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Five Things to Do When You’re Unsatisfied at Work

frustrated woman with hands up

It happened. You’ve been going non-stop. You’re tired of the bureaucracy. Your boss isn’t helping. You don’t have the decision making authority to move forward. The job isn’t what you thought. You’re not being challenged. You’re not being rewarded.

Whatever the reason, you’re not happy.

How do you get the energy to drag yourself into work AND motivate yourself to work – preferably without staring at the clock?

Maybe the situation can be fixed. Maybe it can’t. Should you look for a new job? Stick it out and hope it gets better? Something needs to change.

Here are five things that can help you decide what to do next.

Do a Brain Dump

Trust me – you need this. This is where the big release happens. We often get stuck in a place where we know something is wrong. We call it frustration or stress or overwhelm, but we don’t take the time to properly identify what it actually is we are feeling and why. We can get stuck in a negative headspace. It’s time to break free from the swirl. Grab a pen and paper, and write down everything you don’t like about your current job or situation. Let it flow – write down ALL of your thoughts. You might need a few pages, and that is okay. Let it go, let it go!

Ask yourself: what exactly is causing my feelings of dissatisfaction. What are the situations? What are my thoughts about the situations?

Get to the Root of Your Unhappiness

The next step is to determine if our feelings are being caused by thoughts about ourselves (who you are as a person) or thoughts about someone or something else is a great first step. This will lead into identifying what you can and cannot control. I recommend using a great project management tool – the 5 Whys aka Root Cause Analysis – to get to the core of what is actually wrong. Let’s look at two examples:

Problem: I am overwhelmed and stressed out.

Why: I have too much work to do and not enough time to do it.

Why: I am trying to do everything myself and get it done perfectly.

Why: I do not or cannot trust others to help or get it done the right way or on time.

Why: I don’t have strong relationships with the individuals on this team or project.

Why: I haven’t taken the time to get to know them or figure out how to collaborate effectively.

Problem: I am frustrated and tired of the bureaucracy.

Why: I do not get paid enough to deal with the problems and challenges here.

Why: I cannot get things done quickly, and people are resistant to changing or improving processes.

Why: The work culture does not support challenging the status quo.

Why: The organization is not prioritizing change or agility.

Why: The organization’s leadership is uninterested in change.

Diagnosis: In Problem 1 you’ll notice that the root cause of the problem is within your own control and is all about your mindset. You can make some adjustments in your mindset and behavior and completely change the situation. Coaching on perfectionism and control along with leadership development focused on team building and delegation could transform you and your team.

In Problem 2, this situation is out of your control. You can still manage your mindset and try to push for the change the organization needs, but it’s an uphill battle. If the organization is not a good fit, and if you are not receiving the compensation you feel you deserve, it’s time to look for a better fit elsewhere.

Ask yourself: what am I in control of in the situation, and what can I do about it?

Find the Gift in Where You Are Now

This one can be really hard, but it is critical. If you are angry, frustrated, and sitting in negativity all day, that will extend to your job search and your interviews. It will extend to everything you do and everyone around you.

Energy is real, and people run from negative energy. Have you ever walked into a room and felt something was off? Have you met someone and left the conversation feeling down or drained? Don’t be that person.

Find at least one good thing in your situation. Maybe you are bored but can take advantage of training, education, or other benefits to fill the time. Maybe the mission is really important and you know you’re making a difference. Even if your situation is miserable and unsustainable, focusing on good things will make it bearable and keep you in a positive headspace until you move on. Plus, you will look like a hero when you look back in the future and see what you survived and overcame.

Ask yourself: how can I take advantage of the position I am in now to set me up for success in the future? How do I want to tell this story in my next job interview?

Do Something Every Day that Makes You Happy

The fastest way to calm our brains and nervous systems down is to breathe. There is a reason people say “take a deep breath.” Try a few rounds of deep, slow breathing. You can do box breathing as well, which is 4-4-4-4: 4 counts in, 4 counts holding, 4 counts out, 4 counts holding. This will shift all of your focus to your breath and give your mind a break from whatever is going on. You can also go for a walk, do a quick meditation (Headspace or Calm are great!), exercise, grab some coffee, call a friend, read – whatever brings you joy, puts you in a good mood, and relaxes you.

Ask yourself: what is one thing I can do every day that will make me happy and give me a mental break?

Start Looking for Your Next Job

Planning for the future is a great source of hope, motivation, and energy. There will be many more detailed posts in the future on this topic, but for now there are some simple steps you can take to gets tarted.

First, you can use the information you identified in steps 1 and 2 to create selection criteria for the future. What must change? What are your must haves? What will you say no to? These should eliminate all of your current stressors and situations that are out of your control.

Next, identify your dream roles and organizations. Hopefully you have a career roadmap, but we’ll cover that in a future post too.

Once you have this list of potential employers, start networking with people who work there by setting up coffees, lunches, and informational interviews. Your network is the fastest way to a new job with the added insight of ground truth from people who already work there. Set up a job search on LinkedIn too.

Knowing what you can do when you are unhappy at work is a great start, but if you want to know how to find a job that excites you and create a career you love, click below to schedule a free consult.

Yes, I Want to Skyrocket My Career!

How much would you give to sit across from an expert who has walked in your shoes, figured out how to create career success, and then trained to help people just like you build a career you love? Well, for anyone serious about advancing their career and creating a meaningful legacy – and finding happiness and excitement every day at work – the investment is an easy decision. Did I mention you can expect to double, triple, or even quadruple your investment with your next career move?

If you are serious about finding your next role, creating a plan to advance your career, and building your legacy in the national security field, we should chat. Having the guidance and support of a trained expert can fast-track your success.

If you’re ready to take the next step use the calendar provided to apply for your free consult.

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