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When everyone thinks your job is awesome. Except you.

I should like my job more than you do.

I don’t believe we should drag through our work days, watching the clock and dreaming about what happens after 5pm. If we’re going to spent 90,000 hours of our life working, shouldn’t those hours be mostly filled with meaning, connection and growth? 

Twice in my life I’ve had the job everyone thought I should love. At parties, at meetings, on the blacktop at my children’s school, people would ask me what I did for work, and I would tell them the story of my job… what my responsibilities were, what kind of projects and problems I was dealing with, maybe what a typical day was like if they were interested, and I would see their eyes light up. 

“That sounds so amazing!” or “your work is so impressive” or “you’re so lucky to have a job like that” they would say, and I would smile and nod, and my heart would sink.

Yes, on paper those jobs were full of challenges, opportunities, accomplishments and even a few perks. In fact, I’d genuinely loved those jobs at one point. I’d enthusiastically walked into the office in the morning feeling focused, motivated, and capable. I’d experienced the rush of getting good work done. I’d learned, collaborated and had fun with my colleagues. I’d happily thought about work in my spare time – making notes and working off hours to finish outstanding items. I knew I had a great thing going.

And then, slowly over time, these jobs turned into a drag. Days took forever to pass. Work projects that used to feel inspiring and possible seemed a waste of time. Worse, I’d started feeling resentful about being there. 

What happened? The work hadn’t changed that much. My colleagues were the same. 

What happened was that I’d changed, slowly, without my even noticing.  

In my case, the work of these organizations was still useful and important in the world. It’s only that for me, at that time, they were no longer the right fit. The dragging of the days, the sense of meaninglessness, the resentment – these were my clues that it was time for change.  When I noticed the signs, I could do something about the situation. 

The challenge is that for most of us, we don’t see these feelings as signs – we start believing this is the new normal, this is just what work feels like. Aren’t we all living for the weekend anyway?

The work we do each day has to meet a few key needs for us if we’re to stay satisfied. There are questions we can ask ourselves to get started:

·       Does what I do every day for work tie into something big and important that matters to me?

·       Do I get to put my skills and interests to use in service of this goal?

·       Do I make a unique contribution that really impacts what happens?

·       Am I challenged in new ways that have me growing in a direction I want?

Start paying attention. What are the signals your body and mind are giving you at the end of each work day? Do you feel satisfied and proud, relieved that it’s time to go home, something in the middle? When an email comes in from a senior leader announcing a new program or initiative, do you feel enthusiasm and high energy, or an eye roll? Do you experience the Sunday evening, back-to-work blues? Is your mind drifting to ideas for new work, new places, new people, or is the environment you’re in offering you the thrills you need?  

If when you talk about your work, other people seem to be more excited than you are about how you spend your day, that could be a sign that you’re ready for some exploration and a change. Give yourself the gift of that exploration. Maybe there’s a way to fall back in love with what you’re doing, or to make small changes to get you back to the sense of pride and motivation you once felt. Maybe the exploration will indicate to you that it’s time for a big shakeup, and something full of new adventures and challenges.  

Ready to take an honest look at your relationship with work?