If you’re in a job you can’t stand, you’ve probably said something like, “Is it just me? Do I need to just buckle down and make this work?” And the truth is that most Americans are unhappy at work. it’s not just you. If you’re having these thoughts, chances are the job isn’t that good for you.
There’s a reason you feel sick to your stomach when you meet with your boss, or that you dread Monday mornings. Trust your instincts.
I didn’t trust my instincts, and ended up staying in a job that made me miserable for several years - and I dreaded going in on Monday mornings. In hindsight, the cost of staying in that job was not worth it, and I learned a valuable lesson. Sometimes the cost is too high - you can never get back the lost time and the missed opportunities.
So what are your options? How can you move toward more fulfilling work as soon as possible?
You have at least six possible paths - three involve staying in your current job, and three involve making a switch to another job. Here they are:
These three options involve staying in your current job while making a big enough change to make it work for you.
1. Redefine your job - shape it into what you want.
This requires three things: A willingness to envision specifically how your current job could be better, the guts to ask for that change, and a willingness to be told no.
I had a colleague who loved facilitating groups, and she proposed adding that responsibility to her role, and got an immediate “yes!” from the VP. By choosing to focus on the work she loved, the organization was better for it, and she was much happier.
This path has the potential to be the least disruptive while still accomplishing the goal of increasing your fulfillment at work. You might be amazed at what is possible within the structure of your current job if you are willing to ask.
2. Change how you think about things. Change your mind, change the story, change your attitude.
“If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.” -- Maya Angelou
For many people, this can be the most powerful path because it not only affects how you experience your job, it affects your outlook on all aspects of life.
In psychology and counseling this technique is referred to as reframing. Reframing can be highly effective in changing the way you experience situations, and it keeps the power in your hands. Think about someone you know who always has a positive outlook, or who always manages to be successful despite the circumstances.
This is not about ignoring the undesirable elements - sometimes life can suck, and that’s a reality. This is about acknowledging the reality, and deciding to take control over the how we interpret it, and what we decide to do about it.
3. Build another job on the side.
Moonlight, freelance, explore a passion, start something you care about. This path can take many forms and lead to many outcomes.
It could be a small business doing something that energizes you and enables you to rethink how you experience your current day job, or it could be a venture that eventually replaces your income and allows you to quit your day job.
Focus and persistence are the key ingredients here. Get laser focused on what it is you are willing to spend your free time pursuing, and stick to it until it works.
I know people who have successful side businesses doing things like wedding photography, running a martial arts studio, and consulting for small nonprofits.
If you absolutely know that you can’t (or won’t) stay in your current job, the next three paths are for you.
GO...SWITCH to another job.
These three options involve seeking another job. Sometimes you know when it’s time to leave.
4. Switch to a new job at the same organization.
Maybe you like where you work, but your boss is a jerk. Talk to HR and explore whether there might be options for an internal transfer, or seek out other managers and inquire about openings that might be on the horizon. It can be tricky, so be discreet about it.
If you have good relationships and a good reputation in your organization, this is a realistic path that isn’t as drastic as jumping ship.
5. Switch to a new job somewhere else.
This is often the first path people think of when they are unhappy in a job, and while it can offer the needed change, it can also require significant investment of time and energy.
If you are sure this is the right path for you, there are many wonderful resources that can help you make the switch. I explore find solid tips here in an article on this site.
6. Quit. And create your own job.
You are absolutely done. Sick of the grind, sick of the people. Hopefully you have some cash saved up or a couch you can crash on for a while.
Before you take the leap, get a few things in place while you still have the security of a paycheck. Do some networking, draft a business plan for your next move, tighten up your expenses. Then get on with it - seriously consider what’s the worst that could happen? Chances are, it’s not as bad as you think.
If you’re ready for change, you have options - at least six. Pick one and get to work.
Let me know which path you’re taking in the comments below.
* Rex Foster is a writer and career coach who helps people discover how to achieve fulfillment in their careers. If you are miserable in your job and ready to take action, you can start by downloading his free eBook here: “5 Practical Steps for Making a Switch to a Job You Love” and connect with me on Facebook and Twitter at @rexdfoster.
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