While in an ideal world, we’d all have our dream jobs at every period in our lives, the reality is that everyone will go through periods of not enjoying their work. Whether it’s right out of college and you just need to pay the bills, or you’re 20 years into a career and finally realizing it’s not for you, it’ll happen to all of us. If you’re unhappy with your current job, you should be making moves that will get you to a place and position you’d rather be. But in the meantime, you don’t have to approach each day as if it were the Bataan Death March. Below, I suggest some tips that will help you cope with a less-than-ideal job. In trying them, you may even find yourself enjoying and engaging more with your work.
First and foremost, you may need an attitude adjustment. Do you feel like you’re doing work that’s “beneath” you? Or perhaps you dislike your boss, so you’re sticking it to him by doing shoddy work. There’s a saying: “How you do anything is how you do everything.” If you’re not doing your best work, for whatever reason, it’s likely that other areas of your life aren’t getting your best work either. Good habits are formed in the things we don’t like to do, but do anyway because that’s how you become a reliable man. When you start trying your hardest to do the best work you can, you may come to enjoy your work more, because it’s almost certain that you’ll feel better about yourself and more fulfilled in what you’re doing.
Negotiate changes. An unhappy employee isn’t good for anyone. Believe it or not, your boss and coworkers don’t want you unhappy, because it affects the bottom line. You may have this sense that your boss is willfully making your life hell, and while that’s certainly possible, it’s not likely. It’s more likely that you have different personalities, or that they simply don’t know your frustrations.
Are you overworked? Underchallenged? Unhappy with the pay? One of your first steps should be to set up a meeting with your boss or supervisor and just be honest about how you feel in a professional and civil manner. Maybe you’re just bored at work because you aren’t being challenged enough, so you play computer games half the day. Ask for some more responsibility. Or maybe you have too much responsibility — while there are times where overtime is a necessary evil, it’s not sustainable. Be honest about the amount of work that you can handle. If you write off the possibility of negotiating changes at work, and just assume that your boss is tyrannical, you’re only adding to your problem.
Other things you can negotiate include working from home one day a week, being more flexible with hours (shifting your work day by an hour or two every once in a while), even requesting to transfer departments if you think your gifts and passions would be better suited elsewhere.
Set small goals for yourself. If you’re bored or not challenged at work, set small “quality” goals for yourself. At the end of each project, ask yourself, “Is the best work I can do?” If it’s not, get back to it. Make it a goal to finish a big project a day early. Or maybe you’ll come in under budget. You will not only attract the positive attention of those around you, but you’ll feel better about the work you’re doing.
Do one small act every day to get you to your dream job. If you’re unhappy at work, you probably have some idea of what you’d rather be doing. If you’re in a situation that can’t be remedied and you know that someday you’ll want to be doing something different, take one small step every day to get yourself to your dream job. Do you need to go back to school for something? Read about what the requirements may be, or even start working on an application for that program. If you dream about starting your own business, get one of the zillion books out there on the topic and read a chapter every day. If nothing else, take 15 minutes to jot down ideas and what next steps may be. Doing this will help you see that your current situation is temporary.
Think about what your current job can lead to. Related to the above is to think about the possibilities that your current job offers. Even if you don’t like it, and plan on moving on, it’s not a waste. No matter what, you’re getting experience doing something. How can that experience be leveraged for further opportunities? Before joining the AoM team last January, I was relatively unhappy with my job. But, I had a great schedule, which left me time to work on my freelance, which led to this job that I now love. So even though my previous job didn’t directly lead to this one, it afforded me the opportunity to get here.
Find something you enjoy at work. Unless you’re a complete Mr. Scrooge, there’s probably something you can find to enjoy about your workday. Cling to that. It gives you something to look forward to. Even if it’s just lunch, you can know that there’s one part of your day that’s enjoyable.
This concept can also apply to the work itself. Now there’s certain jobs where this may not be possible, but if you can, volunteer for a project you’d enjoy. If you’re in marketing, volunteer to do some social media or video projects. If you’re in sales, come up with a list of clients you’d really enjoy pitching to. If you can inject something you’ll enjoy into your work, you’ll find your day much easier (and more pleasant) to get through.