It’s hard when work is hard. As a career coach for people looking to be happier and more fulfilled at work, I see how career unhappiness spills out into all dimensions of my clients’ lives. Job dissatisfaction saps motivation, increases stress, and takes away energy to be present for the people and things in life that my clients love. I’ve felt this in my own life, too. When you hate your job, it truly can feel like a giant rain cloud is hovering over your entire life.
It’s even worse when you know something about your job is wrong, but you can’t figure out what it is. When all you want to do is throw your laptop (or whatever tangible object symbolises your career) out of the window and call it a day, here are four questions to ask instead. I use similar questions to help my career coaching clients get to the heart of what’s causing them stress at work, so they can move toward work that’s a better fit. These questions will help you take a step forward to make work better for you, right now.
Question 1: How does your job fit with the skills that you most love to use?
Many of us have been blessed by our Creator with a variety of talents and skill sets. Having a skillset (e.g., teaching or research) doesn’t necessarily mean that you enjoy using it. This is one of the first things that I see as a mismatch with career coaching clients.
It’s easy to confuse things you can do with those that you love to do — this confusion is why many of my clients find themselves in jobs that feel unfulfilling even if they are good at the work or even excelling in it!
Reflect on what skills bring you joy, and what skill sets you want to be using in this current chapter of your career. If there’s a mismatch between the two, think about how you can bring more of your favorite skills into your work — whether that’s in your current role or a new job.
Question 2: Do the people you work with energize and uplift you?
The people we work with influence our mood, our confidence, and our sense of belonging.
I’ve spoken with people, originally on the brink of quitting their job, who have realized that they actually love their work — it’s just the toxic workplace culture that’s bringing them down.
Take a moment to consider the most positive relationships in your life. What are those people like? How do they treat you? What do they like to talk about? What traits do you value most? Next, think about the traits of the people you spend the most time with at work, and then compare the two.
If it seems that the people you work with are different from those who uplift you, that might be a source of your job dissatisfaction. Perhaps you can find a different organization in which to work, or advocate to make your current workplace a healthier environment to be in. We all deserve to be part of a positive workplace culture and surrounded by people who energize us.
Question 3: How does the purpose of your job align with what’s most important to you?
Think about the cause and overall mission of the work you do. Now, think about the priorities and impact you want to make right now. What kinds of causes are you most passionate about? What kinds of people or organizations or causes do you want to be supporting? What do you care about? If none of these answers sound anything like your job, that could be a clue to what’s making you unhappy.
Question 4: To what extent does your job allow you to be yourself and live your values?
A question like this has two parts in my experience. First, it explores how well you can really be yourself at work. Can you practice your faith or discuss your religious beliefs without judgment? Can you express your unique style? Can you let your personality shine, or do you feel like you’re always putting on a front to be seen as professional? It’s well-documented that positive workplace cultures boost productivity and employee well-being, but unfortunately the inverse is true as well.
The second part of this question concerns your ability to live your values. Consider who you are at your best outside of work, and the values you strive to embody. Reflect on how your job does — and doesn’t — align with those qualities. For instance, if you value family time, a workplace that demands constant overtime may clash with your values — perhaps it’s time for a role that allows you to leave work on time. Consider how well your job allows you to put energy into your highest priorities in life. If it doesn’t, that may be a clue as to what career changes will help you be happier.
I hope that these questions can help you find clarity regarding your work. At the end of the day, we are more than workers — we all bear God’s image and bear unique dignity. We bring ourselves, our passions, and our talents to work. If those things don’t align with our job, things begin to feel difficult.
Sometimes little shifts can be made right where you are right now to make you happier at work and able to share your gifts with the world. And if not, perhaps these questions will prompt you to move forward to a career that will be a better fit for the gifts you have to share.