You might think you already know why your job doesn’t feel right. There’s too much work. Your colleagues don’t deliver on their promises. Clients are unreasonable. There isn’t the funding. Your manager doesn’t recognise your efforts and achievements.
Chances are though that you already know that these aren’t the real reasons. And if you don’t already know, well then ‘newsflash’, these aren’t the real reasons.
The real reasons are much more to do with the intangibles: you know you could be doing something more worthwhile, adding more value in some way or other. When a job doesn’t feel right you know it, you just can’t put your finger on it. At best, at the end of the day you feel as though it’s just another day ticked off without making a difference. At worst, you are suffering from stress, anxiety and all the associated problems of poor health and strained relationships.
If you’re reading this, chances are you’re somewhere on this spectrum, and you’ll move up and down depending on the day, your mood and the aforementioned unruly manager, client, patient, colleagues etc.
There’s very little to add that’s genuinely new to the body of debate on how we feel towards our work, but it’s fair to say that we don’t all love our jobs and, if you don’t believe me, ask Gallup for an evidence-based analysis of why this is true. Ask yourself!
If you want to address this problem properly though then you need to start in the right place.
All too often we dive in to ill-considered strategies, driven by frustration or even desperation, without doing the groundwork. Or worse, and far more likely, we don’t do anything at all – paralysed by a combination of fear and lack of clarity. So before you call the recruitment agent, search the job listings, draw up the resignation letter or, even worse, do nothing at all, take a step back.
You need to take time to really understand why your job doesn’t feel right.
And that means taking time to understand you. Let me explain.
The business of job recruitment is alarmingly crude. Selection is often based on an assessment of experience and qualifications, interviewing and then, pretty much, nothing else. At least not really.
It’s here that we move in to the world of pretence. This is where we play that little game where we tell the interviewer that we are a self-starter but can work in a team, we are creative but also great at execution, give 110% but put our family first, have strong communication skills (whatever that means) but analytical when we need to be.
We say what we think we need to say in order to get to the next stage and the interviewer is wholly unqualified to judge, evaluate or verify any of your claims. We certainly don’t dare say what we really think or how we really are. But if you’re looking for meaningful and lasting change then it’s at this point that you need to be bold.
These are the pivotal moments – the opportunity to be authentic. This is what will set you off on the right path.
But we’re fearful of being authentic because we believe that we’ll appear inadequate or out of step with the requirements of the job or the organisation. But this is your chance to set the new direction, to tell the job interviewer, your manager or the recruitment agent, what type of person you really are and, specifically, how your personality traits and strengths are going to add value to the organisation. Only then do you stand any chance of finding a role that fits and feels right over the longer term.
But you can’t do this unless you know what your strengths and personality traits actually are.
So you need to do your homework and find out who you really are before telling other people.
Here are two great places to start.
Psychoanalyse your self
Firstly, become an amateur psychologist. How is your personality configured? Start with the Big Five – openness, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness and neuroticism. There are a ton of personality tests if you Google it (some of them free – but you’ll get what you don’t pay for). One of the most well-known is the Myers-Briggs personality type indicator test. All personality tests come in for critical scrutiny and some are clearly better than others. Myers-Briggs has often been criticised for lack of objectivity for example, and it’s reasonably easy to ‘cheat’ the test. Other tests, such as 16PF test, use validity scales in an attempt to mitigate this.
To a degree though, the reliability of the test itself is subordinate to the act of completing it. That said, I’d recommend the Understand Myself, Big 5 test (developed by Dr Colin DeYoung, Dr Lena Quilty, and Dr Jordan B Peterson) as it’s relatively quick to complete, costs under £10 with a useful and revealing output.
More importantly though, why should you do this? Well, if nothing else you’ll learn a bit more about yourself and gain insight into the machinations of the minds of others. Chances are though it’ll help you to articulate more clearly what makes you tick. It may not necessarily reveal hidden truths, but it will help you understand why you are good at the things you are good at, bad at the things you are bad at, like the things you like and don’t like the things you don’t like.
