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Are you unhappy in your current job, but actually enjoy the work you do? It’s funny this is a problem many people discuss with their friends and colleagues. As humans, I think we have a tendency to find fault in things and complain about them as a sort of defense mechanism. If a given situation is no perfect or it fails, our ego can accept the outcome a bit easier if it sucked anyway.
That’s not to suggest that there are no bad situations. Some work environments are terrible and must be escaped, but by and large, most employers are pretty decent, and most jobs have their good points too.
Why I am writing this!
I’m writing this article for two reasons. First, I haven’t published an article since June, 18th, 2014. That’s 9 months! Holy cow! Has it really been that long? There are few reasons for this, which I will get into shortly. Incidentally, I haven’t published a podcast since July! Last year, I was podcasting weekly and posting an article every two to three weeks.
The second reason for posting this article is to explore something that I’ve found to be true about myself. I suspect this problem has afflicted many others as well, and it’s directly related to your career success.
Where have I been?
Well in truth, I’ve been here the whole time, I’ve been less engaged than before, but I’ve been reading your emails and responding to some, but there are few reasons that I’ve been silent.
I’ll post the details later, but essentially, I entered into negotiations for a new position in July of last year. I also had a lot of other things on my plate as well. I may have mentioned in previous articles that I was working on my Master’s Degree in Information Security and Assurance, and I am also an active stage and studio musician in my spare time.
During these negotiations, I felt it was important to focus on making the right decision for me and my family. Therefore, I needed to eliminate as many distractions as possible and focus on what was best for my family and my career. My intention was to take a much shorter break, but alas, life got in the way.
Eventually, I ended up accepting the new position. It was a difficult decision, but I feel it was the right one for me. After 16 years with the Department of Defense, I closed my eyes and took a leap of faith!
A New Job!
I am now Chief Information Officer of Ingalls Information Security, LLC (https://iinfosec.com). If you’re a listener to the podcast, you may have heard Session 5 where I interviewed founder and CEO, Jason Ingalls.
This has been quite a transition for not only me, but for my family as well. I have not had a job that required significant travel since 2003, and my wife and children had become accustomed to having me around. Within a month of beginning my new job, I had the opportunity to participate in a breach response at a major international retailer. I was gone for almost two months!
Trouble at home
I did get to come home a few times, but they weren’t always pleasant. My wife resented my absence, and I resented what I believed to be her lack of understanding of my situation, which compounded the issue. Eventually, we both settled into it, and hopefully, the next extended trip will be easier on us all.
After the holidays, I was able to get the ball rolling on several new initiatives, and apply some focus to my studies. I’m happy and relieved to report that I finished my Master of Science degree in February, and boy am I glad that’s over!
Let’s get to the point, already
Okay, you’re probably here to find out how to enjoy your job more, right? Well, I’ve thought about this a lot. I’ve had many jobs over the years, which is quite common in the field of IT. Some were good, and some were not so good, but overall, none of them were bad. I usually left for a better opportunity, or for better security, pay, benefits, etc. My motivations where usually both external and internal.
Until, this most recent transition, I had never changed jobs for purely intrinsic reasons. This time was different. I want to be clear. I didn’t really hate my job, but I was unhappy. I liked most of the people I worked with; the pay was very good; you can’t ask for better job security; the potential for a promotion was slim, but existed nonetheless; I had a great deal of autonomy; my leaders trusted me; my subordinates trusted me; I enjoyed influence within my organization; I was respected by my peers; I was home by 5 pm everyday, and I was off on every federal holiday! What’s not to like about that?
Perks, benefits, and a private corner office ain’t everything
At some point, I felt that the daily minutia of my work didn’t matter in the grand scheme of things. As a result, I became disinterested in tasks that seemed routine. It didn’t help that in less than 4 years we had been inspected 6 different times by 4 separate agencies, and I had 4 new bosses in the same period, but overall it was not a bad place to work.
Basically, I allowed myself to become complacent. After two years or so, I had corrected most of the major issues, and my leadership team was very effective at solving problems with minimal input from me. This left little for me to do other than attend meetings, review SLAs, performance reports, metrics, etc. I was no longer solving problems, and I felt that I wasn’t earning my paycheck, and this bothered me immensely. So I began looking for other opportunities. It’s one of the reasons I started this blog in the first place.
So what’s the lesson?
When I began this new job, it was great. I was busy. I was learning to interact with a new team and rediscovering all the things the private sector has to offer. Then, I was on an Incident Response for two months. I was busy, and I was happy!
After the holidays, things slowed down a bit, which was good at first. I was able to catch my breath, spend time with the family, and devote some time to my studies. Eventually, the lull began to bother me. I would set schedules for myself to feel more productive, but without specific achievable goals it was just busy work, and busy work is NOT productive work. Suddenly, I began to wonder if I had made the right decision. Did I leave a good job for a lousy one. I had lost my perspective.
Accomplishment = Happiness
After spending some time thinking about this phenomenon, I concluded that my unhappiness or uneasiness must be related to my productivity. When I think about all the things I’ve done over the years; the things that gave me the most satisfaction or made me feel happiest had little to do with the job or position I held. I’m happiest when I feel like I am accomplishing something. I am most content when I have a purpose.
According to research by Sirota Survey Intelligence, there is a correlation between job satisfaction and workload. A survey of more than 800,000 workers who self-reported “Much too little work” rated their overall job satisfaction at an average 32 out of 100, while those who reported “much to much work” averaged a satisfaction of 49/100. The happiest workers reported their workload to be “about right,” and they averaged of 73/100. This is interesting, but I don’t believe it tells the whole story.
If just being busy were the key to workplace happiness, there wouldn’t be so many unhappy workers. I believe the key to real job satisfaction is purpose. If there is a purpose, and you feel your activity contributes to that purpose, then you take ownership. This is why it’s vital for every company to have a clear mission. Each project should be clearly defined, and each worker should be aware of these goals.
If you’re unhappy in your current job, ask yourself these questions?
What is my organizations goals?
Do I feel that my work helps to accomplish those goals?
What can I do to take more ownership?
What can I do to improve my sense of accomplishment?
After you’ve assessed yourself, and you’re still unhappy with your job, discuss this with your supervisor, there may be an opportunity to that would be more enjoyable. However, don’t expect the world to be offered to you over night. If you make an effort to to contribute to the team, I assure you it will eventually be noticed. Don’t give up right away. Give it a chance to work.
What do you think?
Think of a time when you were dissatisfied with your job. Maybe it’s even your current job.
What did you do to turn it around?
Have you ever experienced dissatisfaction because of “too little work?”
Sound off in the comments. I love to hear your story!