Figure Out What's Next

3 Questions You Must Ask Before Changing Jobs

career change career satisfaction coaching motivation peter axtell May 24, 2017
woman at computer

by Peter Axtell

image by Peter Axtell (What we all want is to be fulfilled at work. Here is Nicola just loving to put our visuals together. I caught her in a surprise moment)

Is It the Job or Is It You?

This article will help you figure out if you have a bad job or a miserable one and what you can do to improve your current situation. By answering three specific questions, you'll gain clarity and avoid unnecessary risk to yourself and your loved ones if you consider changing jobs. You might just find a way to love your current job again.

What's a “Bad Job”?

A bad job is one you can make better. It depends on your perception. It has practically nothing to do with the actual work. Are you convinced that you have a miserable job while your co-worker loves the same job?

What's a “Miserable Job”?

Many jobs at large corporations are miserable. Here are three major hallmarks that Social Psychology points at:

  • Humans have a need to be understood - particularly at work. Hearing that your work is valued by someone else confirms that matter and it has the effect of feeling connected. Lacking this can make your job miserable.
  • You are unseen at work. You cannot feel fulfilled at work if you feel generic or like a cog in a machine.
  • If there are no metrics about your success or failure, you have no way of knowing how well you are doing and eventually you'll just lose motivation. We've all seen how miserable unmotivated people at work are.

An example to illustrate a “miserable job”:

Nicola told me a story the other day about a job she had at a huge well-known corporation in Europe.

“The manager that hired me left a few weeks after I was hired. No one showed up after that and I had no idea what I was supposed to be doing. I would try and make up something to keep me occupied for eight hours.

I had no idea if I was doing a good job or a bad one, heck, no one even told me what my job was. It was like being a ghost, invisible. Feeling irrelevant, useless and disconnected from other people sucked the life out of me.

I have a strong worth ethic but with no tangible way to measure what my contribution to this company was, it just killed my motivation.

The generous paycheck did nothing to make me feel better.

Despite my efforts to change the situation, it fell on deaf ears. The company was too big, I couldn't change anything. I was in a miserable job and knew I had to leave as soon as possible.”

Bad Job or Miserable Job?

Patrick Lencioni in his book “The Three Signs of a Miserable Job” has an answer:

A bad job lies in the eye of the beholder”. This speaks volumes to the truth of perception. Is it the job or is it you?

He goes on to define a “miserable job”: “It's the one you dread going to and can't wait to leave.” Be careful here, you may easily convince yourself that you have a “miserable job”, which may or may not be true. Let's explore…

Question 1: Did the job change, or did you?

Are there parts of your job that you used to value and enjoy? If so what changed? If you analyze your current job using the miserable job criteria listed above and are positive it's not you, then you need to take a careful look of how you want to spend your life.

An example to illustrate a “bad job”:

At first our client Carly liked her job and the people but for some reason last year Carly started thinking that her work wasn't so great and the more she thought about it the more she began to see the imperfections at work. It started with small complaints but then grew to a point where she began to build a case in her mind about everything that was wrong with the work, the environment, the pay, the people, the office.

She worked herself up more and more and then started having serious thoughts about just jumping ship and going for her dreams. She convinced herself she had a “miserable job”, was trapped and had to get out. The trouble was Carly didn't know what her dream was, had no plan and never looked at what had changed in the job she used to enjoy.

If someone else were to look at her situation they would probably consider her fortunate to have a job with so many advantages. But that wasn't what Carly saw. Carly had an “everything is wrong” filter on her glasses and that's what her world became. Everything is wrong and so her job became wrong. Carly's perspective had changed.

Question 2: What do you want?

It's obvious Carly turned her job into a “bad job” and it's not a “miserable job” because it doesn't fit the “miserable job” criteria (no chance the job would ever improve).

If you are certain that you have a “bad job”, do you want to try and change your view by remembering what you used to appreciate about your job and the people?

Now, I'm not saying you should never change jobs or go for your dreams. What I'm saying is that you'd be wise to see your present situation clearly and develop a solid plan if you want to make a switch.

If you are certain you are in a “miserable job”, get help and develop a plan before you quit.

Question 3: What is your present reality?

I asked Carly this question: “What exactly is your present reality?” She answered, “I have a miserable job and everything is wrong.

I asked, “Really, is that true?

After she saw what her present reality really was, she began to appreciate the advantages she actually had. Over time her experience at work changed, her energy changed, and her optimism improved.

Carly started getting ideas about how she could start doing other projects that she enjoyed. She saw that her free time, pleasant environment, and her salary afforded her the luxury to pursue other things safely without throwing her life into chaos. Carly got rid of her “everything is wrong” filter and today has discovered what she really wants, has developed a clear plan, and is pursuing it.

You can use the tried-and-true Benjamin Franklin strategy: Make a list of the pros and cons of your present situation. The mind loves to make stuff up that may or may not be true. Putting your situation down on paper helps to see clearly.

There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so." – William Shakespeare

Question: Which do you have; a “bad job” or a “miserable job”? What are your ideas to change your work life?


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