How to make sense of work you don’t love

If 2020 taught us anything it’s that we aren’t always going to have a smooth run. This has been especially true for work, with many people finding themselves in a very different position to where they planned or expected to be. It’s possible you’ve had your entire career plan derailed, and even if you’ve maintained your job, no doubt you’ve had big adjustments to cope with. Few people have been unaffected, and any of those things will impact your enjoyment of work.

What happens when the idea of building a career seems like a luxury? It’s a fair question during this somewhat crappy time. Every job, even the yucky ones, will give you something. If you find yourself stuck in a less than awesome role, take steps to change your thinking, and to focus on those positive things, however small they might seem. You can shift your thinking from it being the wrong job to it being right for now.

But how? You can use journaling to make sense of a crappy work situation. Gratitude journaling is especially useful, and if you’re a sciencey type, it even has loads of research to show it works. You can use this same strategy to write down what this job does for you right now. Pick one or two things to be grateful for about your job and write them down at the end of the day. Of course, you might need a hand to shake your negativity, so here are some starters to get you thinking:

  • It pays the bills: It might be lacking a lot of things, but your job is hopefully what allows you to be independent. Being able to look after yourself and not needing to rely on anyone else to prop you up is an important part of self-worth for many. Not to mention, being financial gives you options to move forward.
  • It keeps you connected to people: Ok, I’m assuming you don’t hate your co-workers, but that’s a whole other post. The people you work with are often some of the most important social connections you have. I think this last year we’ve all realised how important connection is (including the hug-free, socially distant type) and if you don’t like your job so much, try to appreciate the people who are in it with you. Chances are they know you better than you think and might even care about you. On a practical level, they’re a network and potential referees.
  • It makes it easier to get another job: Any experience is still experience and in this day and age, employers want to see you have transferrable skills. Start writing them down so you build your awareness – and if you do hate your co-workers you can list “dealing with difficult people”. See? Simple.
  • It shows you what you don’t want: Don’t underestimate this one. Building an awareness of what makes you unhappy at work is just as important as knowing what does. Try to work through any emotions and get to the specifics. Just saying your job sucks isn’t helpful. Saying your job is too focussed on day to day admin and doesn’t have room for creativity is more helpful.

You only need a couple of points to help you make sense of where you are right now. From here, you have a better mindset to move forward to something more meaningful.

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