February 27, 2003
You've done some deep soul-searching and have a good understanding of why you're unhappy with your job. Now it's time to take charge of your future, to improve your work life and the quality of your life in general.
The good news is you have options. The bad news is if you don't evaluate the options and take appropriate action, you may find yourself in the same situation again and again.
Here are your options:
We all know them and have worked with them – the people who continually complain about their jobs and never take steps to improve their situations. Many of them have the attitude that there's nothing they can do to improve conditions. It's the "us against them" mentality, and it's not reserved for the rank and file of a company. Bosses have bosses, too, and are just as susceptible to the "us against them" way of thinking.
One of the most insidious behaviors of the do-nothing-but-complain group is that they voice their complaints to co-workers, friends, and family members, and seldom take the issues to those in a position to support change. Nor do they take steps to change the things they can change themselves. The chronically unhappy, incessantly complaining worker or manager has a detrimental effect on those with whom he or she shares the misery. Yes, everyone needs someone to listen, someone to empathize and sympathize with his or her problems. But even the best listeners tire of hearing the same old complaints over and over. Some co-workers may begin to avoid the complainer and teamwork suffers. Others may begin to view the company and their jobs in a less positive light, based on the complainer's perspective, breeding more complainers.
Each employee has the power to effect positive change, whether it's through an attitude adjustment, initiating the process to improve current conditions, or exploring other job and career opportunities. Doing nothing but complaining is a waste of time and energy that could be better spent exploring other options.
If your soul-searching revealed that you enjoy the nature of your work and that you have the ability to change what you don't like about your current job, or if the current job market limits your opportunities for a career move at this particular time, your next step is to think of ways to improve your job. Even if lack of job opportunities is your primary motivation for staying where you are, really trying to improve your conditions will have a positive effect. You may decide that this is the job for you after all!
In their book Before You Say, "I Quit,"Diane Holloway, Ph.D., and Nancy Bishop suggest three basic steps for planning a course of action to improve your job.
According to Holloway and Bishop, many people find they're most successful if they work on improvements from the inside out. They look at changes they can make in themselves that will eliminate or reduce difficulties or conflicts at work, such as breaking old habits like procrastinating and then panicking to meet deadlines. Only then do they move on to external, problematic job-related factors. Holloway and Bishop suggest the following six ways to improve your work life:
Holloway and Bishop offer the following guidelines for developing your plan for resolving your job difficulties:
To help with your goal-setting and action plan, write down the answers to these questions:
After several months of working your plan, you should see some results. If the plan fails to work, reconsider your decision to stay.
You've decided that you like your line of work, but you might be more satisfied working for another company. How do you know that the company you're considering is a better match for you than your current place of employment?
Holloway and Bishop recommend a three-step process for deciding if the alternative is better than your present job.
Today's workers have an average of three different careers during their lifetimes. The frequency of career changes is expected to increase in the coming decades as more people recognize they're in the wrong field or workers find opportunities diminishing in their industry.
According to Holloway and Bishop, you may be due for a career change if:
Countless books are devoted to identifying careers that fit an individual's talents and interests, and career counselors make a living helping others identify and reach their career goals. If you have a nagging feeling that you are in the wrong career, or if there's a career you've always wanted to try and haven't, you may be better off exploring a new career than remaining in a dissatisfying job or beginning the same type of job at another company.
Before jumping into a new career, do your homework. How will the new career mesh with your life plans and obligations? What is the long-term outlook for this career? Will you be looking at diminishing opportunities in this field a few years down the road?
Unfortunately, many of us exert more effort deciding relatively minor things in life than we do deciding a career. We fall into careers for all sorts of reasons and consider ourselves lucky if we like what we do. It doesn't have to be this way. As Douglas Lurton, author of The Power of Positive Living, said, "Take the tools in hand and carve your own best life."
Diane Holloway and Nancy Bishop, Before You Say "I QUIT!"(New York: Macmillan General Reference, 1990).
Marsha Sinetar, Do What You Love, The Money Will Follow(New York: Dell Publishing, 1987).
Matthew Gilbert,Take This Job and Love It(New York: Daybreak Books, 1998).
Richard Nelson Bolles, What Color Is Your Parachute?(Berkeley, Calif.: Ten Speed Press, 2002).
Spencer Johnson, "Yes or No" - The Guide to Better Decisions(New York: HarperCollins, 1992).