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
‘ 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
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