The other day I talked to an engineer from a big brand-name company. I asked her what is that she liked most about her job. She said when she knows what needs to be done, she can finish it on time. Also, she wanted the money and the benefits.
Do you see a problem here?
Curious, I 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. I am sure she is not alone; there are many others whose favorite part of their work is when it is complete.
Why am I “complaining” or even talking about this? Not everyone has the luxury to leave their job and do something they like. That is 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 – is “it is all or nothing.”
Here is an example: This engineer I mentioned above said she couldn’t afford to change it because of financial constraints. Noticing the pattern of the blocking assumption, I consciously set this topic aside and talked about what she liked and enjoyed for the next few minutes. 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 enjoyable. With further exploration, she realized she wouldn’t need a lot of additional training to get a UI designer job. A few evening courses can get her started. She got 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. The question is – how important is it for you to do anything about it? Adults can do things against their will 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 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 and 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 for (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. So 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 your learned skills and natural strengths? It is like data collection and matching -Talk to people, search the internet, and 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 the internal feeling.
Q. What baby step can you take today to make progress on finding a more satisfying career path for you?
Know that it is 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 stop because “it is already late; I am too old to make this change,” imagine how it will be ten years from now!
Check out the Tech Leads’ Coaching Circle; we are enrolling four new participants this fall. Act before they fill up!