Have you ever felt the real world give you a major SLAP IN THE FACE?
Owwww. Well… that hurt.
You know what I’m talking about – we’ve all had moments where our expectations about life were just blown out of the water, everything we thought to be true crumbled in a million little pieces and scattered off into the wind, never to be seen again…
For me, that moment came after college. It was the moment that I realized your career takes up a freakin’ LARGE AMOUNT OF YOUR LIFE.
In college - going to class, hanging with friends, studying for tests, going out to parties – these were all the activities that comprised a normal day. Life was busy, but everything was exciting and new.
I figured that when I graduated and started work, it would feel the same way, but instead of class it would be my place of employment. Not all that different, right?
So very wrong.
Staying in one building with the same people for 8…10… or 12 (sometimes longer!) hours a day turned out to be nothing like class. There are no mid-day naps. There’s rarely a change of pace. All of the sudden, you go home and realize that you only really have 4 hours or so until you start it all again . And even when you DO get home, it’s hard to keep all that work stuff from flooding your brain. There’s no off switch! Sometimes, you even DREAM about work in your sleep! Weekends go by too fast. There are no semesters to count the time. If you are unhappy in your career, this realization can feel like being hit over the head with a ton of bricks.
I learned EARLY on that if you spend the majority of your life at work, you better devote that time to a career that makes you happy.
Take a look at these 9 steps to finding happiness within your career, and start making those hours count!
1. Is this what you love to do?
You would think this is a no-brainer, but it’s the most difficult realization of all. Does your career make you happy?
Now I’m not asking if the money makes you happy or if the people make you happy. Although those are important perks of a fulfilling career, they won’t bring you long term satisfaction.
Do you truly enjoy what you do on a day-to-day basis? When you look at what you’ve created and accomplished during the day, do you feel fulfilled and proud of your work?
For so many people, the answer would be a resounding >> no <<.
And if that’s true, nothing will change unless you take action. For your career, it’s not your job to be a martyr; you have to do what feels best for YOU in order to claim the happiness that you deserve.
Many people choose to stay in stable, comfortable careers that they hate because they are afraid of the unknown. Career happiness is risky; they think that it doesn’t apply to them.
But it’s not true!
It’s scary because you haven’t tried, because it feels so different than what you are experiencing right now. You CAN make money doing the things that you love to do. In fact, it’s one of the best ways to bring in cash! Passion and persistence PAY. By hiding behind an unfulfilling job, you aren’t allowing your passions to flourish into money making machines! What’s one step that you could take today to turn your passions into a money making career? It just takes one step to start.
If you don’t feel like your career is making you happy, figure out what needs to change. Is it the actual task at hand that gets you down? Is it your boss? Do you feel undervalued or is the time commitment and stress of the role too much to handle? If you love your boss and your coworkers, but can’t stand the day-to-day responsibilities of your position – maybe it’s possible that you could be moved to another department or role. Or maybe you LOVE a certain aspect of your job and despise another, so having a conversation with your supervisor asking to shift your responsibilities in a different direction might lead you to more career satisfaction. It’s important to be clear and concise about what is standing in your way.
Sometimes, it’s easy to be unhappy with your career, but it’s even more terrifying if you have no idea what you would prefer instead. But I’ve learned that sometimes, knowing what you DON’T want can be just as valuable! Try this exercise in order to use your negativity as a launching board to a more fulfilling career .
Back in my acting days, I met many people who wanted to pursue an artistic career (which would make them happy), but needed to bring in a stable income until their theatrical endeavors took off.
So they would accept these awful, soul-sucking jobs in order to pay the bills, and then there would be nothing left of them to pursue their true passions! They would turn into cranky, bitter, sleep-deprived people, hardly able to audition or pursue their real goals!
Your “in-between” job can bring you happiness too! In fact, that “in-between” job should bolster you and give you the strength and stability to allow you to be your best self when you are pursuing your dream career.
Do you have other skills and hobbies that you could leverage as a side career? Maybe you are awesome at grant writing or coding, and you could seek out freelance work in those areas to make some extra cash. Also, you can use your artistic strengths to your advantage! You could do voiceover work, carpentry or be a tour guide. Using the skills that make you happiest will ensure that you’ll be rested and revitalized when pursuing your artistic endeavors.
Remember – happiness at work is not for the lucky few. It might take a series of trial and error to find a supportive career, but it’s worth it in the end.
2. Maintain a Career/Life Balance
In order to be happy at work, sometimes you have to learn how to set boundaries and say NO. This is particularly important when it comes to developing a work/life balance. Because if you lean too far in either direction, the other aspect of your life is going to suffer.
