Hate your job? Top tips to transform your work life, by John Less
- Credit: PA
Dreading Mondays and living for the weekends could both be sure signs that you’re in the wrong job.
Work consumes a huge amount of our lives – about 16 years in total if you work full-time and live until you’re 70 – and yet growing numbers of us struggle through our days, moaning and generally feeling dissatisfied with our lot.
Studies on work satisfaction show that over the past 20 years we have become increasingly unhappy for a variety of reasons, including long working hours, job uncertainty in the current climate and, for younger people, a higher expectation of what work should provide.
“We put a huge amount of energy – around 80 per cent – into work and rely on it for a large chunk of self-esteem, so it can have a significant effect on our wellbeing and sense of fulfilment if we’re not doing the right job or feel dissatisfied with a career choice,” says John Lees, author of How To Get A Job You’ll Love.
“There are more varieties of jobs out there than ever before, but we still generally let our careers be shaped by accident, or accept second or third-best because it’s easier to stand still than move forward.
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“You don’t have to wait for the ‘perfect’ job to come along – it’s all about making better compromises. Evaluate what you’re looking for in your working life and what your employer wants from you.
Lees gives his top tips on making a job work for you and finding a better career.
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Transform that job: Seven top tips
n What’s wrong? Work out why you’re discontented in your job, advises Lees.
“If the job hasn’t turned out as you’d hoped, maybe you didn’t ask the right questions before accepting it, or the company or your post has changed?
“Look back over your career history before you make a hasty move, so you avoid repeating mistakes of the past.”
Research data shows that people leave managers, not organisations. “Ask yourself, ‘Is it the job, the organisation, or the manager you don’t like?’ You may find it’s possible to change your job or transfer to a new department,” he says.
n Analyse: Look at your current job objectively so you can work out what you can really change.
Review your progress every three months, making a personal portfolio of work you’ve done, problems you’ve overcome, value you’ve added to the company and how you’ve made a difference.
This will give you a basis for knowing your true worth and marketability and you’ll also be able to assess your skills, development needs and how you can open yourself to future opportunities.
n Learn: Learn new skills so that you’re adding to your knowledge base and your contacts inside and outside the company. You’ll be able to improve your input within your current role and will be better placed if you do eventually decide to move.
n Success speak: Make your achievements known, explain how you achieved them, and give three ways you could work more effectively to create new opportunities for your employer.
Understand what’s expected from you and be aware that if the company or boss changes, expectations will change too, and you need to work with that.
n Negotiate: “Putting forward a plan to your boss or HR department to adapt your job – perhaps building on what you’re already doing, and negotiating a package so you do more of the things which energise – you could not only improve your working life but also feel more in control,” says Lees.
“There’s no point relying on an employer to solve your career problem. Rather it’s about you giving a boss ‘win-win’ solutions and making positive suggestions rather than simply saying, ‘I’m not happy’.
n Why bother? It’s much easier, generally, to improve the job you’re in rather than looking for another post, particularly in the current difficult job market, says Lees. “Bear in mind that you need to have a fairly good reason for moving on from a company – you’ll have to explain at interviews for a new job, and also in the years ahead whenever an employer views your CV.
“Companies will be looking for a coherent career story where moves have been made to learn new skills, to face new challenges and responsibilities – a sense of growth in work – rather than a message that says, ‘I just didn’t like a particular job’. That looks directionless and won’t encourage a new employer to invest in you.”
n Time to go? If you’re still dissatisfied and you’ve made at least one attempt to fix the job you’re in, and the attraction of something new on offer is greater than the repulsion of the old, it could be time to leave, Lees says.
“If you have good positive reasons for going somewhere else, maybe you have outgrown a job, then it’s no bad thing to move on when you feel you’ve achieved as much as you can. Just avoid the panic actions taken on the basis of, ‘I just want to get out of here’,” he says.
n How To Get A Job You’ll Love (2013-2014 edition) by John Lees is published by McGraw-Hill, priced £14.99. Available now