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Episode #74: How to Revive Work You Hate

Welcome to the Confident Careerist podcast. I’m your host Teena Evert, and I’m so glad you’re tuning in to today’s episode.

If you don’t know me, I am the host of this podcast and the CEO and Founder of Claim the Lead. I’m a certified coach and provide career coaching to professionals who want to transform their careers into meaningful, satisfying, and prosperous work. I also offer counseling services. As a licensed mental health professional, I specialize in providing solution-focused care for individuals who need support navigating rough spots in their personal or professional life. 

  • Do you wake up eager to approach your day with “anticipation, energy, and excitement”? 
  • Do you feel highly satisfied with your job and your life as a whole? 

Imagine

Just imagine working a job where you consistently lose track of time because you are so delightfully absorbed in what you are doing. 

Imagine feeling like your job aligns with what you think is most important in life and allows you to live out a sense of purpose. 

Imagine feeling like your gifts and talents are being used well, that other people are benefiting from your effort, that your 9-to-5 is actually making the world a better place. 

Imagine having a job you’d want to do for free, one that makes you cringe at the thought of retirement. 

Do you want this kind of experience at work? 

In today’s episode, I’m going to talk about how to revive work you hate or a job you dread doing

I chose this topic because this is a pain point for many of my clients. They want this kind of experience at work, yet many tell me that they HATE their job. I know hate is a STRONG word; my mom taught me that too! 

Others tell me that they absolutely dread going to work. I’m not sure if hating your job or dreading going to work is different or if one version is more extreme than the other. I know that these clients came to me for help because they are in a miserable relationship with their vocation.

When I asked them about their timeline for change, they would say, well, Teena, I’ve been thinking about it for several years, or I would have liked to have made this change yesterday! 

I hear loud and clear that a change for them is well overdue. 

Often people don’t change when they know they need to, no matter how much they dread or hate their current situation because there’s a fear they’ll make the wrong move and end up right where they left off or worse off. Thus they do nothing until they find someone like myself who can help them get out of this deep, dark rut that they feel stuck in.

When a person hires me to coach and counsel them, we need to assess the situation altogether. We explore the many ways that their current situation is not serving them and causing them such grief. We also examine what’s working and leverage it to improve their problem immediately.

There are times where a total career change is NOT the solution to hating your work or dreading your job. 

Here’s why…

Choosing a career is only the entry point to a lifestyle of ongoing reflection and active shaping of one’s job in ways that connect it to a greater purpose in life.

A career path is not only something a person chooses to pursue but that a person creates and cultivates. 

You might be someone who hasn’t landed in their ideal career, but you can nevertheless craft, reframe, and revive your work, transforming it into a calling or transforming it into a vehicle for living out your calling. 

Individuals with a calling orientation often describe their work as integral to their lives and their identity.

A calling has little to do with a person’s actual job and everything to do with how they approach that job. 

I work closely with people who have significant concerns about their work, and they come to me for guidance to help them make good decisions about their careers. 

Building successful careers requires more than merely having the requisite talent, motivation, and opportunity. A successful career also requires the consistent belief that one can do what is needed well and that doing what is needed actually leads to outcomes that matter. 

Not only that, but when facing obstacles, people can mold and shape their work into something that encourages, facilitates, and provides a means of living out their callings.

The road to a calling may be a surprising one that is more accessible than you might have imagined possible. Pursuing a calling may require identifying and living out a new career path; for others, it may be possible to approach your current path – even your current job, in a new and different way that crafts it into a calling. 

Let’s look at what vocational psychologists describe as three orientations or approaches that people have to work: job, career, and calling. 

For people who think of work as a job, what matters is making a living. The position provides a paycheck, benefits, and whatever stability it offers is critical and far more important than the nature of work itself, assuming it is tolerable. 

For these people, work is a necessary evil. They tend not to like what they do or are at best indifferent about it. They wish time would pass more quickly when they are at work, spend all week looking forward to the weekend, and can’t wait to retire. 

They are biding their time in their current job, but if another job came along that offered better pay and benefits, they’d take it in a heartbeat. They complain about their job, and if they could do it all again, they probably wouldn’t pursue the same career. 

People with a career orientation derive the sense of self-worth they get from what they achieve and accomplish on the job. Work provides a clear set of rules for achievement they can follow and a tangible ladder they can climb. They may like their job, but whatever enjoyment they obtain – from work itself- pales in comparison to the rush they get from climbing another rung on the success ladder. “Success” in this case is defined by promotion, advancement, and increasing power and prestige. 

