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Compiled and edited by Julie Tereshchuk
This is the third job I’ve had where things started out so well but have quickly gone south. Is it me? Do I have too high expectations of the level of job satisfaction I should be getting, or my coworkers/management? And, please don’t think I’m some sort of gadfly, who can’t give things a chance. This has been going on for about seven years. I stayed two years in the original position, thinking every day, “Just give it one more day.” Then, I was thrilled to get a new position, where there was a three-month honeymoon period. I tried to take careful stock of what I wanted before settling on a new position – my current one – and gave the company three years. Now, it’s happened again. My careful search seemed as if I’d finally aced it. There was three to four months of real job satisfaction. But, 15 months later, and I’m frustrated, disillusioned and seriously questioning my own judgement. Any suggestions?
I often eye roll when people say, “Do something you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.” For most of us, if you turn something you love into a job, it can quickly become a job and no longer something you love.
You may want to find a career coach or therapist to help you, but I’d start with listing the things that are making you unhappy. Does it tend to be the people or the work? What are the feelings that are popping up? (Sounds like frustration is the biggest one.) What events trigger those feelings most? Work these things out with a trained professional. Do some digging into your personality traits to find out if the situation hasn’t necessarily changed but your feelings, coping mechanisms, and reactions to the situation have. That requires some real soul searching — everyone is different.
And then the big thing: What will need to happen to make you love your job again? By this point, you should know if it’s “you or them.” If it’s dysfunction within your team at work, see if you can come up with some practical, actionable steps that could be taken to remedy the frustration. Take those to your manager. They should be the type to hear you out as long as you can clearly communicate the challenges you see, how it’s affecting you and the team, and what might be done about it. If they aren’t, then maybe that’s the problem right there.
I’ve always had an issue with the idea of making “your job” and “your passion” the same thing. Once you add a requirement to generate income from something, it changes your relationship to it. There’s a reason it’s called “work!” It’s important to recognize that you don’t have to love every part of your job, but neither do you have to resign yourself to a toxic environment.
My suggestion is to worry less about the specific role you wish to be hired into, and instead spend more time researching the company, the person you will be reporting to, and the clarity with which your future responsibilities and expectations are conveyed to you. These are all common reasons that people are unhappy in their jobs.
Another thing to consider is what makes you “satisfied” at work. Perhaps you need to update your skills, but first you need to identify the obstacles. For example, if it’s daily accomplishment that gives you satisfaction at work (which it is for many people), then perhaps assessing your workflow management skills would help. Do you have the systems necessary to manage a work environment characterized by constant distractions, a fast pace, and high expectations, as many are these days? If your skills gap is contributing to your lack of satisfaction, that will follow you wherever you go, so investing in your own development can contribute to your happiness with future roles.
Yes, I do think it’s possible to love your job. For how long? That’s another question entirely.
When I think of the job I felt most passionately about in my own career, after four years there were things I didn’t love about it anymore, and I decided it was time to move on. I am concerned for you that it seems like the “honeymoon period” is being measured in months rather than years.
It’s hard to give more advice without knowing more, so here are some questions you might ponder for yourself: Are the things that are disappointing you new things that come up after the first few months, or are they things you’re just not noticing initially that assert their presence more later? In other words: you did your due diligence — were you wrong about the company/position, or wrong about your own perceptions and expected satisfaction? Are there connections or similarities across your jobs about the things that are getting you down? What is it that you expect out of a job that you love, exactly? Talk to people you know who love their jobs and see if they have similar expectations or how their experience differs from yours.
It’s tempting to make work the center of the sense of meaning in our lives, but this can be a huge mistake. What else about your life do you love? Where are you finding meaning and gratification outside of work? Are those things giving you a sense of satisfaction over a longer term than your work?
Wishing you luck (and love),