’t end up in a similar situation in a new company.
- Change professions: This is a big move and should only be taken after careful consideration. Be strategic in how you arrive at this conclusion and how you act on it.
All of the above will require support as you sort through to gain clarity. As a Career and Leadership Coach I work with my clients on their journey to find that clarity. If you’d like that support, let’s talk in a complimentary Coaching Discovery Call. Click here to schedule a time that works for you.