If you hate your job — maybe you’re constantly checking the clock throughout the workday or counting down the days until the weekend — you may find it difficult to relate to those who love working. You may have even tried to take your career in a different direction in the past and remain dissatisfied. This is unfortunately common. It’s often because people who are unhappy at work act impulsively or ignore the root of the problem. To transform your unhappy work life into a happy one, there are a few crucial things you need to do.
1. Admit That You’re Unhappy
Instead of simply trying to find happiness in your current situation, accept that you need to make a change. Convincing yourself that you should just be grateful for what you have and ignoring those feelings of discontent is unproductive — it will just lead to greater stress.
2. Determine the Cause of Your Unhappiness
You won’t be able to fix the problem until you figure out what’s making you unhappy. There are several potential reasons, each of which has a different solution. For instance, you may realize that you want to stay on the same career path, but you do want to change workplace. Alternatively, you may want to seek a new position in the same company. However, it could also be that you’ll never be satisfied in your current field and you want to pursue a completely different career — that’s fine, too.
Some of the possible causes of your unhappiness include the following.
If your coworkers are always complaining about work, it’s easy to start feeling pessimistic as well — they may even bring up issues that never bothered you before. On the flip side, you may just not get along with your coworkers. In either case, you’ll need to do whatever you can to distance yourself from them. This could mean you stop socializing with them or you may need to ask for a transfer to another department in the company.
Many workers blame their unhappiness on their managers. Whereas it’s true that sometimes a manager is incapable (or even just mean), much of the time, the problem is due to miscommunication. For example, your manager may be unaware that your workload is too heavy or that you wanted to work on a particular project that was assigned to someone else. Sometimes, you need to ask for what you want.
It could be that the company you work for is nightmarish. Maybe you’re pushed to work overtime without extra pay, the benefits are nonexistent, or you find out that you’re being paid less than industry standard after talking to someone else in your field. Alternatively, the job itself could be fine, but the commute may be too long. Before making any rash decisions, see if there are any small fixes you can make — for instance, ask your boss for a raise, start working remotely, or move closer to the office.
The Type of Work
In the case it’s the work itself you don’t enjoy, you may need a career change. This can be hard to accept, since you’ve dedicated many years to reach the place you are today. Instead of seeing change as giving up, consider it as moving on to bigger things. Nothing will ever take away the experience you’ve acquired; in fact, it will most likely come in useful even in a completely different field.
3. Know What You Want
Once you’ve determined what is making you unhappy, it’s time to figure out what would make you happy. One way to approach this is to think about what you’ve enjoyed in the jobs you’ve held before and what you like about your current position (after all, it’s unlikely that everything about your job is negative). You should also consider your passions, what motivates you, and what skills you want to put to good use.
4. Create a Strategy
The next steps you take will depend on what you discover to be the cause of your unhappiness and what you decide you want to gain from work. Your strategy should include some of the following.
Ask About Opportunities in Your Company
If you’re happy with your company but you want more fulfillment from your job, a solution could be to change to a different position. Your boss may be able to put you on track for a promotion or there could be an opportunity for a horizontal move within your company to a position you feel more passionate about.
Search for Another Job
In the case you like the type of work you do but you’re unhappy with the company and there’s nothing you can do to make the situation better, the right option will likely be to search for a new job. Dedicate time to refreshing your resume, reaching out to contacts (such as on LinkedIn), and scouring job boards. Remember: you’re under no obligation to quit your job until you land a new position, which makes this a low-risk strategy.
See a Career Counselor
If you’re unsure what direction to take, the best thing to do is talk to a career counselor. Universities, community colleges, technical schools, and adult education centers all tend to offer career counseling services.
Start a Side Hustle
You may not be ready to take the leap into a new career. Working a side hustle in your chosen field is a great way to try out a new type of work before committing. It also allows you to maintain financial stability, which is particularly important if you’re starting your own business. In the case the side hustle doesn’t work out, that’s fine! It’s much better to have tried and failed than to have never tried. Plus, the experience should give you the confidence to keep searching until you find a career that does resonate with you.
Talk to People Working in the Field You’re Interested In
Another way to figure out if you’re likely to be happy with your new career idea is to talk to others who are already working in this field. Ask them what’s rewarding and what’s challenging about the work as well as other questions that will help you gauge if you’re likely to enjoy doing the same. If you don’t know anyone personally, sign up for events where you have the chance to network and chat, such as conferences and workshops.
Go Back to School
When you lack the qualifications for your dream career, it can feel like job satisfaction is forever out of your reach. However, you need to ask yourself if it’s worth staying in a job you dislike over advancing your education. There may be no need to quit your job and enrol in school full time — whether you need a certification or a degree, you have options: you can study online or part time or take night classes. If this will lead you to happiness, the extra effort and investment may be worthwhile.
5. Acknowledge Your Own Capabilities
It’s difficult to progress in any career if you lack self-confidence. Whatever jobs you’ve held, you’ve acquired countless skills that you may not even think about. Plus, many of these skills are likely to be transferable — it’s just a matter of marketing yourself effectively.
6. Avoid Making the Same Mistakes
If it seems like you keep running into the same issues whenever you change jobs (or careers), you need to consider that the problem may be you rather than your environment. We’ve already explored how a manager may seem incompetent when actually the issue is communication. As another example, if you can never stand your coworkers, you need to think about whether it’s you being too judgemental. Remember that your coworkers don’t need to be your best friends — you just need to be able to maintain a decent working relationship.
7. Be Realistic
You’re never going to love every moment of your work — it’s called work for a reason! Decide what matters most to you and strive for a career that will enable you to have these things. This could mean work that is more aligned with your values, the chance to work fewer hours (or perhaps the hours you set) to have more time for your family or hobbies, regular opportunities for career progression, or even a certain salary.
8. Make Every Day Count
Whatever you end up doing, it’s unlikely that you’ll see any major changes immediately. For now, you need to learn to cope with your situation as best as possible — and watching the clock is never the right move. Instead, find something to focus your efforts on every day to make your work enjoyable. For instance, you could set rewards for reaching milestones, listen to music at work to keep you motivated, or even gamify your work. These kinds of coping skills will come in useful in the future, as there will always be times when you need to tackle something tough or tedious.+
People are often unhappy at work because their job involves a large number of tasks they don’t find stimulating or that are downright boring. This is likely to continue being the case even if you change career, as every job involves some kind of monotonous work. The solution is to delegate all these activities to a virtual assistant.