With every job, there are bound to be days where things are less than perfect, and you head home at the end of an 8-hour grind feeling deflated and unrewarded. At least you can take solace in knowing this kind of a day is a one-off, an occasional occurrence, and a good sleep will likely be enough to reset and make tomorrow better.
But, what happens when it’s not just the occasional day that has got you down? What do you do when work leaves you unsatisfied more days than not?
The first reaction many of us have when work is making us unhappy is to start packing-up and looking for a new job. Of course, jumping into a new role at a different company is likely to make you feel engaged and rewarded for a while, but the novelty and excitement can quickly wear off.
What this habit does to your resume and, most importantly, your long-term sense of fulfillment, however, should have you considering your current situation more carefully.
Before you go the route of “I’m out of here!” consider what this response will look like to potential future employers. Every time you are unhappy at work, your instinctual habit will be to start looking for something new, because hey, it must be the job that isn’t right. Right? Job after job, your resume will begin to look more like a directory than a professional CV and would-be employers may be concerned about hiring someone who has bounced around so much. And you still haven’t found that perfect position …
This doesn’t have to be your situation.
There is an old saying that knowledge is power. How true! However, you need to put that knowledge to work to truly benefit. Accordingly, the more you can dissect your situation and your feelings, the more power you will have. By identifying the specific things you find irksome and those things you need in your job to feel rewarded, you can reduce the risk of being a job-hopper.
Over the course of a week or so, make a list. This list can include the things you find frustrating, the work-life balance you wish you had, the inefficient work processes around you – anything.
When your list is completed, ask yourself:
Is it my job, or is that just part of it?
There is usually some part of our job that we don’t love as much as everything else. The good news is, you can work with that! The next step is to identify what element of the job is bringing you down. Brainstorm some solutions to the problem – decreasing the number of tasks, sharing the work volume with a colleague, or changing the approach to the work could all be viable options. If you find yourself in a job that doesn’t let you do what you do best and enjoy most, try to be creative in finding ways to do more of those activities. Making time for these tasks, even if just in small bursts or brief times over the day or week, can have a significant impact on your energy, engagement, and happiness.
If your list reveals to you that your general state of discontent is coming from missed lunches, extra hours, or an absence of appreciation, think about what changes need to happen for you to feel valued or to achieve a work-life balance.
Next, bring your insights to your manager and let them know you’re not feeling as engaged as you have been previously. This isn’t just a meeting for you to complain, though. Initiate a conversation about what you need to feel fulfilled at work and provide constructive solutions to help you both make that a reality. Remember, your employer is not a mind-reader, they can’t know you’re unhappy or help you out if you wait until you quit to inform them!
If, after your conversation, you ultimately decide to leave your job, at least you will know it was an informed decision; everything you have learned about what you need as a person and professional will help you to find and negotiate future job offers.
Just remember: don’t make your career choices a guessing game. Knowing yourself better will ultimately lead to finding the right job.