What To Do When You Don't Love Your Job

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We’ve all been there. Sometimes the job just sucks. For those of you who have always loved your jobs every single day you’ve had to work it, more power to you and count your blessings. To the rest of us, not every day is going to be awesome.

The real question comes when you start to find that the bad days outnumber the good. When it starts getting hard to even get out of bed, and you find yourself calling in sick or showing up late, that’s when you know you’ve got a problem on your hands. At wolf & heron, we’re all about being a leader. If you find that you’re not living up to the leader you know you can be, then it’s time to take a look at your situation, and figure out what needs to change.

When I was first out of college, I got myself this fancy technology consulting job in NYC. I was 22, well-paid, living in NYC, eating out, traveling… living the life many 22-year-olds only dream of having. But about 18 months in, I hit a wall. I’d been staffed on a project that was no fun at all – I didn’t like the mission of the client organization AND I didn’t like the people I had to work with. Then I joined another project that wasn’t for me, and another project, and another, and my apathy towards my job started to leak into other parts of my life.

I would pretend to “work from home” as many days as I could get away with, and then stay in bed watching movies, sending an email every hour or so to “appear” productive. On the days I had to go into the office, I’d get there as late as was reasonable, and leave as soon as I felt I could. Some days I just didn’t want to get out of bed, and would simply call in sick.

None of these behaviors aligned with who I wanted to be, and clearly my job wasn’t making me into someone I could be proud of. At the time I couldn't explain to myself or others what was going on. All I knew was that I was depressed and something had to change.

It took a lot of soul searching, a few false starts, and a couple of cry-fests with family and friends. Figuring out what I needed to do to get out of my funk took almost another year. But finally, I upped and left New York: I moved to Buenos Aires to learn Spanish full time and take Argentine Tango lessons for as many hours as my coaches would let me. It’s exactly what I needed to shake me out of my negative patterns, and the kick that set me on a completely new path that has carried me forward for more than a decade now.

But my solution to my problem isn’t the solution that will work for everyone, so this article isn’t about what you should do if your job sucks the life out of you. Instead, I’m going to give you a three-step process to figure out for yourself what your plan of action should be.

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1.     Remember who you were

Write down why you took the job in the first place. What was exciting about the job? What were you hoping to get out of it? What were your other options and why did this one seem like the best choice? Who were you hoping to become as a s result of this job? Where do you hope to end up? What values were you honoring by choosing this job, or hoping to honor through your work?

2.     Get curious about who you are now

Think about your current life situation and priorities. What is new or different about who you are now? Go through the areas of your life from the Wheel of Life. For each area, write down how your job contributes to that part of your life, and how it gets in the way. Make yourself come up with something for each side of the argument, otherwise you’re letting your own self get in the way of your better judgement. On a scale of 1-10, rate how fulfilled you are in each area of your life, and try to come up with 1-3 things about your job that would have to change to move that number up by one. Feel free to recycle ideas between areas – sometimes a single change in your job situation will have ripple effects across multiple areas of your life.

3.     Decide what’s important and take action

Look at your list of ideas for changes to your job, and figure out which are the top three most important. Then it’s time to take some action. Decide which of the following you will do:

  • Change your attitude about your job. Sometimes we moan about how things aren’t quite right, but going through this process illustrates to us how actually, things aren’t all that bad either. Recognize that even though your job isn’t great all the time, it’s giving you enough.
  • Talk to your boss about what needs to change in your job for you to become closer to the person you want to be. Use your values to talk about it – that framing will help your boss understand where you’re coming from.
  • Decide you’re leaving your job and start the process. Use what you learned going through these steps to set criteria for yourself about what new job you will look for.