When we are trying to make a change, so much energy can be lost to worry and frustration. Perhaps your manager is undermining your potential and you are desperate to find a new role or a new employer. Perhaps your job has become pigeon-holed and boring since you returned to work. Perhaps you are in a high pressure job that you want to leave so you can spend more time with your family. These situations worry and frustrate us. And rightly so. But the more time we spend on these negative emotions, the more difficult it is to find the energy to do anything else.
I know, because this is exactly how I felt about my last job.
I am someone who attaches a great deal of importance to having challenging and meaningful work. When I don’t have that in a job it doesn’t take long before I feel anxious, depressed and despondent. When I went on maternity leave with my first child I was taking leave from a job that I adored. I was so keen to return that I started working from home when my son was only 5 months old, and returned to the office when he had a child care place at 10 months old. In those early days I was happy to accept routine, almost menial tasks, so that I could gently return to work without overwhelming myself so early on. But as time went by it became apparent that this routine work was all that I was allowed to do.
My job was very different now that I was a part-time working mother. A meaningful and challenging job is such an important part of my identity and I no longer had one. I was frustrated. Unhappy. Despondent. I tried to resolve that matter, but nothing really changed.
I spent so much time worrying about the fact that I was not challenged and fulfilled in my job. And my negative feelings about my work started to creep into my life too.
At this point someone said two really useful things to me:
- Why don’t you start a side project?
- How can you view your current job so that it does work for you?
Starting a side project was my solution to a job that I was no longer learning in. By having a creative project outside work, I was able to satisfy my need for challenge and continuous learning. In doing so I freed myself from the worry that I must have these needs met in my current job.
By untangling my job from the frustrations and negative emotions I was feeling, I was able to see the positives about my job. I liked my colleagues. I cared about the work our organisation was doing. I appreciated the salary. I had the part-time hours that I wanted.
No one should have to stay in a job that no longer satisfies them. But as long as we are entangled in negative emotions about our work, it uses up valuable energy that we could put towards other things, including finding our next job or the next step in our careers.
So often I have heard mamas say they don’t have the energy for anything outside of work. For some of us, this is because we have jobs that are too demanding and allow us little time for family or life outside of work. But for many of us, we have the time, we just need to find the energy.
So to make an unsatisfying job bearable again, try asking yourself:
- What is good about now?
- What are the things I value about my current job or workplace?
- How can I make my current job work for me on some level, at least just for now?
By focusing on the positives you create feelings of gratitude, and you start to unburden yourself from those heavy feelings that are weighing you down.
A positive frame-of-mind is a much better place to start planning your next career move from.
Take this topic further:
- Try a gratitude journal to make focusing on the positives a regular practice
- Oliver Sack’s book on Gratitude is highly recommended
- Crossing the Unknown Sea: Work as a Pilgrimage of Identity by poet David Whyte has a lovely exploration about finding meaningful work
- Want to explore your leadership through a side project? Fizzle has some great training and community to guide you through the process.
- Our Leadership Foundations Coaching Program includes includes exercises to help you focus on the positive at work, whilst you work towards the next step in your career.