Managing Your Career When You Are Unhappy With Your Job

I loved my job.  I worked as a career counsellor and facilitator for a government-funded career guidance agency. But two years in, everything changed due to budget cuts and staffing changes.  I was offered a blended supervisory role that required me to spend at least 50% of my time at the front desk. Within a few days, I realized that being at the front desk was not a good fit for me. I struggled with the constant interruptions and the data entry requirements. Within a few weeks, my job satisfaction and motivation had plummeted. I was dragging myself to work, trying my best to smile through the internal struggle I was having. 

Though it was difficult, I am thankful. Being unhappy in my job caused me to take a step back to reflect on my career path and gave me the motivation to make a change.  During this time, I made the decision to start my own business. Six months later, I quit my job to focus on my own business. 

Being unhappy in your job is hard.  It drains your energy and saps your creativity. After a challenging day, looking for a new job might be the last thing on your mind. But don’t waste this opportunity! Times of discontent are the catalysts that open up new career possibilities.
If you are currently unhappy in your job, here are some tips on how to get through until you find your next position. 

Find Your Support People: When you are struggling, you might want to isolate yourself.  Don’t do that. Talk to trusted people in your life about your struggle. Connect with someone in your network who might be in a similar situation who gets what you are doing through. What made the difference for me was the conversations that I had with my mentor, my partner, and my Dad. As I talked about my challenges with the people in my life, I could see the decisions that I needed to make. 

Look for the Positive: Every situation teaches us something.  For me, I learned that I work best in an environment with minimal interruptions.  What is your situation teaching you?  What skills or information do you now have that you did not have before?  

Get Help: You may have health benefits or services that can support you. If you are working less than 20 hours per week, you can get free career support through your local WorkBC Centre.  If you have health benefits, take a look at what is available. If your company participates in an Employee Assistance Program, you may be eligible for no-cost career services or job search support. 

Engage in Self-Reflection: When in a challenging situation, you may find your self-confidence slipping.  Resist the temptation to define yourself based on your circumstances.  Ask yourself what you can contribute.  What are your unique skills, values, strengths and experience?  Often when you are unhappy in your work, you are not working within your strengths or your values. Take some time to reflect on the past and envision the future.  You may find it helpful to journal or complete some self-assessments. If you are feeling overwhelmed, you may want to seek help from a career coach.  

Look for Opportunities: Exercise your curiosity muscle during this time. Most likely, your future looks murky and the next step seems ambiguous. But start looking and listening to what is going on around you. What types of work interests you?  What gets you excited?  What organizations are doing good work?  What ideas do the people in your life have for you? Start to imagine the possibilities and then begin to ask questions.

Power Up Your Resume: Best practices in job search change continually. You need to make sure that you are conducting an effective job search based on labour market conditions now.  What worked for you last year or 5 years ago may not work now. Make sure that your resume strongly communicates your strengths, skills, and capabilities. 

Work on Your Skills:  This is a good time to start improving your skills so you will be ready for your next challenge. There are plenty of ways to learn new skills. Take on a new challenge at work. Look for industry training programs, workshops, or courses that will make you more competitive. Keep in mind that professional development does not need to be expensive. Check out community night school classes or free online programs like Lynda.com. Consider volunteering or joining a community club like Toastmasters.  

Though you may be in a difficult spot, ask yourself, "What is one brave thing I can do today?" and then take action!  

If you are struggling in a job that you don’t enjoy, consider working with a career counsellor to find direction and improve your job search.  Contact Kristin at kristin@careerstory.ca