WORK consumes a huge amount of our lives — about 16 years in total if you work full-time and live until you’re 70 — and yet growing numbers of us struggle through our days, moaning and generally feeling dissatisfied with our lot.
Studies on work satisfaction show that over the past 20 years some people have become increasingly unhappy for a variety of reasons, including long working hours, job uncertainty and, for younger people, a higher expectation of what work should provide.
“We put a huge amount of energy — around 80% — into work and rely on it for a large chunk of self-esteem, so it can have a significant effect on our wellbeing and sense of fulfilment if we’re not doing the right job or feel dissatisfied with a career choice,” says John Lees, author of How To Get A Job You’ll Love.
“There are more varieties of jobs out there than ever before, but we still generally let our careers be shaped by accident, or accept second or third best because it’s easier to stand still than move forward.”
One fundamental mistake, he says, is to take a job just for the sake of it, because it will rarely satisfy you and that random decision will have to be explained on a CV later down the line.
But he adds: “You don’t have to wait for the ‘perfect’ job to come along — it’s all about making better compromises. Evaluate what you’re looking for in your working life and what your employer wants from you.
“People can usually be perfectly happy with enjoying three-and-a-half days at work and coping with the other day-and-a-half of aggravation, boring meetings or paperwork.
“When it gets below that ratio, it can lead them to be demotivated and de-energised, which can have long-term effects on their own morale, and also negatively affect the way they’re perceived at work, which could result in a bad situation becoming worse.”
If you want to make things different, you have to make small steps towards change, he advises, such as exploring other avenues, looking at different roles, talking to people about the jobs they do and getting an idea about whether they might suit you and your skills.
He cautions: “It’s all too easy to believe that the only solution to dissatisfaction at work is job change. Often, all that work dissatisfaction can show you is that there’s a mismatch between who you are and what you’re doing.
“But the real answer is career growth — moving towards a closer match between yourself and the work that you do.”
Above all, he says, you don’t have to make a big change initially, but you need to try to do something.
* How To Get A Job You’ll Love by John Lees, McGraw-Hill, €14.31.
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