Personal relationships go down the drain if you spend too many hours at the office. As we discussed in the Sexy Soulmate Series , you have to make room and time for those dear to you, in order to enjoy their company.
Also, your work productivity and achievement will suffer if you don’t use your time at the office wisely. And if you feel like you are missing out on too many events with your children, friends, or significant other because of work, you’ll start to build resentment towards your career.
Set strict rules for yourself of when you will answer emails and phone calls after hours and stick to them . This isn’t the time to be a people pleaser. Be honest with yourself about what can wait until Monday and what counts as an emergency that has to be dealt with right at that very moment.
Prioritize your time at work to get the most important things done first, so that you can reward yourself with downtime during your non-working hours. You need time to recharge – downtime is absolutely crucial for your health and wellbeing. Your boss or company might try to convince you otherwise – but it’s your job to understand your boundaries and implement them. Do it for your health and the people that care about you.
I’ve noticed a pervading trend among the millennial workforce… we spend all day at work posting cat pictures on Reddit or Skyping with friends, and then we have to stay late on weeknights and weekends to play catch-up. That’s counter-intuitive, isn’t it?! Staying late at work is not a badge of honor. You don’t earn brownie points when you brag about your long hours. If anything, this habit should be an indicator that your work/life balance needs a check.
On the flip side, do you find yourself wanting to stay at work or answer emails in order to ignore elements of your personal life? (“Oh sorry roommate, I can’t do the dishes because my job requires me to work sooooooo much overtime!”) Career/life balance can work the opposite way too!
Maybe it’s time to sort out the problems in your personal relationships instead of hiding behind your laptop. It’s very easy to use work as a “crutch”, but the underlying issues won’t magically go away unless you dedicate the effort to search for their solution.
Where do you fall on the scale of work/life balance? 60/40? 75/25? Find out what balance means to you and set your sights on achieving work/life Zen.
3. Cancel your Membership to the Complaining Club
You know one of the things that you have most in common with your coworkers? You all have to deal with the same craziness at work!
It’s so easy to bond with coworkers over insane clients or disastrous work situations. What would happy hour be without $5 drinks and buckets of work gossip, right? That’s all fine and good, but it can lead to some major career unhappiness.
Try to dig yourself out of the complaining rut. If you find yourself only bad-mouthing and gossiping about work situations, take a step back. Develop those friendships into something more .
All that negative energy can make your work space feel like a jail cell if left unchecked. Complaining about the quality of the coffee or the slow internet speeds in the office doesn’t change the situation. It just adds fuel to the negative fire. Any time someone starts complaining about office related topics, try to change the subject or point out a positive aspect of what they are describing. That’s one way to dig out of the complaining rut.
Your office is a beautiful place to create lasting friendships – so point those conversations in a more positive direction and you’ll find your work satisfaction increase tenfold.
4. Reject the Stress
Stress and work happiness are NOT good friends – so figure out ways to de-stress the work space!
One of my favorite de-stressing exercises comes from a guide I compiled on eliminating unnecessary negative energy . You have a coworker that is an absolute ball of stress? Don’t let his or her negative energy impact your day. Do the “Cube Exercise” – pretend there is a magical force field around your desk area that keeps all of their huffing, puffing and stressful energy blocked from you at all times.
Just like the point above, you must learn how to feel immune to the negativity of others around you and know that only YOU get to choose the type of energy that surrounds your desk. It’s your job to make sure your work energy is relaxing, peaceful and productive!
Had a long day at work and feel like you just can’t shake the stress? Don’t invite that energy home with you - figure out a way to leave it at the door. Focus on letting it all go on your walk or drive home.
I like to visualize that I’m letting air out of a tire. The air is the stressful energy leaving my body and spirit, so that I might come home to a clean internal state. Once all the “air” is let out of the “tire” – I’m unable to wheel that stress home through my front door!
Do some deep breathing and physically let all those stressful thoughts, emotions and predictions go. If your mind is racing, visualize your running mind slowing down to a nice walk by a stream or in a field of wildflowers. You are home, you are no longer running the “work marathon” that you tackled all day.
De-stressing gives you time to recoup and will lead you to a much happier time at the office. Plus, when you give your mind downtime – you allow your brain to recalibrate and develop new ideas for the next day!
5. Remember why you were Hired
Feeling down or underappreciated at your job? Remember why you were hired.
THEY PICKED YOU.
