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How to Love Your Job Again

Date: October 15, 2015      Publication: Bottom Line Personal      Source: Kerry  Hannon      Print:

When All You Want to Do Is Quit

Dream of quitting your job? You’re not alone. A recent report by the Conference Board, a research group, found that less than 50% of workers are satisfied with their jobs.

Trouble is, changing jobs can be a major challenge, particularly for people over age 50—employers tend to prefer younger workers despite age-discrimination laws. And there’s no guarantee that your new job will be more satisfying than your old one. Often the best solution is to find a way to enjoy your current job more. Eight ways to do that…

Learn something new. There’s a good chance boredom is at the heart of the problem if you’re feeling dissatisfied with a job you’ve held for years. One way to beat workplace boredom is to volunteer to tackle new projects or take on new roles for your employer.

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Examples: Try to participate in an ­employer-sponsored training program to learn a new job skill. Volunteer to help out in a different department.

Even learning something unrelated to your job during your free time could help overcome workplace boredom. People tend to feel more satisfied with all aspects of their lives when they are learning—even aspects of their lives that are not directly related to the topic they are learning about.

Examples: Take a public-speaking class at a community college. Enroll in a creative-writing workshop. Sign up for an acting workshop or improvisational comedy. All of these will translate to enhanced creativity and ­communication in the workplace—and boost your happiness, too.

Focus on your employer’s mission. People who believe their employers make a positive contribution to the world tend to be more satisfied in their work. You don’t have to take a job with a charity to accomplish this…you just have to hear positive feedback from people who use and enjoy your company’s products or services.

Example: Visit your company’s social-media web pages, and read the comments posted by customers, focusing on the compliments.

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Declutter your work area. People tend to be happier and calmer when they are in tidy spaces. Decluttering an office also tends to be a task that can be easily achieved within a short time—perhaps a few hours—allowing you to mentally chalk up a workplace accomplishment when you need one.

Connect with colleagues. People who like the people they work with also tend to like their work. That’s no coincidence—forming positive connections with colleagues makes work seem more meaningful and the workplace seem more pleasant, in general.

If you do not get along especially well with the coworkers you currently know, make connections with other people in your company. Not only might you meet some people you like, you might form some useful professional contacts in the process.

Examples: Ask people from other departments to join you for coffee or lunch. Volunteer for charity projects sponsored by your employer. Join the company softball team or bowling league.

Come up with a positive response to your negative internal mantra. Each time you catch yourself feeling unhappy at work, jot down what you’re thinking. Develop an upbeat response, and train yourself to think it whenever you feel unhappy about work.

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Example: Some workers in their 50s, 60s and older are dogged by the thought, My sector is changing, and I’m too old to learn anything new. They could counter this thought with, I have decades of ­experience responding to change. I’ve always managed to remain productive before, so I certainly can now.

Also: Spend as much time as possible around coworkers who have positive attitudes and as little as possible around complainers—other people’s attitudes rub off on us. Meanwhile, laugh and smile as much as possible in the workplace, and cut out your own complaining—your upbeat attitude could help improve the overall mood for everyone.

Glory in workplace successes—even when they aren’t yours. People who are dissatisfied at work often feel, There’s just no winning here. They are less likely to feel this way if they celebrate the accomplishments of their colleagues as well as their own.

Example: When a coworker receives a raise, promotion or praise from the boss, don’t think, That should have been me. Instead, think, Look at that—it is possible to succeed here.

Stop asking, Why does my boss have it in for me?…and start asking, How can I make my boss’s life better? Sometimes when people aren’t happy with their jobs, the main source of their displeasure is a poor relationship with their direct supervisor.

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The secret to improving a strained relationship with a boss is coming to terms with the fact that this relationship is not about you—it’s about your boss. Whether you like it or not, your job is to make it easier for your boss to do his/her job. Your boss’s job is to make it easier for his boss to do his job—not to make your job more pleasant for you.

To be happy at work, you need to come to terms with these facts. If you can answer, What can I do to make my boss look good to his boss? (or What can I do to help my boss earn more money?), then you have uncovered the secret to a better relationship with your boss. If you don’t know the answer, come right out and ask your boss, “What can I do to make your life better?”

Remind yourself that you have the power to quit. Feeling powerless is a common cause of worker dissatisfaction. Remind yourself periodically that even if you don’t have much power in your current position, you always have the power to quit and do something else—you simply choose not to exercise that power for now.

In the meantime, take steps to improve your ability to get a good job, such as obtaining training and certification in in-­demand skills. Even if you never change jobs, this should help you feel more in control of your career.

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Source: Kerry Hannon, jobs expert for AARP and a columnist for The New York Times and PBS’s Next Avenue. She is author of Love Your Job: The New Rules for Career Happiness. KerryHannon.com

  • Frank Verano

    This is a subject dear to my heart. Way back in 1952 when I was in my senior year at MIT, I was stunned at the difficulty I was having in that School whereas I breezed through Michigan State before being accepted for MIT. I knew that something was wrong. I found out that the Human Engineering Labs in Boston (then part of the Johnson O’Connor foundation) routinely conducted tests on people who were very unsatisfied with their lives, particularly middle age people on jobs they hated. I had a two day of testing sessions with the labs. Much to my chagrin I ranked in the highest percentiles in the various aptitudes required for a successful music career. The lab people told me that we are born with native traits and unless you are able to use them (either in a job or hobby or whatever) you will be unhappy. Get that? I could write an article on this subject. I assure you that I continued my career being an electrical engineer for years. In engineering I was able to use those traits which were common to some aspects of engineering and stayed sane. In all those years I had a classical guitar with me even throughout the WW2 in the Navy. I am 98 now.

    • DenisBH

      Interesting story! Thanks for sharing it.

      Did you ever seriously consider changing to a musical career?

      • Frank Verano

        I did not describe the time line in my post. I graduated from MIT in 52 and I was already 34. The traits for music must be developed as young as 5 years old. I was indeed young when my musical talent showed up. I taught myself several musical instruments as a teenager and even played in an orchestra for a while. Then the war came. I was in the navy from 1940 to 1946 and in the war from beginning (including the Pearl Harbor attack) to the end served a mandatory 6 year hitch. I was already 28 when discharged from the Navy. I sort of had the musical career you suggested along with the engineering career after graduation. I did the best I could with my life. As the French say: C’est la vie! I would gladly live my life over exactly the same.

        • DenisBH

          Thank you for your expanded explanation, and thank you for your contribution in the Navy to the successful victory in WWII.

          I am glad to read that you would gladly re-experience everything in your life if you had the chance. That is a life well-lived! Congratulations!!