It’s not uncommon to feel unhappy, frustrated or stressed in your job from time to time. If you’re like most of us, there are times when you enjoy your work more than others and times when… well, not so much. But if you’re truly sick and tired of your job, it may be time to think seriously about making a change.
One of the best things you can do to feel satisfied in your life is to find the “right” kind of work for you. Finding a job or career that fits your values, needs, personality style, and life goals can change your whole outlook on work and the role it plays in your overall life satisfaction.
What Keeps You Stuck?
Many people stay in unfulfilling jobs or careers simply because they can’t imagine what else to do. They worry that they won’t be able to find something else. Or they succumb to the belief that they will have to take a huge pay cut to find work they truly love.
At the other end of the spectrum, some people feel there are so many possibilities out there for them that they are overwhelmed. They don’t have a process or system for evaluating alternatives or sorting out their best options. They may fear that any move will take them out of the frying pan into the fire. No matter which of these scenarios fits, the result is feeling paralyzed, unable to make a decision or take action to make a change for the better.
If you find yourself feeling just plain stuck—unable to see any alternatives—or worse, trapped in your current job or career, what can you do? How can you begin to get a sense of your unique “right work”? Here are a few tips for how you can shine some light on the problem and set the stage to escape a future of drudgery at work.
Identify Your Strengths
When you’re good at something, you’re more likely to enjoy doing it. So if you’re currently in a position where you aren’t using your strengths regularly, you probably feel quite stifled. Even if you feel you are applying your strengths, if your strengths go unrecognized or appreciated, you may feel quite unmotivated and even, in the extreme, burned out. On the other hand, when you’re able to focus on your strengths at work, you’re more likely to look forward to doing your job.
So how can you identify your strengths?
Start by making a list of the things you’re good at—both at work and outside of work. Your list should include any unique skills and talents you have. This goes far beyond skills you have acquired through education or training, although of course those should be on your list. Also include your own natural talents. For example, perhaps you have a strong innate ability to see patterns, to see the forest through the trees. This strength may make you a great fit for jobs involving problem solving, technical trouble shooting, or conflict resolution.
Your list should also include aspects of your personality that make you particularly successful in your life and work. For instance, maybe you are by nature a very patient listener or able to quickly develop rapport with other people. These traits may make you an especially good fit for jobs requiring strong people skills. These skills could apply to a wide and varied range of career options, for example anything from customer service representative to sales to psychotherapist.
Seek Others’ Input
Often it’s not easy to identify your own strengths. Many of us tend to criticize and find fault with ourselves. We focus on our shortcomings and weaknesses rather than acknowledge our strong points. It is often helpful to enlist the help of friends, family and coworkers. Ask them what they notice about your strengths and positive traits. You will probably be quite surprised at how many strengths they identify that you have discounted or not even noticed.
Once you have identified your strengths, ask yourself how do they fit with the job you currently hold? Do you have plenty of opportunity to apply your strengths? Do you receive frequent acknowledgement and appreciation for what you do well? If not, it’s time to explore jobs or careers where you could use those skills more effectively.
Acknowledge Your Weaknesses
While you are taking your personal inventory, it is also helpful to make a list of your relative weaknesses. None of us can be good at everything. All of us have areas where we are challenged or in which we are not as naturally talented as in other areas.
To develop your list, reflect back on aspects of your current or previous jobs that have felt unpleasant or very difficult for you. Hint: Look for tasks and projects that you found you frequently procrastinated on.
Of course, it is possible to build strengths in areas of former weakness. Developing new strengths may mean you will be able to enjoy and excel in types of work that formerly felt difficult or unrewarding. But being honest about your present strengths and weaknesses can help you to build a checklist of Pros and Cons that will help you to objectively evaluate the fit of your current job or career, as well as the relative merits of other career options.
Identify Your Likes and Dislikes About Your Previous Work Situations
Your “right work” will involve a good fit between your personal likes and dislikes and what the external work environment has to offer. To figure out what you’re actually looking for in your new work situation, a good place to start is to create a list of your likes and dislikes.
Think about what your ideal job would offer. Examine it from a number of angles, from the organization’s overall cultural style to the type of co-workers you want to be around.
It’s also important to think about what you don’t like at work. Being clear about your dislikes can enable you to avoid choosing another job that does not suit you or where the environment does not let you shine.
We all have petty gripes about our work environments. Don’t be afraid to put your pet peeves on your list. But most importantly, try to hone in on aspects of your former work environments that you found to be particularly toxic. For example, if you were miserable in that job that required a lot of travel, add “does not involve extensive travel” to your wish list for your perfect job.
Also identify the qualities of your previous work environments that made it difficult or even impossible for you to enjoy and excel in your work. For example, if you found that you excel in a collaborative work environment and flounder when you are expected to produce in isolation, you might add “must have collaborative culture” or “teamwork is valued” to the list of attributes you are looking for in your ideal job.
Don’t Forget Your Personal Values
Don’t forget to consider your vales, what matters most to you. If your job or career isn’t in alignment with your personal values, it will not leave you feeling personally fulfilled in the long run.
What are “personal values”? Personal values are your unique sense of what is most important for you– what gives your life meaning.
It’s likely that you will find that you cannot easily name your values. Many of our values are learned in childhood. We absorb them from our family and culture. While we constantly make decisions based on our values, often we are not aware of the implicit values that are influencing our choices.
Even if you can list some of your values, you probably don’t have a sense of which are your top or core values. In considering the kind of job or career that will be most satisfying and fulfilling for you in the long run, it is important to know which are your core or primary values and which are secondary or of lesser importance. Having a clear sense of your personal hierarchy of values will help you to find the “right work” that is in alignment with your highest values—and ultimately lead to your long-term happiness in your career.
A Coach Can Help You to find your “Right Work”
For most of us, a major proportion of our waking hours are spent at work. The average person will spend 90,000 hours at work over a lifetime. For that reason it’s clear that the quality of your relationship to your job and career will largely determine the quality of your life.
You’ve probably heard it said that, “A life is a terrible thing to waste”. Why waste your life in a job or career that is not fulfilling? Why languish in a job that does not allow you to reach your full human potential and that does not bring you joy, pride, and satisfaction?
If you value your own life, you may want to invest in a career or life coach to help to identify your unique “right work”. Coaches are skilled at helping you to uncover your strengths, analyze your weaknesses, and clarify your most important values. They may employ various assessment tools to help you to go deeper into your self assessment. These can reveal hidden strengths and talents that uncover options that you may never have discovered on your own.
So if you’re feeling burned out at work or you can’t stand the prospect of staying in your current job much longer, it could be time to start your own journey to a more fulfilling job and a happier life. As a life and business coach, it is my joy and mission to support my clients as they move towards their most authentic and satisfying life. If I can be of service to you in your quest for your own “right work”, please contact me. If you’re not quite sure whether coaching is right for you, we can start with a free 30-minute consultation to discuss your needs and see whether we are a good fit.