Trapped in a Job You Hate? How to Take that First Step Toward Career Bliss

This is a guest post from Janelle Vadnais, who is social media manager and a business blogger.

“It’s amazing how much unhappiness we needlessly cause ourselves by ascribing negative meanings to simple things that happen in our lives.” -Gaile Blanke

I hate my job.  Well, at least I used to.  Let me start at the beginning.

As long as I can remember, I’ve been an overachiever.  All throughout elementary and high school, I went from wanting to be a scientist to wanting to be a journalist.  The days of dreaming about DNA in test tubes quickly gave way to thoughts of working in a busy office environment editing news stories and meeting deadlines.  Bringing home anything less than an ‘A’ was unacceptable, and earning my Baccalaureate, Masters and then PhD was never an option; it was only a matter of being able to answer the question: “in what?” I finally decided on writing and editing because I determined it was what I liked above all else.  When college rolled around, I earned a full athletic scholarship to North Carolina State University for cross country and track.  And all throughout my undergraduate years, I thought I wanted to be a journalist.  I even did an internship for a well known, local magazine, but I soon realized that this wasn’t what I wanted to do; so through the course of taking a few electives, I transitioned into the fascinating field of Sociolinguistics and went on to earn my Masters degree in Linguistics. I set aside my applications for PhD programs when I came to the horrific realization that somewhere along the lines of having endured non-stop education from the time I was two years-old; I was burned out with school.

Crap.

The problem with most people who are unhappy in their “chosen” careers is that they are the victims of their own misery.  When I was in college, I was so determined to get that coveted sheet of paper-you know, the one that said I was a “Master of Arts” that I actually ended up losing focus of the other things around me that were important: my happiness.  I thought that having proof of an advanced degree would somehow make me happy, but in the end I was burned out and miserable…miserable because my only plan of action at that point was to immediately continue into getting my PhD, and I hadn’t exactly factored “burn out” into the mix.  And of course, as fate would have it, this all happened during my last couple of months of college.  With plan ‘A’ shot to hell and no plan ‘B’ to speak of, I knew I had to act fast otherwise I would wind up moving back home with my tail between my legs, so I did what anyone else in my situation would do: I joined the police department.

“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.” Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

In retrospect, I can understand now how experience makes you wiser.  Going through the police academy taught me many things, mainly that I did NOT want to be a police officer for a living.  Needless to say, it was a unique experience and I certainly credit many of my friends and other officers I’ve met who are still serving the fine state of North Carolina.  But there came a point early on when I first enrolled in the police department when I thought to myself, “This is a mistake; you’re only doing this because you couldn’t find a job fast enough”.  It’s true.  I knew that I needed a job relatively quickly and the police department was hiring. 2+ 2=4, right? Wrong.  Sometimes you have to re-do the math and show your work.  I really didn’t think it through.  In fact, I even made up excuses and justified how a career in the police department might actually work out for me.  I could take my background in writing and editing, combine it with my background in sociolinguistics and maybe wind up as a detective behind a desk someday solving the world’s problems one crime at a time.  Who the heck was I kidding?

The long hours quickly wore me down. I would come home exhausted after a 10-12 hour midnight shift and get up the very next day to do it all over again.  The work, while it was physically challenging, was not mentally challenging enough.  I found myself bored while I was at work, and then too exhausted when I came home to do much of anything else.  What little social life I did have had almost died, and I soon found myself absolutely dreading going to work.  Hardly my dream career.  My overall outlook on where my career was heading seemed bleak.  I had been applying to jobs but only half-heartedly because negative thoughts coupled with low self confidence as well as feeling trapped in my current career were heavy on the forefront.  It finally took several long talks with my boyfriend and family to realize that I was the captain of the ship, and as the captain, I needed to pick a direction and stop blowing around in the wind.  I wrote down all of the things that were worrying me, possible solutions to the problems as well as why the problems weren’t getting solved, and you know what was to blame? My attitude.

I wish I had Known Then What I Know Now

Having been an athlete all my life, you would’ve thought that I might have had an inkling into just how powerful a role your mental state plays in your life.  Negative thoughts are like a virus.  Once they get into your head, they have the potential to spread and multiply like wildfire.  I felt like I wasn’t in control of my career path.  I began to feel miserable and didn’t even know why. Getting out of bed every day and chanting to yourself, “I hate my job I hate my job” is bound to get anyone down.

