For the last eight months, I’ve tried everything I can think of to make myself like my job. Nothing works. My duties bore me to tears and I dread Monday mornings.
I did this to myself. Eight months ago, I decided to leave the nonprofit world and work for a “real” business. It’s Alaska, so I chose the oil industry. Even though the company that hired me had laid off workers, they needed someone with my skill set. The first couple of weeks were fun, because of the learning curve. After that, my new-job euphoria crashed.
I’ve tried to work around this, by focusing on what’s right about my job — a great boss and co-workers — and by volunteering in the evening for two nonprofits. Despite this, I feel my brain is turning to fudge. I know I should look for a new job, but what if I make another mistake?
The good news: The mistake you made brings you additional clarity in terms of what you want and don’t want in a job. You like learning. You can’t stand boredom. You value mission-oriented work even if nonprofit work didn’t feel “real” enough. Even better, your latest mistake woke you up to the fact that you jumped too easily into a job that wasn’t a good match for you. You can make your next job move the right one by basing it on introspection into what matters to you in a job and research into potential opportunities.
What tasks interest you? What is it you want to learn? Where, when and how do you do your best work? What does your dream workday look like? In what areas do others give you compliments? What do you do that inspires others? What led you to leave the nonprofit sector — what wasn’t “real” enough? And what grabs you about nonprofit work, leading you to volunteer your time?
Which job qualities matter more to you — meaningful work that produces change in your community or advancement potential? Are you more interested in work that’s challenging or in a team-oriented environment? Would you sacrifice a better work/life balance for great pay and benefits? How important is decision-making autonomy? To what degree does an employer’s reputation matter, and is that more or less important than your freedom to express yourself through your speech, dress, conduct or scheduling flexibility?
Because jobs don’t exist separately from industries, which fields or work environments most appeal to you? An entry-level bookkeeping job in a small mom-and-pop company tosses you into a variety of duties, while the identical entry-level job in a large corporation has you doing the same duties daily. Does the legal industry intrigue you, or would you rather work for an 8(a), particularly one that involves you in directly working with shareholders in villages?
Next, research the employers posting jobs. Does an engineering company seek a marketing coordinator? Take a look at the company’s website — technical marketing differs dramatically from nonprofit marketing. Would you truly enjoy marketing physical projects or might engineering specs start to swim before your eyes if you had to write six RFPs a month? Most websites now post information about personnel and projects. Which ones intrigue you? Widen and personalize your research by contacting those you’ve connected with on LinkedIn — and if you haven’t used LinkedIn as a research tool in the past, start now. You can find a lot out by asking each LinkedIn contact a strategic question or two about their field, industry or employer.
Finally, stop letting the fear of making a mistake trap you into making a worse one — that of staying another eight months in a job that bores you to tears.
© Dr. Lynne Curry is author of ”Beating the Workplace Bully” and ”Solutions” as well as owner of the management/HR consulting/training firm The Growth Company Inc. Follow her on Twitter @lynnecury10 or at www.bullywhisperer.com.