Be prepared to experience the ‘that’s me!’ moment.
The result will be both revealing and liberating. Importantly, you will have moved a little further down the path of self-actualisation. You’ll realise that that who you are is far less within your control than you may have previously imagined. You’ll be better equipped to start figuring out which activities, which situations are going to match your traits – and which ones you should work on. As Gallup says, your biggest area for growth is not your weaknesses, but your strengths. Weaknesses rarely become strengths, whereas strengths can develop infinitely. And this leads me on to my second tip.
Define your strengths
Really an extension of the first, but this exercise will help you understand where your strengths actually lie. Gallup have been operating their CliftonStrengths assessment for many years. Utilised by many millions of people is draws from extensive research and analysis across a multitude of industries, organisations, countries and individuals. Gallup espouse the virtues of strengths-based development which is born, ostensibly, from a belief that aligning your natural abilities, talents and preferences to the objectives of an organisation or role has a demonstrable impact across a number of domains.
For example, if you use your strengths at work you are six times more likely to be engaged in it. Companies employing a strengths-based culture can see profits rise by anything up to 30%. Safety-related incidents can decrease by 50% or 60%. Sales can rise by 20%. This is serious, credible research that underpins what we all already know anyway, which is that happier workers perform better.
But who is responsible for achieving that state of ‘happiness’? Well, our employers certainly have a duty to look after the physical and emotional well-being of its employees (to a degree) but, ultimately, it’s down to us as individuals to manage our own relationship with our work. But it’s very hard to get what you want unless you can clearly articulate what you want. You have to help your employer, or prospective employer, understand how they can help you.
This is where an assessment, like the CliftonStrengths tool – but there are others – can help you have more focused conversations, whether they be with your employer, recruiter or, perhaps most importantly, yourself. This kind of test will help you understand better how you:
- absorb, think about and analyse information and situations
- make things happen
- influence others
- build and nurture strong relationships
Duly armed with this new self-knowledge, you will be in a stronger position to start unravelling two distinct, but heavily inter-related, questions:
Why do I not feel comfortable, satisfied or fulfilled in my current work and, importantly, what type of work would likely alleviate this condition?
This self-realisation may simply serve to affirm what you felt you already knew, in which case you now have some independent analysis to support and place your traits and strengths in context.
But you will feel bolder in talking about yourself and you will feel more confident in describing what you want.
In some ways however you may learn new things about yourself. Your ‘dream’ job is not necessarily the one to which you are most suited and your past choices, expressions and directions may have been in pursuit of a dream that has never fully aligned with your strengths. Deluding ourselves is a popular condition for most of us, but we often have to let long-held beliefs or aspirations go, in order to move forward with something more meaningful. And just because you can do something, doesn’t mean that you should do it. Or even want to do it.
These simple activities may well be the first small first step to self actualisation, a term often used by the psychologist Abraham Maslow, who defined it as ‘the desire to become more and more what one is, to become everything that one is capable of becoming.’ We all want to get up in the morning feeling energised and optimistic, and go to bed at night feeling as though we have moved forward in some way and added value.
The triggers, conditions and catalysts for these feelings are different for everyone but gaining an understanding of what they are for you is vastly reducing the odds of you finding or, better yet, engineering, a situation where you experience them with greater intensity and regularity.
- You know that your work isn’t right and you think you know why
- Test what you think, and take a step back. You might think it’s the conditions of your work but, the overwhelming likelihood is that the fundamental reasons lie with you
- Organisations and managers are unsophisticated in their methods of recruitment and development, which means that they habitually match the wrong people to the wrong roles and then wonder why performance is low
- Take time to understand more about you so that you can better describe yourself to others and start to articulate clearly what you want from a role and where you will add value
I recommend two initial activities to get you started:
- Take a personality test. I recommend the UnderstandMyself website to get you started on the Big 5
- Take time to learn about your strengths. I recommend the CliftonStrengths assessment
Making a successful career transition is about careful planning and surrounding yourself with the right people. If you are serious about making a change, speak with us.
As the Ancient Greeks said, ‘know thyself.’