A big issue that students regularly want to discuss with me is the question of whether they have the right job. Are they in the right career? Or should they be doing something different with their professional life?
Since I come across as a pretty free-wheeling good-times kind of gal, often these people seem to want me to declare that they do not have the right job. They want me to give them permission to quit. Leap and the net will appear! They seem to egg me to gleefully shout.
When you reach a point of overwhelm or hopelessness in a certain job situation, it’s natural to just want to jump overboard. Which reminds me of a job I once had…
Wanting to Jump Off the Balcony
When I was 19 I was cocktail waitressing at a place called Lemon on Park Avenue. It had two floors: a downstairs dining room, and an upstairs cocktail area that was a long U-shaped balcony over the dining room.
Some nights it would get so busy that my mind desperately searched for ways to get out of there. One night I caught myself fantasizing about jumping over the railing and falling into the dining room. I thought, if I fell off this balcony, they’d have to let me go home!
Then I thought wait a minute, if this is so awful, maybe I should just walk out and save myself the broken leg. Not long after that I had a heated encounter with a manager which resulted in me being invited to leave. I should have just walked out when I wanted to.
But anyway, that’s not really the point. I was young and voiceless then. Didn’t quite have the skill to pair my inner instincts with mature outer behavior.
So back to YOU and your job. Or even your career… the career that you’ve worked so hard to create! And now you’re doubting if it’s actually the right choice…
How You Should Feel at Work
At work you should mainly feel one of these emotions: enthusiasm or contentment.
This is what enthusiasm feels like… Heck yeah! I’m so thrilled to do this work. It is so exciting to be a part of this industry. I want to learn more! I want to innovate! I can’t wait to sink my teeth into the next thing! I want to think about my work even when I don’t have to think about my work! I even have great insights about my work in my sleep.
And this is contentment… My work is a perfectly good place to be. I enjoy the people around me. I feel like I’m making a meaningful contribution. I don’t mind going there every day. I love how the money I earn through my work supports me and lets me do other stuff I gain great value from.
Or you might fall somewhere between contentment and enthusiasm.
If at this point you are thinking well Ariel, I’m neither of those! My work kind of sucks! So should I jump ship?
To this I say ABSOLUTELY NOT! You should not quit your job right now. There are several steps you must take to gather some vital information first…
Is the Problem the Job or You?
Some people truly do have bad job situations. Bad jobs have nasty social culture, dysfunctional management, or workplace abuse of some kind. Other bad jobs might have you involved in a system where you know you are bringing something truly harmful to the world. In these situations, you may have no way to get to contentment.
But whether you seem to have a pretty obviously terrible job, or just a moderately sucky one, this is what you must do:
Cultivate incredibly good vibes, and try to hold onto them throughout the day.
This means every morning when you wake up, plan to have a great day at work. Before you even leave the house, take some time to visualize the different aspects of your job going beautifully.
Visualize your interactions with co-workers being friendly and fun. Your talks with your boss being high-energy and effective. Your communication with anyone working “under” you being clear and helpful.
Imagine making great choices about what to eat and drink. Imagine taking satisfying stretch breaks. Envision yourself feeling engaged and invested in positive exchanges with customers. Get dressed in clothing that makes you feel great.
Basically, before you even leave the house, plan on having an Amazing Day at work.
Make it an Amazing Work Day
Plan extra time to get to work so you aren’t rushed. Greet all the people you work with warmly. Take a moment to make eye contact with them. See the positive in them.
If you are down with the G-word, see them each as a droplet of God. Look upon them with compassion. Show them the consideration and presence you would love to receive. Even do this if they work “above” you. There is no hierarchy in the kingdom of God, man! Tell a friendly joke.
Set up your work space with little reminders of things you love… Maybe a photo of your puppy. Or a small bouquet of flowers. Keep some healthy treats in your desk. Bring your favorite coffee mug. Regularly rotate these items so they feel fresh and new.
Follow the rules. Don’t sneakily check Facebook if it is frowned upon. Don’t swipe away at Tinder under your desk. Genuinely and wholeheartedly focus on your work. Don’t be a sneaky sly little fox half-assing it. Do the job you were hired to do.
Do your work with an attitude of excellence for yourself. Not for anyone else but you. Take great pride in your work, even if it’s simple stuff like labeling folders, pushing a broom, pouring coffee or making photocopies. Be the best.
When something gets you down, if you find yourself wanting to “jump off the balcony”, stop. Then do whatever it takes to feel better! Consciously. Not passively and not vindictively.
Take a 10 minute walk. Do jumping jacks in the stairwell. Write a rich description of how you wish the challenging situation would turn out. When you are calm enough, be assertive about kindly and openly talking to the right person to address your discontents and find a great solution. Be proactive about your wellbeing!
The Possible Outcomes
If you do all of the above, over and over… If you insist on being somewhere between the spectrum of content and enthusiastic throughout your workday, one of three things will happen:
- You will start to like your work and realize you are in a perfectly fine job right now.
- You will either get promoted, or get offered a different job elsewhere.
- Some other new path will reveal itself that you never thought of.
All of the above scenarios will take the same amount of effort. The effort is just the effort you make daily to generate positivity inside yourself. When you take care of your vibes, the world reflects them right back to you and will adjust accordingly.
Basically, as you turn your sucky vibe into a warm glow, either work will start to feel like a warm glow (#1), or you will very naturally shift into a different situation (#2 or #3). You don’t have to force it. But if your workplace starts to feel like a nice enough place after all, you’ll probably notice your co-workers becoming more enjoyable and other positives rising up – like interesting new opportunities and assignments.
If you find out that as you cultivate your wonderful vibes, you are fantasizing about other kinds of jobs, great. Casually explore them. Chat with friends. Update LinkedIn. Peruse listings. When you are off the clock of course! Just sniff around without forcing it.
If scenario 3 happens, you suddenly find yourself on an airplane to Indonesia. Or a windfall of cash will show up out of nowhere and you’ll decide to be a stay-at-home parent. Or some other unexpected twist of fate will scoop you up and and sweep you in an entirely different direction. And it will precisely match your positive vibes! That’s the point.
Don’t get overwhelmed with what seems like a huge leap if you realize your heart isn’t singing at your present position. If you take care of your positive vibes everyday, it will be a smooth graceful shift… like intuitively striding across the street when the WALK signal comes on.
As long as your vibes are positive and you stay dialed in to your own wellbeing, you won’t do anything stupid, you won’t undermine any relationships, and money will work out just fine.
Just keep your vibe up, and keep your eyes open for that sign…
*Please comment below and let me know how your work is going? Are you willing to try some of these techniques? This can be really fun…
**Also, send this along to anyone you know who has been feeling unhappy in their work sitch. It just might help get some wind in their sails…