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Transform your job:

Sometimes the key to enjoying your job more is to re-shape it to work better for you.
By Gabrielle Fagan
Date: February 13 2013
Tags: work,
Editor Rating:
working_women

Work consumes a huge amount of our lives - about 16 years in total if you work full-time and live until you're 70 - and yet growing numbers of us struggle through our days, moaning and generally feeling dissatisfied with our lot.

Studies on work satisfaction show that over the past 20 years we have become increasingly unhappy for a variety of reasons, including long working hours, job uncertainty in the current climate and, for younger people, a higher expectation of what work should provide.

"We put a huge amount of energy - around 80 per cent - into work and rely on it for a large chunk of self-esteem, so it can have a significant effect on our wellbeing and sense of fulfillment if we're not doing the right job or feel dissatisfied with a career choice," says John Lees, author of How To Get A Job You'll Love.

"There are more varieties of jobs out there than ever before, but we still generally let our careers be shaped by accident, or accept second or third best because it's easier to stand still than move forward.

One fundamental mistake, he says, is to take a job just for the sake of it, because it will rarely satisfy you and that random decision will have to be explained on a CV later down the line.

But he adds: "You don't have to wait for the 'perfect' job to come along - it's all about making compromises. Evaluate what you're looking for in your working life and what your employer wants from you.

"People can usually be perfectly happy with enjoying three-and-a-half days at work and coping with the other day-and-a-half of aggravation, boring meetings or paperwork.

"When it gets below that ratio, it can lead them to be demotivated and de-energised, which can have long-term effects on their own morale, and also negatively affect the way they're perceived at work, which could result in a bad situation becoming worse."

If you want to make things different, you have to make small steps towards change, he advises, such as exploring other avenues, looking at different roles, talking to people about the jobs they do and getting an idea about whether they might suit you and your skills.

He cautions: "It's all too easy to believe that the only solution to dissatisfaction at work is job change. Often, all that work dissatisfaction can show you is that there's a mismatch between who you are and what you're doing.

"But the real answer is career growth - moving towards a closer match between yourself and the work that you do."

Above all, he says, you don't have to make a big change initially, but you need to try to do something.

"Sometimes we can't seem to get round to doing what we know will make life better. If it's a direction you know you want to take, then what's stopping you is probably fear of failure, which can include fear of rejection.

"Every day people are making small changes and even big steps and every day people leave jobs, retire and new roles are created.

"To counter negative thoughts, imagine you were being paid to look for a job for someone else. Then you would keep exploring, looking for other angles, finding people to talk to and asking questions, and looking at unconventional ways into a new field.

"But there's nothing to stop you doing that for yourself and exploring ways to find a new job, or looking at constructive ways to make a current job more enjoyable."

Lees gives his top tips on making a job work for you.

7 top tips to transform that job

1.  What's wrong?

Work out why you're discontented in your job, advises Lees.

"If the job hasn't turned out as you'd hoped, maybe you didn't ask the right questions before accepting it, or the company or your post has changed?

"Look back over your career history before you make a hasty move, so you avoid repeating mistakes of the past."

Research data shows that people leave managers, not organisations. "Ask yourself, 'Is it the job, the organisation, or the manager you don't like?' You may find it's possible to change your job or transfer to a new department," he says.

2.  Analyse

Look at your current job objectively so you can work out what you can really change.

Review your progress every three months, making a personal portfolio of work you've done, problems you've overcome, value you've added to the company and how you've made a difference.

3. Learn

Learn new skills so that you're adding to your knowledge base and your contacts inside and outside the company. You'll be able to improve your input within your current role and will be better placed if you do eventually decide to move.

4.  Speak about your success 

Make your achievements known, explain how you achieved them, and give three ways you could work more effectively to create new opportunities for your employer.

Understand what's expected from you and be aware that if the company or boss changes, expectations will change too, and you need to work with that.

5.  Negotiate

"Putting forward a plan to your boss or HR department to adapt your job - perhaps building on what you're already doing, and negotiating a package so you do more of the things which energise - you could not only improve your working life but also feel more in control," says Lees.

"There's no point relying on an employer to solve your career problem. Rather it's about you giving a boss 'win-win' solutions and making positive suggestions rather than simply saying, 'I'm not happy'.

6.  Why bother?

It's much easier, generally, to improve the job you're in rather than looking for another post, particularly in the current difficult job market, says Lees.

"Bear in mind that you need to have a fairly good reason for moving on from a company - you'll have to explain at interviews for a new job, and also in the years ahead whenever an employer views your CV.

7.  Recognise when it's time to go

If you're still dissatisfied and you've made at least one attempt to fix the job you're in, and the attraction of something new on offer is greater than the repulsion of the old, it could be time to leave, Lees says.

"If you have good positive reasons for going somewhere else, maybe you have outgrown a job, then it's no bad thing to move on when you feel you've achieved as much as you can. Just avoid the panic actions taken on the basis of, 'I just want to get out of here'," he says.

In our next installment on career issues, we'll have 7 top tips to get your dream job.

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