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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Wednesday, March 19, 2008

When You Hate the New Job

When you accepted the job, you were excited about the new opportunities chance to enhance your skills. But three months later, all you can think of, is “What was I thinking?”

You now believe you’ve made a mistake when you accepted a new job. Something doesn’t feel right. Maybe you don’t like the people you work with, maybe you don’t like the duties you have been given, maybe you cannot stand your boss. Whatever the reason, it’s difficult to admit that things are going seriously wrong after only 90 days on the job.

What are you going to do? Can you quit this early in the game? Can the situation be fixed or is it only going to get worse? Should you tell anyone?

Before panic sets in, the first thing you should do is step back and start to look at the facts. Is the job affecting you outside of work? Are you anxious, grumpy or can't sleep at night? If so, then you know the problems are serious enough to address. Ignoring it will only make it worse.

Some actions you can take include:

* Get feedback. Talk to your friends or family and ask them what they hear you say about the job. This will help you pinpoint the areas that may be causing you the most stress.
* Go to the boss. Tell him or her that something isn’t working and you'd like to talk about it. Just don't expect the boss to "fix" the problem for you. Ask the boss to serve as a sounding board to try and figure out what is happening. Remember, the boss has put time and money into hiring you, and hasn't begun to see her investment returned in the short time you've been there. It's in her best interest -- and that of the company -- to find a way to make the job work better for you.
* Know when to cut your losses. If the problems are serious -- you ethically disagree with company policy or you're asked to do duties you find reprehensible or just have no interest in -- then it's probably time to just move on and learn from the experience. Begin looking around and contact people you had interviewed with before you accepted your current position.
* Take responsibility. When you begin interviewing for a new position, you may want to avoid putting such a short-term job on your resume. But if you do decide to mention it to hiring managers, explain that you thought the job was a good fit, but it became clear after a short time on the job that you had not asked the right questions and take full responsibility for it not working out the way you had planned. "So now," you tell the hiring manager, "I've learned that I have several more questions I'd like to ask."



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Thursday, May 31, 2007

Knowing When to Quit

In his book, “The Dip,” author Seth Godin says that the first step to becoming the best in the world is realizing that quitting may be really important for your future success.

While you may think this flies in the face of conventional wisdom that winners never quit and quitters never win, Godin says that quitting something that will not make you the best makes perfect sense. Superstars, he says, are the ones who know when to quit something that is a dead end and stay focused and motivated when it really counts.

If you’re considering quitting something, Godin says you should first ask yourself:

1. Am I panicking? “Quitting when you’re panicked,” he writes in his book, “is dangerous and expensive.” Why? Because the smartest move is to make the decision ahead of time that you’re going to quit. “When the pressure is the greatest to compromise, to drop out, or to settle, your desire to quit should be at its lowest,” he says. “The decision to quit is often made in the moment. But that exactly the wrong time to make such a critical decision.”

2. Who am I trying to influence? If you’ve got a boss who just won’t let up on you, then you’re probably considering quitting your job. “If you’re trying to influence just one person, persistence has its limits. It’s easy to cross the line between demonstrating your commitment and being a pest. If you haven’t influenced him yet, it may very well be time to quit,” Godin writes. “One person will make up his mind and if you’re going to succeed, you’ll have to change it. And changing someone’s mind is difficult, if not impossible.”

3. What sort of measurable progress am I making? On the job, you’re either moving forward, standing still or falling behind. Godin says that if you decide to quit your job because you’re not making progress, then you need to understand it doesn’t mean you’re quitting “your quest to make a living or a difference or an impact.” He says that you’re not giving up because a job is just a “tactic,” a way to get you what you really want. He emphasizes that all those stories about authors who were turned down again and again – and then became a mega-hit overnight with a bestseller – are not stories about sticking it out in a dead-end, but rather the ability of these people to move through a market.
Consider Godin’s observation: “…when was the last time you heard about someone who stuck with a dead-end job or a dead-end relationship or a dead-end sales prospect until suddenly, one day, the person at the other end said, ‘Wow, I really admire your persistence; let’s change our relationship for the better’? It doesn’t happen.”

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