Yup, when you interviewed for that job, they had HUNDREDS of applicants. They met with you, put you through the wringer of interviewing, they looked at your resume, and they decided that your presence, your mind, and your efforts were worth cold hard cash. MONEY that they would give to you – just for doing what you do best! They realized that you are powerful, smart, LEADER material.
So be proud of that and never forget it. You were brought to this organization for a reason.
6. Your Mission is to Serve
This is a good thing to keep in mind when you find yourself doing the tasks that you might not enjoy as much in your role. Work on harnessing a “serving” attitude.
Look for ways that you can help others throughout the day. Are there ways to serve customers, clients, your boss, or other coworkers?
Usually people are so focused on ME ME ME, “ how can I advance?” , “ how can I get from point A to point B?” , that they forget that they have the ability to help others. People will remember the times you went out of your way to help them, believe me!
This can be an especially good outlook if you work in a position where you are just starting out and you report directly to a boss (such as being an assistant, etc.). If you don’t feel valued or if you feel like the tasks are beneath your present capabilities, try to tackle them with a serving attitude, and it will make the tasks a bit easier to accomplish. This way, you can show that you are a team player and you will be on your way to climbing up the ladder in no time!
7. “Well isn’t that interesting?”…
Unhappiness at work usually stems from our JUDGEMENT of the situation.
That meeting was awful…this client is a nutcase…I’ll never finish this project in time!
Instead, work on removing the judgment and take a look at the cold hard facts. Anytime you come in contact with a situation that could impact your happiness level at work, say to yourself “Well, isn’t that interesting?” and you’ll automatically take an objective stance.
Now, this can feel a bit silly, especially when it’s a situation that is near and dear to your heart. But by removing the blame and emotional ties, you will be able to brainstorm ways to solve the issue and feel happier with the way that you handled yourself.
Maybe you got a poor review from a wack-a-doodle client. Just say to yourself, ‘Well, isn’t that interesting?” and move on with your day.
It removes the personal element and allows you to review how to move forward in an adult and civilized manner. Remove yourself from the equation and you won’t get caught in the murky negative thoughts that could cloud your thinking.
8. The Gratitude Ripple Effect
I’ve said it a million times before, and I’ll say it again. Gratitude Gratitude GRATITUDE ! Be thankful for your career and the work that you do.
Sit down and make a list all the things that you have in your life because of your career.
That includes pretty much anything you bought with your money, relationships with work friends, and new skills or awards. Include the contacts and people that you’ve met in your current job that can lead you to bigger and better things down the road.
Feeling pretty good?
Well now I urge you to continue the list by naming all the things that OTHER people have to be thankful for because of you and your work! Your job impacts WAY more than just you!
Customers have products and services because of you . Your boss looks good because of YOUR work (and we allllll know how important that can be!) You might have even saved people’s lives!
Really take a moment to let that SINK IN. Realize how you are spreading love, joy, ease and help to people every day . Isn’t that absolutely phenomenal?! Not only does your job let you live the life you imagined, but it lets others live their best lives too.
9. What is all this for?
Remember why you are working this job. What’s the goal? What’s all this work for ? Why do they need you?
If you don’t have the answers to those questions – it’s absolutely your job to discover them. Because it’s awfully hard to be satisfied with your career if you feel like the world wouldn’t notice if you stopped what you were doing and quit.
It all comes down to finding your purpose in the role. This is your life! You dedicate too many hours towards your career to spend them working for nothing.
And it doesn’t have to be big. Maybe you work in customer service and people treat you like garbage all day, but you do it for the one time where someone says thank you and you know that you helped that person in a real and meaningful way. That’s an incredibly valid and important reason to keep truckin’ along.
When you remember why you do your job, you are putting your priorities in order.
Maybe your life purpose isn’t career related – that’s okay. Maybe you feel like your life’s purpose is to travel the world. Then take an objective look at your career and make sure that your job supports that goal. Do you get opportunities to travel in this job? Do you earn ample vacation time to pursue your exploration? If your purpose suffers because of your career, what is the point ? Your life’s purpose and your career do not have to be in direct conflict with one another.
It’s your life and how you spend your allotted time on earth is completely up to you. Make your working hours COUNT.
You are either reading this at work right now ( shhhh! I won’t tell!) or you are on the go and will be there again soon. I hope you have a whole new perspective on how you can boost your job satisfaction and craft a career that allows you to feel overjoyed by the contributions you create.
And if you follow the tips listed above and you STILL feel unsatisfied with your work, it’s never too late to change your path . You owe it to yourself. Your heart and soul will thank you greatly!