Ah, Valentine’s Day. The Hallmark Holiday designed to monetise love for the couples and reinforce the gaping void where love should be for the singletons. Who doesn’t love the tacky, pointless celebration of St. Valentine (himself a Saint removed from the Catholic Church on account of so little being known about him – he quite possibly never existed)? Love affects our lives in many ways, not just our love for a partner, and it’s the right time of year to take stock of another thing we want to love – our jobs. Having got through January-the most hilariously depressing month-you have to ask yourself are you really happy?
There are many similarities between having a good job and a good relationship. No, seriously, hear me out. The first time you laid eyes on them and you realised that you wanted them. The application page on their website or the job spec you saw on Monster/Reed/from a recruiter. You tentatively approach them and make your introductions. Application. They agree to meet up a few times and you flirt a little, maybe overdoing the jokes, maybe bigging yourself up a bit (everyone does it). Interviews. Finally, you end up being together and you enjoy a wonderful honeymoon period, where you can’t wait to see one another, the possibilities for the relationship are endless, and it’s fun… it’s love! You get hired, you look forward to getting into work each day, you have real job prospects, and it’s fun… it’s love!
Over time, little things about them start to annoy you. When you see each other, you always end up doing the same things. Monotonous, repetitive tasks. You realise you both have different timescales for the future. Your progression up the career ladder looks far slower than you realised. The journey to go and see them in another part of town more is more of a pain in the arse than it used to be. The commute is starting to weigh heavy on you. The spark has gone. Work SUCKS. You could stay together because it’s easy and already there… but would you be happy? Stick with it… or find a new job?
What to do?
1. Remind yourself why you loved the job in the first place
You might have found that things have stagnated a bit since starting – that’s perfectly normal. While you were bigging yourself up in your interviews you may not have realised that the company was doing exactly the same thing, which means that some of the bells and whistles that were promised to you may not materialise as quickly as you would think. However, just because things aren’t going your way at the moment, try and remember the selling points of the company and remind yourself of where you wanted to get to when you were hired – it may not be as far away as you realise. Throw yourself into more extra-curricular activities within the company too – at the very least you’ll make new friends and you may find yourself realising that it’s not such a bad place to work after all.
2. Relight the fire
It’s so easy to lose sight of the bigger picture when you’re working in your twenties. While you’re stuck slogging out the crappy jobs on Excel or working on the worst clients, your managers get to lord over you with wanky, “blue-sky” strategy meetings and long, boozy client lunches. You can quite quickly find that you create a bubble for yourself where you resent the actual work you do which, less apparently than you would think, is actually the point of you as an employee. You fail to see how it fits into the wider strategy and find yourself hammering yet another =SUM (formula into Excel on your keyboard whilst losing the will to live.
Try to mix things up a bit. Change your commute to involve more fresh air or avoid rush hour by going to the gym before work. Go to more industry talks – as a junior member of the company you’ll be the most welcomed person there. The more you go to, the bigger picture of your industry you’ll get and the more you’ll understand why you have to do the hard graft now to reap the benefits later. If you’re really struggling for motivation, then talk to HR or your manager to get a better understanding of your position and likely progression… just be exceptionally careful. No need to swagger into their office demanding a pay rise, but all good managers want to see their team develop well and should help you to do so if you ask.
3. Play the field
Whilst not advisable for actual relationships on moral grounds (unless you don’t care about that sort of thing, in which case I hope you get an STD), keeping an eye on the market for suitable jobs is vitally important in the professional world. If you’ve hit a plateau in your current role, so long as you have enough experience there is absolutely no reason why you shouldn’t go for a role at a competitor (but be careful not to be a serial quitter – no-one wants to hire someone who can’t commit). CareerConsultants says that in 2016, you were likely to get a pay rise of between 10% and 20% if you moved companies whereas internal pay rises were far lower. Money shouldn’t be the main factor when you leave your role, but there are obvious benefits to it.
In truth, there may be better companies in your field than the one you currently work at. They might be held in higher regard by the industry, may provide better prospects or provide a better benefits package than your current company. Alternatively, they may be better more specifically to you, even if they’re smaller – they may have a far easier commute (which is proven to have a beneficial effect on your general wellbeing), or may specialise in an industry that you are particularly interested in, or may train you up in skills that you wouldn’t get in your current role. Either way, you won’t know unless you try – see my article on recruiters for help on how to best utilise them, otherwise Monster, Reed or Indeed are all good places to start.
4. Make time for your passions
If you’re anything like me, you may find that your job dissatisfaction is more to do with the fact that it’s nothing like the aspirations you had when you set off into the professional world. However happy you are in your job, if you’re not doing the things you love then you’re going to feel underwhelmed with your life. For some people, this is the job itself, and lucky old them. For most, work is a means to an end. Try to find time in the evenings to take classes or go to sessions that revolve around what you want to do and what you’re good at. If you improve, then you might be able to get into a position where you would be able to leave your work to make a living doing what you want to do. Alternatively, if you end up staying at your job, at least you’ll have been doing something fun and engaging – you may even meet more like-minded people who can help you find your way.
Many companies know that few people set off with the aspiration to become a data analyst or a junior account executive on a farm tools client and offer bursaries and discounts to activities that you want to do. To me, this does seem like they’re playing with fire, but I suppose their rationale is that if you’re doing what you enjoy you’re more likely to stay with the company for longer – few people take courses in horse whispering (genuinely one of the bursaries at my old company) then give up their jobs to go and do it. However, if you do feel like you’re ready to go for your passion as a profession…
5. Go your own way
Adult decision time. You’re not happy in your relationship/job and know that you never will be. So long as you are ready and fully understand the repercussions of what you’re going to do, sever the knot. With both, it always helps to do so in the friendliest terms possible (consider a good reference to be like a drunken post-breakup hook-up), but if you need to go then you need to go. Your twenties are the time to experiment, to try new things and, crucially, to fail. Even if your plan doesn’t go as you expected it to, never give up. The most successful people are the ones who rallied against their setbacks and grew from them and you won’t get anywhere if you don’t even try. It’s not for the faint-hearted, but if you’re ready to take the plunge then go for it – nothing ventured, nothing gained.
Happy Valentine’s Day everybody!