Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Learning To Love a Job You Hate


For whatever reason – it has great health benefits, you like the location and there’s a really cute programmer who works on the fourth floor – you have made the decision that you’re staying with a job you hate.

It wasn’t an easy decision. People job hop these days faster than Matthew McConaughey can rip off his shirt. But even though you have to drag yourself into work every day, you’re not going to quit. The boss seems to like your work, so there’s not even the chance you might get fired. In fact, you just got a pay raise. Dammit.

That was the last straw. Now you really feel trapped in this job you despise, the job that you began with such great expectations.

To be honest about it, the job wasn’t that bad in the beginning, or even in the middle. It’s just been lately that you’ve come to feel you’re being led to the gallows every time you enter the front door. You look around at others, and they don’t seem to be as miserable as you. Why, you think, are they so darn happy? Why aren’t they mired in the same pit of despair?

You know you’re staying put, but can you survive? Are you just kidding yourself?

The answer is “yes” and “no.” Yes, there is a way to survive, and no, you’re not just kidding yourself.

I speak from experience. I once had a job that I despised so much I used to think about chucking my degree and all my years of hard work and going to work at an IHOP. I envisioned getting pancakes at an employee discount. That seemed like a pretty good alternative to spending my days writing about subjects that were so boring I thought I would lose my mind.

And then, the boss took me out for lunch. I thought I was going to get a scolding for sleeping with my eyes open, but he offered me a lateral move within the company. That didn’t sound so appealing – why would I want to move from one job I hated into something equally as noxious?

But he talked me into it. He didn’t know at the time how bad I hated my job, and how the call of an all-you-can-eat pancake feast was a constant battle. In the end, he persuaded me and I took the new job.

By the end of the first day in the new position, I had been transformed. While I was doing much of the same work, it was different.

I wasn’t bored anymore. It was a new subject, new territory to be conquered. I could feel my sluggish brain begin to re-engage, to fire all cylinders. I met new people, immersed myself in learning new stuff. Within the week, I realized I no longer craved pancakes. I liked the new tasks I was given. And then it hit me: I loved my job.

The lesson: Yes, Virginia, you can learn to love the job you hate.

Here are some tips to get you started:

• Make a list of what you like and don’t like about your job. It’s OK to say you really like the cute programmer or the hours you work, but also think of what tasks you enjoy doing. I always liked writing, but I didn’t like the subject. By changing the focus of my work, it made a world of difference.
• Envision a new way to work. Think about all the things you need to make you like your job again. Would you like a chance to experience something new, such as interacting with others in another department? Receive more recognition from your boss? Get a mentor?
• Structure a plan. Put together some ideas for how you’d like to change your job, the new duties and goals.
• Talk to the boss as soon as possible. Don’t let a manager put you off until a performance appraisal; let the boss know you’ve got a plan you’d like to present. Explain to the boss in a reasonable, conversational tone that you’ve been thinking a lot about your current situation, and you believe you’re ready for some new challenges. Point out your contributions, and how you’re committed to continuing to do a great job. Lay the groundwork about the changes you’d like to make, pointing out the advantages for the company.
• Don’t give up. It may take weeks, even months, for changes to be made. Bosses can be resistant to changing employee duties, not wanting to upset the apple cart. But if you remain professionally persistent, and keep pointing out what a positive move it can be – you may find that reinventing your job was the right move for you.

What are some other ways to find more satisfaction and joy in a job?


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Monday, May 12, 2008

Four Steps to Finding What You Were Meant to Do

Would you like to be the next Tiger Woods? It's possible.

Woods is a competitor. He doesn't let anything get in the way of sinking that little white ball into the hole every chance he gets. He wants to do it more times than anyone else on the golf course that day. He's passionate about what he does.

While you may not be able to play golf like Woods, there is no reason that you cannot feel that same passion for what you do.

So, maybe you love to play golf or tennis or won't walk away from a game of Monopoly until you've won. The point is that such a competitive spirit, which is a natural passion, can be turned into finding a career that you love.

The key is looking at what makes you feel excited, whether it's helping other people, bringing order to chaos or pitting your talents and skills against others in the marketplace. But how can you discover what you were meant to do?


Begin by:

1. Giving yourself permission to find your passion. Talk to family and friends about what they believe the source of your energy to be. Look for common themes. For example, maybe you love the thrill of competition and could use that passion to launch a new company or head up a new project at work. The key is looking for themes that get your blood pumping.

2. Embracing the bumps in the road: Marriage, death and divorce are all life-changing events that can help you re-discover where you really want to be in life. Think back to how you felt during those times, and what seemed really important to you. Brian Clark wrote a great post about this on Copyblogger about a snowboarding accident.

3. Trying something new. Get out of your comfort zone. Take some risks. Try something out that you've been intrigued by but perhaps afraid to try. During this process, evaluate how you feel. Do you lose lose track of time? Does it just feel right? These are all signs that you are on the road to finding your passion.

4. Evaluating: As you investigate these new avenues, you can feel overwhelmed. Set goals for yourself along the way so that you can take a pause and see where you’re going. This will help the situation not feel so out of control, but rather a natural progression toward something exciting.

Are you living your passion? Do you feel you're doing what you were meant to do?


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