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How to love the job you already have

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Posted on 22/02/2016 by Ngaire Wallace

Recruitment was something that I ‘fell into,’ like most people I know in the industry.

For the most part, I enjoyed my job. The pay was good, my colleagues were a decent bunch and the rough edges were smoothed over by generous performance bonuses and a well-stocked staff wine fridge that we routinely emptied every Friday.

Nonetheless, I spent the first five years of my career routinely swinging between different possible exit strategies. I would drop everything and travel, or enrol in a Master’s degree, or become a secondary school teacher, a physiotherapist, a marketer, an accountant, an astronaut. Name a profession, and I had probably spent a few hours Googling ways that I could get into it.

I didn’t mind what I did for a living. But I always felt that somewhere out there, at the other end of an imaginary career development rainbow, was ‘the job’ - the vocation that I was destined to have. In my mind, recruitment wasn’t it.

That all changed in a heartbeat in September 2008, when Lehman Brothers collapsed and the bubble of the City’s financial services industry burst along with it. Suddenly my evening Metro was full of pictures of be-suited office workers walking out of their glass towers with their worldly possessions in archiving boxes and job applicants were calling my desk line to make a general enquiry between floods of tears. My two biggest clients made sweeping redundancies that same week, and my entire desk was wiped out. Clients became candidates as the HR representatives and internal recruiters for whom I recruited lost their jobs.

Since my job was filling other jobs, and very few of those were now around, it was a miracle that I still had one. From that moment, and for the next two years as I managed to cling onto the job I had until the market turned around, I loved every moment that I was gainfully employed, and I’ve loved it ever since.

Hopefully you won’t need to experience the fear of redundancy or a recession as a catalyst, but there’s all sorts of reasons why staying in your current job, and making it a better place to be, might be a better career move than finding a new one.

You might have a patchy CV history and need a longer stint in your current job before looking at a move. Maybe you are nearing a step up in seniority and you need to stay where you are and get a promotion before moving on at that level. Perhaps you are lucky enough to be paid over the market rate in your current role, or the circumstances of your job might suit you, like flexi-time or a short commute. Whatever the reason, if you are stuck where you are for now, here are 11 ways to make it better before you fall back on ‘grin and bear it’.

  • Change your attitude. It might be hard to hear, but if you have a habit of hating your jobs, it may be that the problem is you. You have two choices here – carry on and be miserable, or talk yourself out of hating your job. How to make that happen? Write a list of all the things that you enjoy about your job, and another of all the things you don’t like. Go through the ‘don’t like’ list, and cross out anything that could be improved, delegated, or simply doesn’t need to be done. Go through the ‘love list’ and highlight anything you could incorporate more of. Perhaps there’s something you can trade. For example, if you love sales but hate spreadsheets, can you negotiate a task swap with a tech-friendly colleague?
  • Change your job – or at least, one task. Even the most motivated person can become stuck in a rut, especially if they have been in a cycle of ‘same old’ for so long that every day feels like ground hog day. Even the smallest step forward – such as embracing a new technology, or absorbing new information from a webinar or training course – can help to put a spring in your step.
  • Change your environment. When was the last time you cleaned your desk? Cleared out your old files? Take some time to clear your inbox, straighten out your paperwork and put a motivating image on your desk top. Your spruced up environment will give others the impression that you care more, and their positive impression of you will no doubt make your working life easier (and maybe make that promotion come quicker).
  • Change your colleagues. Okay, so maybe this one isn’t so easy. Entrepreneur Jim Rohn is famed for saying “you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with,” and considering how much time the average person spends at work, this number probably includes your workmates. Maybe you love them, maybe you hate them, and maybe you’re stuck with them either way. Try adding to your inner circle of influence by using networking sites such as LinkedIn and Twitter to connect with professionals in your industry and gain exposure to new ideas, methodology and enthusiasm for your profession that you might not be finding on your team. Attend local networking and business events. Arrange to meet up with entrepreneurs in your industry – anyone who is running their own business is almost certain to be full of passion for work that will hopefully rub off on you.
  • Change your attitude to your colleagues. How well do you know them really? Maybe if you invited Ted from accounts or Sarah from I.T out for a beer or a walk over lunch you might find that they had a good reason to turn down your recent request for a new client credit limit waiver or a hardware upgrade. Perhaps you can bond over the fact that you both hate your jobs. A sense of community can be a great antidote to an unfulfilling job. Even the most painful of tasks fly by when you are working with a team that you love. Even if it seems painful at first, join your company sports team or poker night and try to build relationships. You spend five days a week with these people, you may as well try to enjoy their company.
  • Volunteer for something new. If for practical reasons, your manager doesn’t have the budget to send you on a training course, or any new work to offer you in place of your existing tasks, why not offer to attend training or complete an extra project in your own time? Sure, you will be working for free for as long as that takes – but you will learn new skills and gain new experience during that time, and your employer may be so impressed with your willingness to change that the next time a new project comes around, you may win it. At the worst, you can always add it to your CV.
  • Work pro bono for a charity. If you feel like the corporate grindstone is paying your bills but sucking out your soul, but you can’t afford to work in the public or charity sector (or you haven’t been able to land a job in this area) then try giving away your skills for free. Volunteering for a good cause is bound to make you feel good, and seeing your skills and experience actually helping someone in real-time may make you feel a whole lot better about what you do day to day.
  • Do something you enjoy outside work. Skip Friday work drinks, and take the salsa dancing or taxidermy course that you have been dreaming about. A rewarding life outside work will make you a happier person to be around in the office, and give you something to look forward to when the clock strikes home-time.
  • Take a holiday. Sometimes the best way to get over a bad week at work is to take a week off. If you can’t afford a sun-filled off-shore extravaganza, just take a day off and spend it being a tourist in your own town. A holiday might be as good as a change.
  • Update your CV. You don’t need to use it, but seeing all your skills, experience and achievements written down will bolster your confidence, and if you are considered for a promotion, you will be able to immediately summarise why you are the best person for it, and why you deserve a raise at the same time. Checking out the job market, even without the intention of changing jobs, will enable you to identify what skills you lack in comparison to your peers, and you can use this information to flesh out your skill set and knowledge base with targeted learning. And, you’ll be safe knowing that if the perfect position with another company does pop up, you can fire off an application immediately.  
  • Adjust your expectations. There’s a million blogs, self-help books and YouTube videos telling us all about how to create the perfect life and the dream career. The truth is that none of us will ever be perfect, and even the best jobs are awful at least some of the time (while I’m at it, detoxes are a myth, and kale tastes dreadful). Chances are that even though you feel stuck in the doldrums right now, things will pick up in time.