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How to make sense of work you don’t love

If the pandemic taught us anything it’s that we aren’t always going to have a smooth run. This has been especially true for work, with many people finding themselves in a very different position from where they planned or expected to be. It’s possible you’ve had your entire career plan derailed, and even if you’ve maintained your job, no doubt you’ve had big adjustments to cope with. Few people have been unaffected, and any of those things will impact your enjoyment of work.

What happens when the idea of building a career seems like a luxury? It’s a fair question during this somewhat messy time. Every job, even the yucky ones, will give you something. If you find yourself stuck in a less than great role, take steps to change your thinking, and to focus on those positive things, however small they might seem. You can shift your thinking from it being the wrong job to it being right for now.

But how?  You can use journaling to make sense of a less than ideal work situation. Gratitude journaling is especially useful, and if you’re a sciencey type, it’s backed by loads of research to show it works. Use this strategy to write down what this job does for you right now. Pick one or two things to be grateful for about your job and write them down at the end of the day. Of course, you might need a hand to shake your negativity, so here are some starters to get you thinking:

  • It pays the bills: It might be lacking a lot of things, but your job is hopefully what allows you to be independent. Being able to look after yourself and not needing to rely on anyone else to prop you up is an important part of self-worth. Not to mention, being financial gives you options to move forward.
  • It keeps you connected to people: The people you work with are often some of the most important social connections you have. You may not like all of them, some of them may even be reasons you want to leave, but generally, there will be people you can interact with on a daily basis. The pandemic has made us collectively realise how important connection is and if you don’t like your job so much, try to appreciate the people who are in it with you. Chances are, they know you better than you think and might even care about you. On a practical level, they’re a network and potential referees.
  • It makes it easier to get another job: Any experience is still experience, and in this day and age, employers want to see that you have transferrable skills. Start writing them down so you build your awareness – and if you do dislike your co-workers you can list a raft of different people skills from dealing with diverse personalities to conflict management to dealing with difficult people. 
  • It shows you what you don’t want: Don’t underestimate this one. Building awareness of what makes you unhappy at work is just as important as knowing what makes you happy. Try to work through any emotions and get to the specifics. Just saying your job sucks isn’t helpful. Saying your job is too focussed on day-to-day admin and doesn’t have room for creativity, for instance, is more helpful.

You only need a couple of points to help you make sense of where you are right now. From here, you have a better mindset to move forward to something more meaningful.

Make sense of work you don't love