Want to be happier at work? If so, you’re not alone. According to a recent Gallup poll, 85% of Americans admit to hating their jobs.
If you’re part of the 15% that love their work, awesome! If not, read on for three steps to find more happiness in your career.
#1 Get clear on what you really want from work – and life!
Sometimes we get so used to surviving a less-than-ideal work situation that we forget to stop and actually consider what we actually want. Many of us haven’t given the question much thought since our college days, if we even did so then.
By the time I was in my late twenties with years of Finance experience under my belt, I couldn’t tell you what I wanted from career. All I knew was that I was so unhappy and unfulfilled with my life as a financial consultant.
Since grade school when I got on the “Straight A Student” train, I was always striving to do what was next and best – get the best grades, graduate early, get multiple degrees, land an impressive job, make more money, get promoted, and so on.
I was chasing the promotion, the raise, the prestige – with little regard to what would actually make me happy. If I was ever going to make a change, I had to get clear on what I wanted, what I liked and didn’t like about my job, and what I wanted from life.
Even if you have no idea what kind of job you’d like, you can start with questions like:
How do I want to feel?
Who do I want to be?
How do I want to spend my days? And with whom?
What are my top values and priorities in life?
Does my current job align with those ideals? If not, am I okay with that?
What is success to me? At work? In life?
Then get more specific about your current role and what you’d like to change:
What do I like (and dislike) about my current role? Why?
What would I like to see more (and less) of in my job?
What steps have I taken to change this for the better?
Is this situation salvageable?
#2 Reflect on how you got here.
One of the most common things I hear from new clients is that while they know how to get a job (they’ve done so many times!), the problem comes about 3 months to a year in to the new job. That’s when they start feeling the familiar sense of boredom, dread, and disillusionment with their work.
The way to avoid this is to reflect on your life path thus far, so you don’t make the same mistakes again. Think about how far you’ve come, what you’ve accomplished, and what got you to this point where you’re not as happy as you’d like at work.
I remember doing this exercise in my late twenties, when by all outside measures, I had a very successful career. I was living in New York City, making well into six figures, traveling every week for work, meeting with C-level executives, and presenting to Boards. It was everything I thought I wanted (plus it looked so good on paper!). And yet, I was so unhappy and unfulfilled.
When I got real with myself, I realized that there were many things that led me to this point – among them: a strong desire to please my parents, the momentum of life, and the biggest one, measuring my worth by others’ ideas of success.
Until we’re honest with ourselves about not just why we’re unhappy, but the beliefs, motivations and actions that got us here, it will be difficult to make substantial, lasting change.
#3 Experiment with small tweaks before making bigger changes.
Once you’ve gained some clarity on where you are, how you got here, and what you really want, it’s time to take action! Even if you’re sure it’s time to quit your job or try your hand at a brand new career, I recommend starting smaller before turning your whole life upside down.
Experiment with modest tweaks and habit changes first. This will not only make things better in the short-term, but will give help you build the confidence so that you’re even more ready if you do decide to get a new job.
Here are some things to try:
- Schedule what’s important. It’s time to walk your talk. If you say your health and relationship with your significant other are important, mark time off to get to the gym three days a week plus plan regular date nights. Treat that time as you would a meeting with your boss – don’t miss it!
- Set boundaries and learn to say “No.” When we feel overwhelmed with to-dos and decisions, it often comes down a desire to make everyone else happy, even if it comes at the expense of our well-being, health, and relationships.
Decide on your top priorities and goals for the month, and every time an opportunity comes up to add something else to your plate, ask yourself if it will bring you closer to your goals and how you want to feel. If not, don’t take it on. Say “No” – no explanation necessary.
- Get support. Just because it needs to get done, doesn’t mean it needs to be done now or by you. When looking at your never-ending to-do list, ask yourself if there’s anywhere you can get support.
That could mean paying for help like a babysitter, cleaning service or meal-delivery plan or it could just mean asking your family to help out (and being okay if the dishwasher isn’t filled to your specifications!), and getting creative with neighborhood carpooling and childcare.
- Take care of yourself at least as well as you take care of Rex. Seriously. Self-care gets a bad rap because we all imagine indulgent massages and bubble baths. While all that is great, I’m suggesting something way more basic.
If you have a dog, you know what I’m talking about. I’m sure Rex gets plenty of sleep, good food, time for play, - and forgiveness when he’s made a mistake. Do you offer that same level of basic self-care, patience and compassion for yourself? If not, why not? It’s time for a change. No matter what’s going on at work, everything is a million times worse when we’re tired and hungry.
No matter your situation at work, I encourage you to work through the steps above. You may be pleasantly surprised.
I’ve had clients begin working with me because they were sure that they needed a new job, only to realize that with a few tweaks, boundaries, and intentional time outside of work, they can be quite happy in their current role. And if after all of this, they still decide it’s time to make a change, now they’re armed with more clarity and confidence to take that next step.
Want more? Whether you’re ready for a new job or just want to step into leadership, a polished LinkedIn profile is a must. Join us for the free Job Joy LinkedIn Challenge where you’ll get one tip every day to update your page. By the end of the challenge, you’ll have a completely revamped and aligned LinkedIn profile to attract perfect-for-you opportunities. There will be lots of support, surprises and giveaways! Sign up here: https://jobjoybook.lpages.co/jobjoychallenge/
Kristen Zavo is a career coach, talent consultant, and the author of Job Joy, an Amazon best-seller. After spending nearly two decades in traditional corporate roles, working for some of the top Fortune 500 companies like Lehman Brothers, NBC and Luxottica, she now helps unfulfilled high achievers to find work and build careers they absolutely love. Learn more about her and her work at www.findyourjobjoy.com