Have you ever had The Bad Job Blues? I’ve known my share of jobs that didn’t fit. In fact, right after business school, I went through three different jobs in three years!
I don’t regret those first few jobs, even though I wasn’t necessarily happy at the time. I learned a lot about myself and I paid attention to what I liked and didn’t like.
When I finally did find the “right” job, it wasn’t by accident.
Even if you do have a job you love, we all go through periods of dissatisfaction at work. Don’t let those times slip by without taking the opportunity to learn from them.
If you’re unhappy at work, here are some things to consider:
1. Check your expectations. What’s everyone’s favorite advice for young people starting out in the workforce? Follow your passion! Do what you love! This isn’t necessarily bad advice (it’s advice that I’ve given to people), but it can create a sort of false expectation that, coming out of college, you should know, pursue, and obtain your one special magical career RIGHT AWAY. With that expectation, anything less can feel like failure. In fact it may take years or even decades to really identify and understand your work-related “passions” or “loves.”
Elizabeth Knox makes a great point about this in Faith Powered Profession. She devotes a whole chapter to “Determining Our Calling,” and she notes that “regardless of how our professional work might change throughout our lives, we need to remember that there are also several things our calling is not. The first is that our calling is not instant.
If you don’t have “the right” job yet, don’t worry! But don’t waste this time either.
Which leads me to my next point…
2. Gain everything you can. Even if you know this isn’t the job for you, try to learn all you can. You never know how the knowledge and skills you gain now may help you in the future. This is one thing I wish I had done better with my first job after business school. I worked in marketing consulting for a big consulting and accounting firm. I realized early on that the job didn’t fit my long-term career goals. I stuck with it for a year, but I was so focused on moving on that I missed great opportunities to learn a lot about tax and auditing. Looking back, I wish I’d done more to learn from those around me.
3. Learn something about yourself. If you’re not happy at work right now, figure out why! And I don’t mean the “they never stock the right kind of soda in the break room” kind of stuff. Think critically about what’s really bothering you and what could make it better. Not only will it help you to evaluate potential jobs in the future, but it may help reveal ways to improve your situation now.
At my second job out of business school, I found myself frustrated because the entire pay and bonus structure was static. It didn’t matter how I did my job, my bonus was always 10% of my salary and employees always received the same raise every year— no more, no less. I realized that to really challenge myself and reach my full potential I needed a job that would tap in to my competitive nature, and I made sure that my next job did so.
4. Shift focus: help someone else. You may never come to love your job, but you don’t have to hate going to work. One way to make your work experience better is to find a way to help out someone around you. Look for ways you can make a difference for the people you work with. Consider starting a lunch group for professional Christian women. Reach out and offer support or mentorship to someone with less experience. By helping others to feel better about work, you’re likely to increase your own job satisfaction.
5. Don’t give up. God calls us to excellence in all things, including—gasp!—jobs we don’t like. Don’t let bitterness or anger towards work poison your attitude. Strive to do your job well, if for no other reason than to honor God.
What’s your best advice for the “bad job blues?”
Looking for more executive wisdom from business expert Diane Paddison? You might also enjoy How I Met God in Rome
Diane Paddison has held several executive positions for corporations, including Chief Operating Officer for two Fortune 500 companies, Trammell Crow (now CB Richard Ellis) and ProLogis. She is currently the Chief Strategy Officer at the commercial real estate firm Cassidy Turley, and the founder of 4WordWomen, a national nonprofit designed to connect, lead and support young professional Christian women to fulfill their God-given potential.