The intolerable job
Jan 12, 2017
So your job sucks. I’ve been there, and you have my sympathies. There are several things you can do:
- Wait it out. This is the easiest, and potentially the most dangerous, but that doesn’t mean it can’t work. I had a client who was in a gig that had suited her to the bone for many years, and she was well compensated. She was looking forward to retirement in a few years, but her current boss was making life hellish, and she was about ready to throw it all away and substantially extend the number of years she’d have to work to retire. But while we were working that problem, she got a new manager, and voila! – problem solved.
Too easy, and you run the risk of getting stuck, with nothing ever changing. What else?
- Think about it differently. Reframe the game. Believe it or not, this can work. I had a client who didn’t much like his job (among other things he didn’t like about his life) even though he was in a profession he loved and in a perfect position to get what he wanted out of his career. We started clearing up other things in his life, which certainly helped. But the act of clarifying what it was that he did and didn’t like about his current position, and the understanding that he was well placed to get what he wanted, enabled him to realize that he actually had a pretty good gig, which enabled him to start actively liking it again.
OK, that one was still too easy. We’ll start making it harder.
- Fix your current job. You’re in your job for various reasons, and assuming those reasons still apply, you might want to do what you can to keep it. Of course you don’t want to remain unhappy, and maybe thinking about differently won’t change a thing. It could be, however, that you can improve it with just a few tweaks.
Communicate, brainstorm, and manage up. A great way to improve things is to talk. Manage your manager’s expectations of what you can do and when you can do it. This can build trust, and if you’re overburdened, it can sometimes result in some relief. That’s certainly better than accepting more work than you can do and then failing to do it—everyone is frustrated that way.
You can also think of ways that you could make your job better that would simultaneously solve problems for your manager or even for the larger organization. Changing a job for your own sake isn’t likely to be your manager’s highest priority, even if they’re sympathetic. You can put yourself in your boss’s shoes, however, and try to see whether your idea might look like a clear win to them. If it doesn’t, go back to the drawing board. If it does, then maybe you can remove a source of frustration, or you can take on a task that’s more rewarding.
Let’s consider the next option, which might be more challenging still.
- Jump ship and do what you do somewhere else. If you’ve reframed the game and communicated and brainstormed and managed up and nothing has improved, it might be time to stop flogging that dead horse and start looking around for a livelier one. Polish up your resume, start doing some research online, and start discreetly working your network of friends, relatives, former co-workers, and whoever else might be able to help. Have conversations with as many people as you can. This will get them invested in your outcome, and they’re more likely to think of you if something comes up. And it will improve the chances that they’ll be able to put you in touch with the right people to help you get the right job. At the very least, it’ll give you a better sense of what jobs are available and how well positioned you are for them.
The last option is the biggie, and it’s the toughest.
- Change careers. Throughout your career you should be paying attention to who you are and what motivates you. You should know more or less what a dream job for you would look like. And you should be cognizant of what it would take to get from here to there. It might mean additional education, it might mean a pay cut, or maybe neither. But you won’t know until you’ve clarified what it is that you really want to be doing. Note that once you start following your passion, you tend to be more productive, and hence more successful in the long run. Your short-term pay cut might eventually turn into a large pay gain, providing you can pay the bills in the meantime.
Which of those seem most appealing to you? Which seem most likely to be effective? Which are you most likely to try? Here’s the thing: at any given time, you would be well served to consider all of these options. That doesn’t mean you have to actively be working on all of them, but you should at least be thinking about them. You should have a flexible game plan, and you might want to employ more than one option at a time if your motivation to make a change is high enough.
1/2/2017: resolving to have better resolutions
Jan 2, 2017
All right, let’s have the talk. Let’s talk about this upcoming year. Lots of people are dreading it, some are excited about it, and almost all of us are curious about it.
But we don’t have to just sit back and watch what 2017 is going to do us. We can be active agents in our destiny! We can make the change that we want to see! We can do better! Being the creatures of habit that we are, this means that many of us are going to make resolutions. We resolve to actually *be* those people who can do better. Nothing will stop us this year!
Year after year after year after ****** year, we make resolutions that we do not keep. It’s not just you. It’s not just me. It’s the vast majority of people.
A lot of us view this pattern as evidence of some sort of personal failing. We keep meaning to be more disciplined this year. But here’s the thing: discipline doesn’t work. Our brains might be interested in it, but our emotions couldn’t give a crap about it.
Oh, sure, we can focus, and we can do hard things repeatedly, and it looks a lot like discipline. Maybe it even seems heroic. But what’s really happening isn’t heroism, it’s that we’ve got a game plan that works for us, and our motivation outweighs our inertia.
Here’s what some people think discipline looks like: when I was in college, I was a competitive distance runner. I ran a lot of miles, sometimes twice a day! I made every practice count—a teammate once expressed admiration and amazement that I was able to run hard every time, on every repeat quarter mile or whatever it was we were doing. I got the most out of myself, and when I was healthy, I was pretty darned consistent. How’s all that for discipline?
Well, let’s consider that same 20-year-old guy, the one whose highly questionable study habits were reflected in his deeply mediocre GPA. That version of the same young man didn’t appear to be disciplined at all.
The difference, of course, was motivation, not character. Rightly or wrongly, I valued my performance in the next cross country race more than my grade on the next Econ exam. And it was easier to show up at practice every day, when I knew the coach and my teammates were expecting me, than it was to drag my sorry ass to the library. It was easier to do the workout that was posted than it was to figure out where I could study most effectively and what work I should be doing first, especially when I was surrounded by really fun things for a 20-year-old to do instead.
So let’s forget about discipline. You want this year to go better than last year? Check in with your motivations. Recognize (without judgment) the ways you might “fail”—which is to say the ways in which your inertia will overcome your motivation.
Want to lose weight? Don’t try to tough it out. Figure out a good habit that you’re perfectly willing to sign up for, and figure out a concrete step or two that you can do to make that happen. And if that doesn’t work, don’t beat yourself up, and don’t throw your hands up and quit. Just look for another thing to try, another concrete step to take, until something starts to work.
So look at your resolutions. If you don’t really want to do them, toss ‘em out. If you actually do want to do them, figure out a concrete step you can take that will move you in the right direction.
If you’re self-aware enough to try things that you’re emotionally willing to do, and which really will help you enjoy your life more, you win. And as a bonus, everyone will think you’re disciplined.
P.s. I was going to write this post last year…