Those with a calling orientation think of their work as a way to make meaning from nine to five – and to somehow make the world a better place for people. A calling promotes discipline and wise judgment and views work as meaningful, of intrinsic value, and morally inseparable from one’s life. 

A calling also links a person to the larger community, a whole in which each’s calling is a contribution to the good of all. 

The different job/career/calling orientations and their distinctions are unrealistically simplistic. People are complex, with myriad motivations for why and how they approach work the way they do. 

However, reflecting on this can give you a richer understanding of the foundation on which your personal view of work is built. When you have a better understanding of the foundation that your work is built on, it will help you find clarity and confidence in the decisions you make moving forward. 

Research that compared people across each of these three categories found that apparent differences emerged. 

People with a calling orientation to work were more satisfied with their jobs and more satisfied with life overall than those with a job or career orientation to work. 

Those with a calling orientation scored highest on a measure of zest – defined as “the habitual approach to life with anticipation, energy, and excitement.” 

Therefore, the loss of work and the massive change that comes with it from identity to lifestyle can be scary and almost paralyzing. This same position is one that millions of people in the United States face right now. Many who don’t face it now will confront it soon, and some people will endure several bouts of unemployment throughout their careers. 

Researchers document the effect of unemployment on mental health, consistently showing self-esteem problems, conflicts in relationships, substance abuse, and many other, more substantial mental health problems.

Unemployment can alter your well-being set point. That is a marked decline in your sense of satisfaction with life after losing your job and ultimately struggle to return to your previous levels of life satisfaction even after finding new employment. 

Evidence shows that when people think of their work as central to their senses of self, they experience significantly worse mental health and lower life satisfaction when they become unemployed than those who view their work as less tied to their identity. 

In some situations, unemployment can spark a sense of calling where one didn’t previously exist. Many of the people to claim they hated their job no longer feel stuck. Job losses and layoffs are rarely a net positive. Still, they cut the golden handcuffs of staying in a dreaded position due to pay and benefits, new possibilities can open up, and clarity towards one’s calling can emerge. 

Infusing work with purpose can serve as a powerful source of resilience and instill the work with an unmistakable sense of dignity and meaning. 

Why do you work? 

Take a few minutes to answer this question. If you are not currently working, answer whichever of these questions is more relevant: 

  • Why do you want to work?
  • Why are you training for work? 
  • Why are you looking for work? 
  • Why are you avoiding work? 
  • Why did you work? 

This question is one for which you probably think you’d have a quick answer, like why you went to school where you did, or why you are driving the car you have now. If you’re like many people, though, you have never really articulated an answer to the work question. 

You may not have done so even now, despite being prompted a minute ago. So, I’ll ask again: Why do you work? 

Your answer tells you something about what your work means to you. You may have answered with your current job in mind, or perhaps with a more abstract sense of your career as a whole. 

Regardless, if you took the time to reflect and formulate an answer, you may be surprised to see the variety of motivations behind why you work. Most of us work because we feel obligated to work, because not working feels like we’re not making something of ourselves, or because we are not sure what else we would do. Some of us work because we like to achieve, to do well, to feel competent, to develop mastery of something. 

Some of us work because we have gifts and talents, and we want to express and cultivate. Some of us work because working gives us a way to contribute, to make other people’s lives better somehow. Some of us work because we feel compelled, drawn, called to our work. This list is far from exhaustive, but it offers a sampling of reasons that give you a good idea of how diverse people’s motives for working might be. 

You probably work or want to work for multiple reasons. Take time to assess the extent to which you approach your work as a job, career, or calling. 

Another approach to work is self-directed. Your values drive your career and work where you are motivated to pursue a path that expresses your gifts and facilitates personal growth. This orientation is a combination of your work having a sense of purpose and an awareness of how your talents can promote the greater good. 

Self-Awareness and Adaptability 

People with a high degree of self-awareness are good at gathering feedback from others about what they are like at work, using that feedback to develop an accurate sense of strengths and weaknesses, and changing their self-perception when necessary, as they come across new information. 

Adaptability in this context refers to the capacity to adjust to the needs of whichever situation a person confronts. People with a high degree of adaptability not only can change, but they are also motivated to do so. 

Those with both of these competencies are proactive people who are down to earth and humble; they don’t think of themselves as better or worse. They can sense when they need to update skills, and because they love learning, they are generally adept at doing so. 

So if you are struggling in a job that you hate or dread continuously, then I want to encourage you to explore your orientation to work and ask yourself why you work? 

Take time to explore how your current situation is not serving you and examine what’s working that you can leverage to improve your problem immediately.

If you’d like some coaching or counseling around this topic, I am available and would love to help. After all, it is my calling. 

Teena

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