An off day at work is common to everyone, even an off week is not something to worry about. However, when off weeks turn into off months — suggesting you’re structurally unhappy with your job — it’s time for change.
Your twenty-year-old self would probably hate your guts for — after years of education and internships — no longer enjoying the job that took so much time and effort to get. After all, from our childhood until well into our twenties, our lives are occupied with making decisions for a future we have no way of knowing. Is a successful career, that’s paying off the long nights of studying and endless extracurriculars, let alone the towering debt, therefore too much to ask?
As much as we’d like our working lives to be a naturally successful sequence of events, reality often brings us back to a painful truth. We change, our surroundings change, our work changes, our values might even change as we get older, and it’s therefore not at all surprising if these changes eventually cause us to no longer enjoy our jobs. However, since our jobs are substantial parts of our lives, and probably a dominant source of income, a quick solution is often difficult to find. And, as if such practical difficulties weren’t enough to deal with in this situation, we tend to beat ourselves up for no longer appreciating what we currently have. Luckily, it’s not that black and white.
You’re allowed to fall out of love with what you’ve been pursuing for so long. You’re allowed to change paths. You just need to know how.
Let’s make it clear that a job you no longer like, on any basis, is a reason for change. It might be just a slight change in mindset, it might also be a big one affecting more than just your work alone.
First, start asking yourself the following question:
1. Why do I no longer enjoy my job?
Try to determine whether it’s the work itself you’ve started to dislike, or the people you work with, the company culture and policies or a combination of several factors. This might be difficult at first — identifying the root of your unhappiness is often not a matter of clear cut reasons. However, with a little deep thinking and making some (or many) pros and cons lists, you’ll be able to pin down your personal difficulties with your current job.
Now reflect on what you’ve just learned about your reasons for change. Are they reasons for change in the first place? Sometimes, your discomfort at work is due to factors that have little to do with the actual work or anything that comes with it. It might be caused by personal issues rooting from e.g. your situation at home. In that case, try to not let it affect your decision about your job. Chances are you do like your job, you’re just not feeling well at this moment. It would be a shame to quit a job you actually quite like.
When it definitely is the work, or the people, or the culture or every factor stacked upon the other that’s making you unhappy, you need change. Fast. Because, whatever the reason, it causes you to be unhappy with your job — resulting in at at least 40 hours of emotional discomfort every week.
Now, continue with this next question:
2. Can I fix it without changing jobs?
Don’t change your situation drastically if it’s not needed, or if you don’t feel ready. Start looking at what minor changes could contribute to an environment that’s workable and enjoyable for you.
Can you discuss your concerns with a manager? It might be an intimidating thought to share what’s bothering you with someone who’s able to decide on your position, however, when they deny your need for change, it’s an extra confirmation that you’re not in the right place. If they do, however, listen to what you have to say, try and work out a solution together. One that will make you able to enjoy your work more and perform better. Both of you will benefit from this.
Keep in mind that this change is a reciprocal one: demanding change from a manager has to be answered with some effort from you as well. A change in mindset, for example. When you struggle with negative thoughts or poor self-discipline, it’s undoubtedly affecting your work. And it won’t be solved when just your surroundings change; you have to change too.
However, the problem might be bigger than just a slight change in work ethic, mindset or communication. It might be beyond your power to change it. What then?
Ask yourself this:
3. Am I willing to look elsewhere?
This is probably a daunting question for everyone. The process of deciding whether or not to change workplaces is stressful and demands full attention and energy. It’s by no means a decision without consequences. However, it might bring you a lot.
When the culture or people at your current job do not match your personal values and norms, for example, a change of workplace might bring about some positive developments. A fitting environment is important for performing your job properly and — equally important — enjoying it. Therefore, identifying what environment would fit you, or what type of people are ‘your people’, is your first step in deciding if you are willing to look elsewhere. Does your current workplace not meet the specifics of what a pleasant culture should be in your eyes? It might be time for a change of company.
Now, consider this:
4. What type of company would I want to work for?
A difficult question. What types of companies are there? And how do you know what their culture is truly like? Do they even operate in your field of expertise? There are companies producing products, companies that deliver services, companies that serve customers, companies that serve other businesses, consulting companies, non-profit agencies, start-ups, international corporations — are you following? Luckily, the internet exists. You can google your way around the field and collect information on companies that spark your interest.
Look for their website, Instagram or any other online presence. Not a true detective? Don’t worry, you can consult with a career coach or mediator to match your preferences to a company that’s looking just for you. They’re out there, you just have to know where and how to look.
Maybe you’re still not convinced of your own decision to establish some change in your life. Maybe you don’t feel comfortable enough to change paths. Maybe you don’t think changing companies will do the trick. In that case:
5. What about a career switch?
The unthinkable. Yet lots of people have taken this leap of faith and benefitted from the outcome. It’s scary, it’s uncertain and — most of all — it’s new. This does not mean, however, it’s not an option. That’s the magic of freedom; you decide.
When you don’t enjoy your current job and it’s mostly caused by the dreadful work you’re doing, a career switch might be the answer. Drastic, yes. But it outweighs the alternative of staying where you are for another five years and getting bitter over life. So embrace the change.