If we are not happy in our career, whether that be with the work itself, our colleagues, or our manager, negative thought patterns may emerge and spill into other parts of our life. Not feeling stimulated, fulfilled or challenged by our work can cause our relationships, our family life, and even the ability to be positive to suffer. We might become frustrated and lack the desire to connect with others or engage in activities that we used to do. Even a sunset might not seem quite as beautiful!
Invested too much:
However, if we are feeling unfulfilled by our career choice, it’s always possible to change. Of course, many of us stay in a job that we don’t entirely love because we feel as if we’re already “pot invested”; we’ve spent too many years in the same career or company already and to “throw it all away” might seem ludicrous. Or, we might feel as if we are making too much money in a chosen career and can’t possibly change.
And then, there’s our ego. We may have trained for many years for a specific job, or worked hard to get a certain title or level in our career. To leave that all behind is like giving up a part of our identity; who would we be if we were no longer a senior manager or CPA?
Is fear holding you back?
Fear is often at the heart of not exploring alternative career paths, whether that be fear of change, fear of having to start all over, fear of not knowing enough or having the “right” skills, or even just our ego fearing a loss of self.
When we have a certain level of competency at work, then it's hard to look for something new. Learning a new career might be scary as hell, but when you wake up every day and look forward to going to work every day, that’s a real gift.
How much does happiness matter?
When we reflect back on our lives, we most likely think about our relationships with others and the things that brought us meaning. We might regret not taking a certain path, and our career might be one of the things that we wished we could change, in the sense of “I wish I had become an artist…”
But it’s never too late, and one is never too old to change.
As a psychotherapist, I go to work every day and do what it is that I love. I can tell you from personal experience that it is incredible to be able to make a living doing what I love. And this chance is available to everyone!
What kind of career would make you happy?
Some of us may already know exactly what it is that we’re missing in our careers, but for many of us, we have never really stumbled upon exactly the right job or career. And, there may not be a “one” career for some of us – some successful people put together multiple careers in order to craft their perfect blend of happiness.
One important note is that finding happiness does not necessarily mean an entire career overhaul; there are many things that we can do to be happy in our jobs without reinventing the entire wheel.
Here are some ideas for finding happiness in your career:
Take some time to list out all of the requirements that you need to be fulfilled in a job. Take note of everything from the setting, to the people with whom you work, to the type of clients or external people, even down to what you would wear to work. Do you enjoy being around smart people? Do you like to work alone? Do you like autonomy or team environments?
One of the biggest findings from recent research has been that having meaning in a career is one of the most important aspects to our happiness, both with our jobs and in our lives. And, research from Yale professor Amy Wrzesniewski shows that many times, we are already in the jobs that we like; we may just need a little work on making it the right job for us.
What aspects of your job help others? This doesn’t mean that we need to be saving the world while we work, but what are the ways that our job gives back to others?
For instance, if you work in payroll at your company, think of all of the times that you have helped someone get paid on time, so that they may then go out and buy food and shelter for their loved ones. Or, if you work with clients, remember all of the times that you have made them feel important and cared for in your work.
Whatever it is that you do, you are most likely helping others in some fashion or another (or else there wouldn’t be a business need!). It can help to write down a little “mission statement” of your own about the job that you do.
We can often reconfigure our current job to give us more of what we want. As Professor Wrzesniewski says, “It involves redefining your job to incorporate your motives, strengths, and passions. The exercise prompts you to visualize the job, map its elements, and reorganize them to better suit you.”
For instance, if we know that we enjoy working in a team but have been doing a lot of independent work, then we can volunteer for teams in other departments, or even start our own team. Or, if we know that we enjoy leading, then we can search for ways to move into management, or even lead a softball team of work colleagues in order to hone our skills.
It might not take an entire career overhaul for us to be happy doing what we love. We may be able to find bits and pieces of our “dream job” in not only our current job, but in other activities.
For instance, if you had always wanted to be a travel writer, perhaps you could begin to write a blog on your weekend travel destinations. Or, if you want to be able to use your old college language skills, perhaps you could join a language club or attend classes.
If none of these steps help, or you’d like some more insight into a career search, speaking with a psychotherapist can be of benefit. A trained therapist can guide you towards your strengths and help you to find your heart’s true goals and desires. At Nassau Guidance and Counseling, we have helped many people to find meaning in the work that they do, and are available for you at any stage in your journey.