Hate your job? Start mak­ing some changes

How to Change Your Life: This week we ex­am­ine how chang­ing where and why you work can reap div­i­dends, writes Una Mul­lally

The Irish Times Magazine - - CHANGE YOUR LIFE -

‘ What do you do?” It’s a ques­tion that some peo­ple an­swer with en­thu­si­asm and pride, and oth­ers brush off. But for plenty of peo­ple, chang­ing things up in their lives means chang­ing jobs, in­dus­tries, ca­reers, or strik­ing out on their own. For plenty of peo­ple, work is a means to an end; for oth­ers, their very mean­ing is viewed through a prism of pro­fes­sion.

So, you want to change your work. Where do you start? So­phie Rowan is a char­tered work psy­chol­o­gist at Pin­point and au­thor of Bril­liant Ca­reer Coach and Happy At Work. “Some peo­ple go into ca­reer changes with a very clear tar­get or fo­cus: chang­ing from IT to be­com­ing a teacher, for ex­am­ple, and they just have to work out how to do that. But for oth­ers, the sen­ti­ment of ‘ I know what I’m do­ing is not me, maybe it was right for a time, but what now?’ is tricky and com­plex.” Rowan rec­om­mends a per­sonal au­dit of one’s strengths, pref­er­ences and mo­ti­va­tions.

Get­ting to the nub about what’s im­por­tant for you – money, work­ing with cer­tain peo­ple, sta­tus, and so on – is cru­cial. For Rowan, a mis­take many make when ap­proach­ing change is pro­cras­ti­na­tion. “Avoid let­ting this go on for a long time. If you’re mis­er­able do­ing some­thing now, un­less there’s a very spe­cific rea­son you’re mis­er­able – like a bad work re­la­tion­ship, a poor com­pany cul­ture, or not get­ting paid enough – if there’s a fun­da­men­tal mis­match, that’s not go­ing to change.” Rowan cites a re­al­ity check around the prac­ti­cal­ity of change as im­por­tant, hav­ing clear, ob­jec­tive ex­ter­nal voices to of­fer ad­vice and in­sight, as well as psy­cho­log­i­cal readi­ness: are you ready to take the deep breath and step off the edge?

Hat­ing a job is a clas­sic in­sti­ga­tor of want­ing change. Dread­ing go­ing into a work­place, hav­ing frac­tious re­la­tion­ships with col­leagues, or just not see­ing the point in what you’re do­ing, can all com­bine to make es­cape feel ur­gent. But ad­dress­ing as­pects of your own role in these sit­u­a­tions can in­sti­gate pos­i­tive change in your work­ing life.

“We’re sold this idea that work­places are ster­ile en­vi­ron­ments where you’re not meant to take your bag­gage in, but the mood you’re in very much im­pacts and fu­els be­hav­iour that you have in the work­place,” says De­clan Noone, part­ner in man­age­ment con­sult­ing firm Ser­rano99.

“Step back and iden­tify what is trig­ger­ing be­hav­iours within you. They can be small things, such as be­ing de­fen­sive when some­body is giv­ing you feed­back, or low con­fi­dence so you with­draw from op­por­tu­ni­ties and then give out to your­self.”

Noone rec­om­mends fo­cus­ing on con­struc­tive re­la­tion­ships in the work­place as well as de­struc­tive ones, “Ask your­self why cer­tain ones are con­struc­tive – maybe it’s be­cause cer­tain peo­ple are like- minded or have warm, en­gag­ing per­son­al­ties. De­struc­tive ones tend to be about a power dy­namic . . . There are cer­tain things you can­not change in terms of how peo­ple be­have, but you can change your emo­tional re­sponse.”

In terms of fig­ur­ing out what to do next, Ro­nan Kennedy, a ca­reer coach and busi­ness men­tor, sees stress and over­bear­ing work­loads as things that make peo­ple want to change jobs, but these habits can re­peat, job to job. If fun­da­men­tally dis­lik­ing one’s pro­fes­sion is the is­sue, Kennedy sug­gests in­vert­ing the thing you dis­like most. “If they re­ally de­spise some­thing, chances are the ex­act op­po­site is what they might be in­ter­ested in. Let’s say you work in fi­nance and think it’s just all about money,” then the in­verse of that is some­thing that is not about money, for ex­am­ple, some­thing re­lated to not- for- profit.”

Is­sues with con­fi­dence are the num­ber one thing Kennedy sees with his clients. In his ex­pe­ri­ences, con­fi­dence strug­gles rarely cor­re­late to some­one’s skills, ex­pe­ri­ences or abil­i­ties, and can emerge at ev­ery level. Strug­gling with con­fi­dence at work can be caused by an un­sup­port­ive boss, feel­ing at sea due to a lack of train­ing, be­ing un­fa­mil­iar with jar­gon that sur­rounds an in­dus­try, re­ceiv­ing lit­tle feed­back, or hav­ing col­leagues who use crit­i­cism as a de­fault. “I sug­gest to my clients to write down two or three things they’ve achieved each day. This is a to­tally fac­tual, to­tally con­trol­lable ex­er­cise. At the end of 20 work­ing days in a month, there are 60 things they’ve done well. That helps.”

Another ex­er­cise Kennedy rec­om­mends is “fear- set­ting”. “You’ve heard of goal- set­ting,” he says, “but write down things

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We’re sold this idea that work­places are ster­ile en­vi­ron­ments where you’re not meant to take your bag­gage in, but the mood you’re in very much im­pacts and fu­els be­hav­iour

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