When Your Career Sucks, You Can Fix It

If you take a hard look at your career, you’ll see hundreds of failures. A failure is rarely a dramatic occurrence. Most are usually small and hardly leave a blip on our awareness. No matter how small, the blip is registered and it often builds or reduces confidence. So if we break down our work happiness psyche, it all comes down to our ability to deal with each obstacle and how we use these experiences to build our careers.

Many people encounter difficulties and they either give up or avoid the challenge, instead of pushing through their fears.

Fear has dictated many of my actions.

When I didn’t enjoy my job it was usually because I was afraid of:

  • Not being able to find a job that I really liked so I kept quitting and looking for something else.
  • Being fired because I didn’t want to put effort into something that wasn’t rewarding me properly.
  • Trying really hard and still getting caught in a tough position so I would just coast along, doing work that was just okay.

Fear is based in assumptions. We assume that our boss doesn’t care about our hard work, so what’s the point of trying. We assume that our hard work doesn’t matter. Our fear holds us back from reaching true greatness. The funny thing is that even the greatest business people often see faults in the choices they make. The difference is that they don’t let the fear dictate their future decisions.

I’ve seen dozens of people get fired because they did not put their full effort into making their job a success. They either wanted something easier or something more challenging. They were stuck on the seesaw of emotions, flying high or low, never really knowing what they wanted. Ask yourself: are you truly happy where you are? If not, you have choices and it’s up to you to empower your career and give it a good kick it in the butt.

Help Yourself Make a Choice

When you lay out all your options it’s easier to see what you need to do to find a career that will get you excited and keep your energy level high, whether it be a new perspective on the present job or doing something completely different.  Some of you may make lists of all the pros and cons of staying at your present job, use mind mapping techniques or talk to a trusted friend who knows you almost as well as you know yourself.

The only way to do work that you enjoy is to take risks:

  • Ask for new tasks at your present job
  • Try a similar job at another company
  • Go back to school
  • Experiment with other jobs that you think will hold your interest
  • Start a company

Some of you may not love your jobs, but you are okay with this because you get to do what you love on the weekends. If you do a decent job that you enjoy and it doesn’t create that much stress then don’t be afraid to keep doing it. You don’t need to conquer the world if you enjoy what you do. However, for most of you this won’t cut it, so you need to find what type of work will trigger the most happiness.

An Emotional Foundation

It’s all about being honest with who you are and what you want. If you need to wake up and get excited about what you do to earn a living then it’s time to make a plan. You need to do some soul searching and write a list of emotional needs as related to your career. When working happy, money isn’t always a powerful motivator. Your career happiness will most likely depend on two main factors: Your ability to feel productive and the people you work with.

I created a list about 5 years ago and my shortened version looks like this:

  • Writing
    • Poetry
    • Marketing/business
    • Self-help
    • Novels
  • Public Speaking
    • Although it made me nervous it got me excited.
  • Flexibility
    • Ability to go and be where I wanted, not be stuck in an office.
  • Sharing of Ideas
    • I love to share and develop ideas with other people.
  • Laughter
    • I wanted a job that was fun. Nothing too serious and uptight.
  • Grand Goals
    • I wanted a job that had almost infinite possibility.

I realized that there wasn’t one job out there that was able to satisfy my needs. I am building on my career to get where I want to go. I looked at my list and tried to figure out what niche would best fit my talents. I pictured myself in a whole mess of careers: advertising, copywriter, freelancer, massage therapist, chiropractor, poet, school counselor, artist, teacher, and novelist. None of them seemed practical and a solid fit for me. I knew that I wanted to write, but not sure what niche. I also knew that I wanted to speak and engage the public. The more that I kept coming back to my desires, my career came into focus.

That’s why I started Work Happy Now, my fifth blog. It fit with my degree (Business – Marketing), my passions (writing and public speaking), and it also satisfied the most crucial need for me (The ability to be creative). Practicing this work on the side makes my day job easier to go to each morning. I know that I’m building toward a greater goal.

Building Your Skills

I’m currently working for a company, but I’m also gaining valuable experience to build on my career foundation. I speak to various schools about financial literacy (public speaking), I create PR for my company (refine my business writing), and I get to design brochures and web banners for the website (creative).

When you can find ways to increase your skills at your present job then it will become more enjoyable.

You must create opportunity to help see greater possibility. That may mean doing work outside of your job details, but that’s how you get ahead.

Try building on your career foundation by:

  • Asking a co-worker if they need help on a project.
  • Asking your boss’s advice on a report.
  • Asking your boss for a specific project that interests you.
  • Develop a project that you think will help the company and when it’s got some substance – pitch it to your boss.

You have to create opportunities.

