People come and go, time marches on and things change, then one day you wake up and find yourself in a job that you don't like. Maybe it happened gradually as responsibilities morphed or maybe it happened suddenly with the arrival of a new boss, a change in industry regulations or a merger. All you know is that you are not happy and are not sure what to do about it.
One day you wake up and find yourself in a job that you don't like.
It can be hard to make the distinction between a series of bad days and the awareness that your job isn't a good fit anymore. At first, you may spend time venting to friends or your significant other, or maybe you go home and crack open the merlot and have a couple glasses to unwind. Both approaches are fine ways to deal with the stress of an unfulfilling job in the short term. (And I stress -- short term!)
If you notice that your job has changed permanently from the one you used to love to one that overwhelms you with feelings of helplessness and anger, it's time to put a plan in place that will result in longer term change. Read on for healthy tips on how to make that happen...
1. Try to figure out if this will pass or if it’s not something you can adjust to. Determine whether the issue with your job is internal or external (or both). Will you potentially get used to the changes with time? For example, maybe the new boss will grow on you as you get to know each other, but if your commute has changed from 30 minutes to 2 hours due to an office move it may be harder to get used to. Consider the following questions to make that determination:
How long has your dissatisfaction been apparent to you?
When you first noticed that your feelings for your job were changing, what else was going on? What changed between when you liked your job and now?
Are there parts of your job you like?
Have you outgrown your job – do you need a new challenge that this job won’t provide?
If you could change a couple things about your job, would your enthusiasm return?
Is it you or the job that has changed?
Brainstorm on things that are within your control to change to make your job satisfying to you again.
2. Get some perspective on what’s in your control and what’s not. Using the insights, you gained from your analysis, brainstorm on things that are either within your control to change to make your job satisfying to you again or things that you can ask your boss about that could make your happier.
As you’re doing this, DO NOT start editing yourself. No “yeah buts” – as in “Yeah, but I can’t leave this company, I’ve got kids in school.” “Yeah, but I will never find another job that pays this much in this town.” “Yeah, but it’s no better anywhere else.”
Depending on the issues, you might feel happier if you were able to adjust your schedule or the location of your desk or were able to work from home one day a week.
If you’re longing for promotion, have you talked with your boss about what it will take to move ahead? If you’re interested in advancement, make sure your boss knows this. Don’t expect him or her to read your mind.
Be sure not to bad mouth your job, your boss or the company.
3. Explore your options. If you’ve determined that your current job is not going to cut it for you, your next step is two-pronged: to figure out what will make you happy longer term and how to make your current job palatable until you can move on.
You may be able to find a new job at your current company. Check the job postings and start reaching out to your internal network to learn about potential opportunities.
Be sure not to bad mouth your job, your boss or the company. Though you may trust your co-workers, this type of gossip has a way of making up the hierarchy and could limit both your opportunities within the company and your ability to get a good reference should you decide to go elsewhere. If you need to vent, do it outside of work to people who have no connection to your job.
You may feel trapped because you make too much money to leave or don’t see a path to a new role. There are exercises that can help you to identify your transferable skills and envision how those skills could be combined in new ways to land a new job you’ll be happier with.
Hire a professional career coach. It can help to have a neutral party to discuss your situation with who can help provide perspective and work with you to explore options. If you decide to leave, a career coach can also help you develop a job search strategy so that you can make a smooth transition into a new opportunity that's a good fit.
You may feel trapped because you make too much money to leave or don’t see a path to a new role.
If you find yourself in a funk due to unwelcome changes at work, take it easy on the merlot and follow these steps instead. There are always options and you may end up being much better off when you make it to the other side.