I think that the vast majority of people wind up in jobs or careers that they hate simply because their minds aren’t completely made up with what they really want to do.  This lack of experience lands you in a never ending circle of self-doubt, low confidence and feeling like you have to stick with whatever job you because you’re now bound by financial obligations, etc.  The key to happiness is changing your attitude.  If you’re unhappy about something- anything, assess why you feel that way.  Write it down, tell a friend.  Whatever you do, just make sure that you do something. (Karl’s note: I agree. One small step leads to another, which builds a career.) In my own struggles to get out of a dead-end career and into something more suitable, the following things have helped me:

Be knowledgeable: Know what makes you happy.  If you don’t know, perhaps it’s time to figure it out.

Be determined: Know what your goals are and stick to them.

Be positive: Know that things can and typically do go wrong. Nobody is perfect, but you can be better by knowing how to more effectively handle your stress.

Be surrounded: Know that you are not alone.  Use your resources: write down your thoughts; talk to a friend.  These things will help you.  Surround yourself with positive people who will encourage and guide you to make positive changes in your life.

Be wise: You’re never too old to make a change, and you’re never too young to learn from your mistakes. (Karl’s note: Yes! Go for your career happiness now!)

Janelle Vadnais is the Social Media Manager for Unlimited Web Solutions, Inc. and is the main blog writer for Create Business Growth.  You can follow her on Twitter also at ‘janellevadnais‘ or visit her on StumbleUpon.

Articles All About Finding a Job that will Bring You Career Happiness:

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If anyone is interested in writing a story or article for Work Happy Now, please contact me at karl (at) workhappynow.com, thanks.

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Image courtesy of lamazone

Comments

  1. That was a really good post. Karl’s verbal injection was interesting…

    I love the thought of the post though: you hate what you do because you have a bad attitude, and you have a bad attitude because what you decided to do is not what you really want to do! It’s maddening. Janelle, I’m glad you found something you enjoy more–are you hiring?

    Thanks for the great post though–I really enjoyed it.

  2. I definitely agree that we are our own victims of our own misery. It is easy to want to just quit if things are not going well in the office. But what we have been experiencing in the office may just be a issue with our attitude. Most definitely, negative thoughts are a virus. We need to eliminate them before they take charge for too long.

    Evelyn Lim’s last blog post..Hire A Dream Team For Creative Visualization

  3. Hey Ryan, I thought the framing of the post was right on. I hope that she writes another guest post.

    If she’s hiring I’ll give her your email.

  4. Hi Evelyn, our attitude sets the tone for our career. If we can adjust it by a few degrees then we can bring a lot more joy to the work we get paid to do.

  5. Hi Karl and Janelle,

    What a wonderful story about lessons learned.

    I love your last line, “You’re never too old to make a change, and you’re never too young to learn from your mistakes”. There is so much truth in those words.

    Barbara Swafford’s last blog post..How To Get Your Blog Blacklisted

  6. Tom Volkar / Delightful Work says:

    Thanks Karl for inviting Janelle, I enjoyed this read. I’d like to add two more that Janelle certainly used in her self-examination. Be aware and Be bold.

    Awareness Janelle so wisely pointed out is the key to telling the truth to yourself about yourself. We always get the hints; Janelle had the courage to listen to them and act.

    Tom Volkar / Delightful Work’s last blog post..Finding Your Business Sweet Spot

  7. Hey Barbara, No one is too old to make a change. We must always strive for our happiness otherwise we are just putting in our time.

    Hey Tom, Be aware and Be bold are two more great additions to the list. When we can be confident it shows that we are engaged. When we are aware of how we are feeling we can make smart choices that help our future.

  8. This is a very timely article for me. I enjoyed it very much because it is based squarely in personal experience and learning. Such things are far more solid and wise then any book knowledge can be. Thank you for sharing your experience.

    Stephen’s last blog post..Why Meditate?

  9. Thank you all for your comments. It was a privilege to be asked to write something on Karl’s site. Additionally, I am pleased to hear that my personal experience made a difference to some of you 🙂 -janelle-

  10. Janelle, thanks for this article.
    I like what you said on becoming the captain of our ship. We have control over the direction and career we want to pursue.
    Karl, thanks for putting in the article.

    Robert A. Henru’s last blog post..Your heart, your fight, your dream

  11. Great tips. Would add “Choose a career that gives you the option to pursue your lifestyle priorities”.

  12. It’s very simplistic to say one should be happy with a stressful or overwhelming situation, but what we feel is a true indicator of what the situation is.

    So why try to be happy with something negative, something that drains our lives and doesn’t allow us the time to do the things we want to do?

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