If you are a career-driven professional and unhappy with your job, life probably feels hard. It's hard to show up every day, and spend so much time and focus on something that doesn't fit.
When you feel stuck in a job that isn't right, it can be hard to imagine other possibilities--or the opposite could be true--you might have moments when you feel like any other job would be better than the one you have.
So, how should you approach work and life when you don't like your job?
You don't have to stay miserable.
What I say to you is this: You have choices. You do not need to stay at a job that makes you feel miserable. It doesn't matter how long you've been doing the same work, how old you are, what your spouse or mother-in-law thinks, how many kids you have in college, how big your mortgage is or how much debt you have. You have a say in how you spend your life.
Do you find it hard to give yourself permission to actually believe you have choices? Suspend your disbelief for a moment. Owning a home is a choice. Committing to pay for vacations, your kids college or hockey is a choice. You could choose to sell your house, tell your kids to get part-time jobs or pull the plug on vacations and hockey tomorrow. I'm not saying you will, or you should. I'm saying you could.
If there was a big emergency and you were forced to come up with extra time, money, and resources to handle it...you could and you would. Your career unhappiness might not feel like life and death but isn't your overall quality of life worth expending extra time, money, and resources on?
So, the first thing I'll ask you to do is decide if you want to change your circumstances. Some people aren't thrilled with their jobs but are able to manage just fine. They work at something that might not be the "best" fit because it makes it up to them in other ways. They don't "love" their work but this doesn't really concern them that much. They sleep great, focus on other things they love, prioritize family and friends and fun and manage just fine. I'm not talking to them. They are okay. I'm talking to you if your career unhappiness is seeping into other areas of your life --family, health etc. If you aren't managing your career unhappiness, it's high time you decide to make a change.
Believe that it is possible.
I'm not saying that deciding to change your circumstances won't scare you out of your ever-loving mind!!! I'd be surprised if you weren't scared! You can be scared and still admit to yourself that you need to make a change and then decide you will.
The next thing you might want to do is start actually believing it is possible to change your circumstances. You don't need to know the how, what or when yet--that comes later. You just need to actually believe that it's possible.
Maybe that sounds easy to you or perhaps it's incredibly hard. Either way, sit with the thought for a minute or two. Let yourself think that it is possible to be happy at work...imagine, dream. Where do your daydreams take you? How do you feel? Relieved? Scared? Confused? Unsure? Does your mind wander to a job you did in the past? Or a career path you thought you'd end up on but never did? Somewhere else?
If you are truly stuck, you might need some time to get used to the idea that you actually aren't. For some, this is a very scary realization. For others, it's liberating and for others still it can be something they know but just aren't ready to act on.
Once you decide you want to make a change and believe that it's possible, it's time to do some brainstorming. What do you not like about what you do? What is causing the "rub"? Is it conflict with your boss? Micromanagement? A long commute? Lack of flexibility or freedom in how you complete your work? Are you bored? Overwhelmed by the workload? Do you disagree with how your employer does business? Is the work environment toxic? The pay too little? Is there no room for advancement or change? Do you have an overwhelming feeling you are meant for something more or different?
Once you take stock of what's bugging you about your work, take some time to outline what you actually like about it. Even if this list is short, try to think of something.
Re-frame if you can.
Part of what's really tricky about being in a job you want nothing more than to get out of, is that you rely on it to keep you fed, clothed, and sheltered. If it weren't for this fact, perhaps you would have gotten out years ago.
Also, it's easy to get into such a negative frame of mind when you are in a job that doesn't fit that the negativity starts to build and build and seep into other parts of your life. So, it can help to have a strategy in place to make staying in your current gig a bit more palatable while crafting an exit strategy or plan to make things better where you are. I know it can be rough but perhaps start by trying to find a few things to appreciate. Be grateful for the paycheck that is allowing you to stay afloat while you figure out your new career plan. Be grateful for a funny, kind, co-worker you can have lunch with. Be grateful for your family, friends, opportunities, country, healthcare...whatever resonates with you. Hang onto these things for dear life if you have to so you can get through this period. Your plan is to keep adding to this list and managing your mood as best you can while you refocus. Pretend you have a secret from your boss and coworkers...which is that you being in the place you are at now is temporary. Know inside that you will be moving on. Work on maintaining a sense of hope...your situation is temporary. You are headed for better.
It's time to do some more dreaming and possibly even some experimenting. What things in your life make you feel great? What activities make time seem to pass in the blink of an eye? What can you add into your life inside and out of work to make it better? More interaction with co-workers? A walk at lunch time? Actually taking your breaks? Remind yourself that your plan is to move on from what you are doing--which I hope will give you permission to stop taking work so darn seriously. Give yourself permission to laugh with co-workers, leave work when you are supposed to and cut back on doing so much work outside of work hours. Obviously, you need to continue to manage your work and demands but perhaps allow yourself the freedom to lower the expectations you place on yourself a notch. You need to start freeing up and carving out some time and energy to figure out the next steps on your career journey.
Keep piling on the good stuff.
Now, perhaps more than ever your top priority is to be extra kind to yourself. If you think you need more rest, get it. If you feel like you could use some more veggies and water in your diet, get them. Need to move your body more? Do it. Also, don't isolate yourself. When we feel stuck in any aspect of our life, that might be our tendency. If your negative feelings about your job have sucked the life out of your social life, do something to plump that area of your life up. Each week, keep adding to your pile of good stuff -- treat yourself like you would expect the best parent to treat their child.
The next, right step.
How are you feeling? A bit more hopeful? A bit more positive? My hope for you is that your answer is a resounding yes! If it's not, keep working at it. If you've managed to make some space in your life by clearing out some of the negativity, and adding a bit more good stuff, then you are ready for the next step. Ask yourself...what's the next right step? Do you need more resources? More soul searching? Support? Advice? To carve out time for research? Once you confirm the next right step for you, break it down into one or two small actions you can take. Commit to taking these actions within a specific period of time. When you complete this step, ask yourself what the next one is and so on. It might sound strange that I'm not telling you what the steps are but if I know anything, it's this: you will know.
Ready to make a move and want some support to make it easier and more successful? I can help!