I recently came across a tweet that said, “We need to start talking about toxic jobs.” Before reading this, I’d never thought of a job as having the potential to be toxic. We’ve all heard of toxic relationships yes, but toxic jobs. Could our job really be bad for us? Does the daily grind do daily damage? Are we harming ourselves in the pursuit of our next pay check? I decided to look at the facts and I couldn’t believe what I discovered.
Over 85% of people worldwide claim to hate their jobs with many people claiming they are, “miserable” at work. But, hold up. The average person spends 90,000 hours of their lifetime working and we’re spending that time being miserable? And what’s even more shocking again is that there are people dropping dead at their desks every day from what has been termed, “Over work death.” How the hell did we get into this mess?
Remember your childhood
I’ve been trying to figure out how this happens to people. How do so many of us wind up in jobs we can’t stand? Do you remember when you were a kid and you had so many thing you wanted to do with your life and so many careers you wanted. I know when I was little I really wanted to be a vet and a doctor and a teacher and a writer, (well that one stayed with me at least).
But when I left university I had zero clue what I wanted to do for a living. I had no idea what I was passionate about or what I was interested in. So, what happened? When did I lose all those aspirations? Where did they go? How did I let that happen and why? Was it because I grew up and lost all that energy and imagination associated with childhood? Or was it because I was working so hard all the time that I fell into the existing rather than living trap and lost all sense of self?
The Sticking Point
For me, the sticking point is the moment when we lose sight of all the aspirations we had for our future career and wind up in occupational limbo. Where was my sticking point? It’s hard to say for sure. But I think it would have been when I was about 16 and I was doing my GCSEs. Suddenly, it wasn’t about getting a great career in an industry that excited me anymore. Suddenly, it was all about grades. Grades, grades and more grades. Nothing else mattered but the letters on the results slip. “These grades will define your future,” or at least that’s how it was portrayed to me.
The reality is the brain struggles to retain information it doesn’t use. It’s the classic “use it or lose it,” scenario. So if we switch our focus entirely onto marks and grades and away from building our dream career, by the time we’ve left school or university our brain has forgotten what the image of our ideal career looks like or how to achieve it.
So many of us come out of the education system with no idea what to do next. We’re like a blank page and what does society do with a blank page? It imprints it’s stereotypes and conventions and rules on it and we go with it because at that stage we don’t know any different;
“There are a handful of careers you can choose from. You must pick one. You must work a 9-5 every day in a boring office job that leaves you physically and mentally drained. You must get a job where you work for 11 months of the year for one month of leave with pay. You must be prepared to work late nights and work weekends at the detriment of your relationships and you’re going to accept that there’s a very good chance you’re going to be doing all this for a company that would replace you tomorrow if you dropped dead today.”
Feeling the desire to throw something at your screen yet?
So how can we change this? How can we get our aspirations back and get into jobs that we love? I’m going to be offering some practical advice that you can begin to implement today that will help you get out of that job you hate, not today, but in the very near future. So let’s find you that job you’re going to love;
1 Find you passions-I’m not going to spend too long addressing this point as I already have in one of my previous posts- Careers, Passions and the Dopamine Movement. If you want to guarantee you’ll find a career you enjoy, find one that is rooted in your passions. If you don’t know what your passions or interests are please go and check out that post. Based on all the lovely comments I received on it, I know other people found it helpful.
2 Start a Side Project– This is key. Make sure you are using your free time to get the ball rolling to help you get out of your current, crappy job and into one you enjoy. Don’t just spend your evenings on Netflix and your weekends at the pub. Use your free time to build on your professional portfolio. That might be starting a blog, designing a new website for that business idea you’ve been sitting on for months or doing an online course that’s going to help you break into the industry you want to get into. Remember, you are never too old to start something new and you are never too old to learn.
3 Use your Contacts– They do say it’s not what you know, it’s who you know and, in fairness, this isn’t a lie. Approximately 85% of people land their jobs through networking with others so make good use of the people around you. Start by making your friends, family and other acquaintances aware that you’re looking for work in a certain field. You never know what could come of it.
After that, look out for networking opportunities and events you can attend in your area. If you’re interested in working for a particular organisation, reach out to their PR department over Twitter and see if they have anything coming up that you could get involved in.
4 Identify your Professional Hero– I believe in aspiring to be oneself but at the same time it doesn’t hurt to have a role model. Think of someone whose career you would love to have then start researching how they got into the position they are in. Watch their interviews and speeches to see what they have to say. Learn from them. Inspire to have a career like theirs but make it better! Make it yours.
My philosophy here is simple. Life is short so don’t waste your time in a job you hate. You can shape your career to be whatever you want it to be so do it. Don’t forget, you can always make more money. You can’t make more time.