The other day I was talking to an engineer from a big brand name company. I asked her, what is that she likes most in her job. She said when she knows what needs to be done and she can finish it on time. Also, she likes the pay and the benefits.
Do you see a problem here?
Curious me asked, “What else do you like, what do you like about the work?”. “Nothing much, I do this because I have a college degree for this, I can’t afford to change my career”, she answered candidly with zero enthusiasm in her voice. I am sure she is not alone; there are many others whose favorite part of their work is only when it is done.
Why am I “complaining” or even talking about this? Not everyone has the luxury to leave their job and do something they like. Very true and there is more. I believe it is possible to change things to make life more enjoyable for us- It doesn’t have to be drastic – little things can go a long way.
Here are some ideas:
1. Watch your Assumptions
When you say I don’t enjoy my job but can’t afford to forgo the paycheck – notice the assumption you are making. I hear that the assumption – “it is all or nothing”.
Here is an example: This engineer I mentioned above was saying she can’t afford to change it because of the financial constraint. Noticing the pattern of the blocking assumption, I consciously set this topic aside and for the next few minutes talking about what she likes and enjoys. It came out that she likes artistic activities – painting, making things from scratch, etc. Then I asked: what is the closest job that could use the computer science background and the knack for artistic activities? She figured UI design would be more interesting. With further exploration, she realized that to get a UI designer job she won’t need to have lots of additional training. A few evening courses can get her started. She got pretty excited to see the possibility of getting a more enjoyable job without sacrificing her existing skillset.
Q. What assumption is blocking you today to make things more enjoyable for you?
2. Assess your Priority, Capacity of Risk
Being not happy with one’s job or career is not news. Question is – how important it is for you to do anything about it. As an adult, we have the capacity to do things against our wills to fulfill other needs. But when the lack of motivation and the related unhappiness goes beyond some limit and starts costing our overall well being we need to escalate it. Are you losing your sleep over it (I did)? Are you convinced that you deserve more enjoyment from your work (I did)? Is it that important to you?
Any change involves certain risks. Usually money comes first when thinking about risks. Carving out time, cutting down on commitments are some of the others. Once again watch out for any blocking assumptions!
Q. What risks are you willing to take in exchange of (the possibility of) a more enjoyable work life?
3. Start taking baby steps
a. Know Thyself –Find out what attributes energize you – Is it deep analysis, connecting dots, helping people, organizing stuff, artistic en devours or some other kind.
In my experience, people mostly get lost here – especially those coming from eastern cultures (like me). There is a cultural reason for it but that should not be a blocker. I have my clients do a value clarification exercise for this. In the simplest form, it is to look back at the past experiences they enjoyed and extract the qualities from those.
b. Research – What kind of work uses the learned skills and natural strengths you have. It is like data collection and matching -Talk to people, search the internet, be open to finding ideas from anywhere. There is a saying when the student is ready the teacher will arrive. While doing this, it might be tempting to do a “logical” matching, I would also pay attention to “what do I feel inside” question.
Q. What baby step you can take today to make progress on finding a more satisfying career path for you?
Know that it is very natural to have a stream of thoughts starting with “but”s. They come from a part of the brain that wants to keep us safe. Today if you are stopped by “but it is already late, I am too old to make this change”, imagine how it will be 10 years from now!