the common thread in your bad jobs is YOU

If you’re like me, you probably complain about your job. It’s too boring.  You aren’t paid well enough.  You don’t get enough experience, or enough exposure to the Grand High Poobahs of the company.  You don’t have enough staff.  You get no respect.  Your job sucks.

Yet the pattern continues. Even after you change companies, or departments, you find that you have a boring job, or you’re underpaid, or you sit in a cubicle far distant from the Lords of the Company.  You sit there surreptitiously surfing amazon and gawker, hoping that something new is about to happen.

Every job can’t be that terrible. A simple minute of reflection will tell you that.  There is almost no way that every single job you hold could be so bad that it’s worth complaining about, constantly.  You have to consider a terrible possibility:  the common element in all of the bad, boring, terrible, underpaid jobs you’ve held is YOU.  YOU are the problem, not the corporate job, not the dead-end retail job, not the failing entrepreneurial effort.  Each job is different in so many ways that you can only point to one common element.  YOU are the common thread.

So what do you do? Change your mindset, or change your career.  If you find that one job after another is painful and dull and annoying, it may be that YOU aren’t suited to that career.  You may need to consider a change, and not just a minor one.  Don’t assume that if you’re working for Bank XYZ that a shift to a new, exciting position working for Bank JKL will suddenly fulfil you.  If you weren’t happy in one position, you probably won’t be happy in the next.  Make a big shift:  try something completely different.  Don’t let yourself be the stumbling block to your own career success and happiness.

12 comments

  • I recently read a quote by Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson that applies: “The key to success is to define your job expansively.” I've had my best successes in jobs where I've been able to reach out into other parts of the company and help build bridges across lines of business.

    That said, Steve, there is a lot of bad management, and bad corporate cultures out there. Almost all of the employers I've been with in the last 20 years have gone out of business, closed the offices I worked in, were acquired and closed, or simply stagnated. The entire goal of the one I recently left is to buy companies, fire people to raise profit margins, and spin them off again (and the executives freely admitted this). My experiences may be atypical, but you have to evaluate each situation on its merits (or lack of merits).

  • I agree that the best way to improve your career is to move into doing something different. If you can afford to make a drastic change and start an entirely new career, I say go for it. This is relatively easy to do if you're single or married without children and both of you working. However, for someone who is is the sole provider for their family, it may not be possible to start from ground zero.

    It is still possible to get into a new career if you are in such a situation. The change needs to be a slow progression, moving from something slightly different and taking small steps. Networking and creating work for yourself in different areas are good ways to get into other areas. Who you know is just as important as what you know, if not more so. Ultimately it is always possible to make career changes no matter what your situation is.

  • Yes, I think this is true.

    It's actually not really a work related thing, but I've noticed that everything I do is rubbish. I don't seem to be able to exploit the same opportunities that everyone else can. I don't win. I have friends, but I'm not as popular as other people. People don't listen when I talk.

    I have known for a while that the common thread is me, I just don't know how to fix it.

  • I agree with the article on attitude an perception of the job. One aspect not mentioned is if people harbor racist views and it comes out wherever you go. Being a minority religion in the US will get you this treatment and the christian majority will let it slide. Found that in more than one job I worked. I enjoyed the work, just the people sucked.

    • You are right to some extent. Being a woman is something I cannot change. But I never was one of the Guys, was never in the “boys club” and couldn't curse my way up, no matter how talented I was. Being a woman is being a minority.

    • Don't worry, Bubelah. I am a white male, and I was never one of the Guys, either. Maybe it has something to do with golf.

    • I think sometimes guys are clueless this is how some women feel about the work environment. Being a civil engineer, I have been in situations where I am the only female in the group. Sometimes I feel uncomfortable, especially out in the field compared to working in the office. I am not a girly girl by any means, but it is easier for the guys to go water a tree than me.

      Two weeks ago, I had this discussion with another young engineer. I was telling him how I am anxious about my upcoming rotation next year to the construction office since I know I will once again be the only female in the entire group. Of course, he did not get it – saying that he does not look at female engineer as being any different than a male. Yeah well, he has also not earn less than a female while doing more work.

      But one thing I learned is that I always need to ask for more because I know I will end up getting less, which will then be what the guys are getting. In general though, this type of gender bias is very subtle in the work place.

    • But asithi, at the risk of throwing gas on the fire here, how much of this type of situation is being perpetuated by putting up with it? I have been horrified throughout my working career by the way in which women remained silent or put up with the negative situations. then again, men put up with them, too, so it's probably just human nature.

  • That's good advice, but of course, it could also be that you are not the kind of person that can be excited by your work long term, and that you require periodic change. Those creatures are known to exist.

  • I'm learning a little about buddhism and one of the key things that they mention is that things or environments or situations can not bring you happiness or fulfillment, because things or situations, etc do not have inherent existence, their meaning to you is entirely in your own consciousness. That is, you bring happiness to things/situations/etc, not the other way around, and you can learn to be happy regardless of the situation you find yourself in. You will still have preferences but your happiness will not depend on your situation. It's a liberating feeling.

    Another thing, I picked up from Your Money or Your Life (excellent book) is that we expect a lot from our jobs, including everything from security and safety to money to deep, life-long fulfillment to challenge to no stress. One of the key things the book does is to suggest that perhaps looking for fulfillment or happiness in a job is a bad approach to trying to find fulfillment or happiness. 4-Hour Work week also talks about that.

    plonkee, you might be interested in reading Steve Pavlina's site. Start here:

    http://www.stevepavlina.com/articles/courage-to

  • I'm learning a little about buddhism and one of the key things that they mention is that things or environments or situations can not bring you happiness or fulfillment, because things or situations, etc do not have inherent existence, their meaning to you is entirely in your own consciousness. That is, you bring happiness to things/situations/etc, not the other way around, and you can learn to be happy regardless of the situation you find yourself in. You will still have preferences but your happiness will not depend on your situation. It's a liberating feeling.

    Another thing, I picked up from Your Money or Your Life (excellent book) is that we expect a lot from our jobs, including everything from security and safety to money to deep, life-long fulfillment to challenge to no stress. One of the key things the book does is to suggest that perhaps looking for fulfillment or happiness in a job is a bad approach to trying to find fulfillment or happiness. 4-Hour Work week also talks about that.

    plonkee, you might be interested in reading Steve Pavlina's site. Start here:

    http://www.stevepavlina.com/articles/courage-to