Pride + Passion = Success

Being good at a job takes pride.  We have to care about the outcome or we are never going to double check our reports or follow up with that annoying customer.

It’s harder to care about work that is monotonous. If you can’t find a reason to care about the outcome of your work then it’s up to you to take control and find out what you really need to feel successful.

You have to ask yourself why you either lost or never had pride in your job. If it’s fear then it’s your fault. If you are bored then it’s also your fault. I’m going to be honest. You are the reason that you are in this position. It’s really up to you to release that fear and do what gives you the best odds to be happy.

Find A Career that Fulfills Your Dreams

Look at your list of emotional needs and find the theme that emerges. Every list has a theme and yours will help lead you to the career that will build energy instead of sucking it away from you.

Down deep, you probably have some idea of your dream job. It’s your fear that keeps you from pursuing this career. The easiest way to release your fear is to imagine yourself doing what you love. Allow yourself to feel these emotions. Let them build passion. Visualization is a great technique to build motivation, but you must also act on these feelings to encourage change.

If you want to change career paths then start taking little steps toward that goal:

  • Talk to people who have a similar career and find out how they created their path
  • Go to night school
  • Create a website
  • Join a club
  • Join a network online

Every time you add new tools to your skill set, your fear will likely regress. Start small and keep on taking baby steps.

If you only have a general idea of what you would love to do then create a list of steps to accomplish. As you mark off your progress your confidence will grow and the apprehension will wither away. Before you even reach your dream career you’ll be enjoying the foundation that will make it happen. That’s what it means to work happy NOW. You have to appease the “present you” to keep yourself motivated to improve your career.

So go take a baby step and surround yourself in an environment that will make you happy. If you like to organize then join a club and make contacts. If you love writing then create a blog. If you like sports then volunteer at your local college and start making contacts that will help you develop this passion.

Your skills will take time to build, but I promise if you stick with it you’ll see progress. You’ll slowly add new friends in the industry. These new friends may one day help you find a job that will make your dream career a reality.

Now go get started and add a new skill to your foundation and see what happens.

Here are a few articles from my fellow bloggers that will help you gain a better understanding of what direction to take:

If you haven’t found your perfect job (like most of us) then what are you doing to find a career that fits your emotional needs? Let’s discuss in the comments so we can learn from each other’s choices.

Articles Related to Making Your Career So Cool that You Almost Pee Yourself:


Images courtesy of orphanjones and Walsh

8 thoughts on “When Your Career Sucks, You Can Fix It”

  1. “When you can find ways to increase your skills at your present job then it will become more enjoyable.”

    I agree, Karl- and how incredibly apt all of this is for me right now! It is absolutely true that we must create opportunities for ourselves so that we can see the “bigger, more exciting” picture. Too often, people become complacent at their jobs. How are we ever supposed to grow as individuals if we don’t take action?!

  2. Hi Karl

    Great post, I think this will speak to millions of people who are unhappy in their jobs. I believe the problem with a lot of people is that they just don’t know what they want to do. It’s an amazing phenomenon, ask 10 people today, who are unhappy in their jobs, what they really want to do and 9/10 will look at you blankly and say ‘I don’t really know’.

    Great post.

    Steven Aitchison’s last blog post..Accepting and dealing with your character flaws

  3. Hi Janelle, complacency is a double edge sword. Once we stop taking action our job gets worse. We hurt ourselves and the company by not engaging in work.

    Hi Steven, you are right. Most people who are unhappy don’t know what they want to do. My hope is that this this post will give them a few ideas on what to do to find a job that makes them happy.

  4. Hi Karl – I was reading your article and read “That’s why I started Work Happy Now, my fifth blog. It fit with my degree….”. We must be on the same page as I’m asking a question today which you have just answered. 🙂

    With regard to finding a job I’ve liked, it often helped me to start a process of elimination and figure out what I didn’t want to do. That, plus list my career “assets”.

    Barbara Swafford’s last blog post..Did You Pick Your Blog Niche Or Did It Pick You

  5. You’ve provided very useful advice. More than tens of blogs I’ve read asked readers to consider quitting our jobs right away to pursue what we love. In reality, is that really a wise move? I would prefer your approach in starting small, finding out what our likes are, working towards making that career of choice clearer to us and finding out what we have to do to reach there.

    Evelyn Lim’s last blog post..Should The Poor Mexican Fisherman Give Up Contentment For Cash?

  6. Tom Volkar / Delightful Work

    Karl this is a very thoughtful look at a very complex topic. What people need to get is this. There is no right way. One needs to look at his or her situation and consider the moves that will give them happiness now and in the future. It can all work together as you’ve said.

  7. Pingback: Listen to Your Career Vibrations | LifeDev

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