How To Not End Up In Another Dissatisfying Job

If you’re unhappy with your current job, you’re not alone. More than eighty percent of people are looking for a new job or open to one. Gallup reports that only fifteen percent of workers worldwide are engaged in their jobs. These figures are staggering. Leaders who leave one dissatisfying job often find themselves in another unless they first do these 4 things.

Mariana worked for an international nonprofit, first as a field staff member, then as a manager. She contacted me for leadership coaching, but it was quickly apparent that she wasn’t happy with her job and wanted to make a change.

We talked about what drew her to that particular nonprofit. She had a passion for helping displaced people, especially children. As she gained some seniority, the organization promoted her from a hands-on field staff position to one of managing several programs and staff. At first, she enjoyed the challenge. She thought she’d be able to shape project outcomes to better serve the displaced children. The reality was she attended a lot of meetings about things not related to her projects, needed to fight for budget, and refereed conflicts among the staff she supervised. She wanted out.

Mariana was already looking at several positions. She looked at working in a different nonprofit and a friend offered to recommend her for a position at Microsoft. She wanted to explore these options with me. 

How To Not End Up In Another Dissatisfying Job

If you change jobs without first processing your current position, you’re likely to end up in another dissatisfying job. Before quitting and moving to another position, it’s helpful to process what you hoped for, what you want, and why you’re unable to do that in your current position.

  1. What did you hope for? Explore your original vision, calling, and passion for the position and organization. Understand your motivations for choosing your current position.
    • What drew you to this position, company, and work in the first place?
    • What did you hope to achieve? 
    • What excited you about the position?
  2. What specific activities engage you? Every job has many activities that make up the position. List up specific activities that engage you about your current job. Make sure the list are behaviors like, teach, lead the team, or speak with customers. Don’t list conceptual things like, “I want to do significant work.” Instead write what that significant work is. Explore below the surface to find out what you like about your current position, even if it’s only a few things. This list of behaviors comes in handy for points 3 and 4 below.
    • What activities in your current job are most fulfilling?
  3. What’s your ideal job? Dream about an ideal role in the same organization (or a different organization if necessary). The purpose is to imagine a position using your strengths, passions, and gifting. Get specific about what you’d actually be doing and achieving. Put aside any negative self-talk that the company would never let you do it. The purpose is for you to identify what you want to do.
    • If you could design your ideal role within your current organization, what would it look like?
  4. What engaging activities from #2, and 3 above could you incorporate into your current job? This is difficult for many people, but essential. What’s happened is you took a job that you had plenty of hope for, but in doing that job you got outside your strengths, passions, and gifting. Every job takes us outside those things to a large degree. But sometimes we lose ourselves trying to do a job someone else’s way. This step is also difficult because leaders often have mentally jumped ship and see their salvation by escaping their current job. Not so fast. If you don’t learn what your strengths, passions, and gifting are and how to incorporate those into your current job, you’ll most likely face the same problem with your next job. You’ll either naively choose the wrong job, or you’ll let the job shape you rather than you shaping how you do the job. I’m not referring to changing your responsibilities in the job, although sometimes that’s an unexplored option. I’m thinking more of how you do your responsibilities. For many jobs getting the objectives done is the main point, how you do the objectives is open to interpretation. However, we often do them the way someone else expects us to, or the way we think we “should,” rather than doing the job’s objectives from our strengths, passions, and gifting. Using the information gathered so far, incorporate it into your current job. You’ll need to challenge some of your assumptions.
    • How much of these things could you incorporate into your current role?

What happened with Mariana? After coaching through the 4 steps above, she found several ways she could incorporate her strengths, passions, and gifting into her current role. She was surprised at the flexibility she had to adjust the role. What she didn’t think was possible was quite doable as long as she achieved her objectives. Many of the barriers she interpreted as organizational were in her head.

Mariana also continued to explore her ideal job role, which didn’t exist in the organization. After several months of exploring and researching the benefits to the organization, she presented it to her supervisor. Immediately, the supervisor agreed, and she transitioned to that new role and worked in it for several years. She couldn’t have done this new role without first excelling at her old one.

Not everyone has the same ending that Mariana experienced. After coaching people through these kinds of conversations, I’ve seen the following results:

  • 1/3 of people stay in the current position and rework it to better express what they’re good at and passionate about.
  • 1/3 of people change to another position within the same organization, having identified what they really want to do.
  • 1/3 of people move to another organization with a realistic view what they want in their position.

Significantly, nearly all these leaders were on their way out the door of their organizations when we began. Yet, 2/3 stayed with their organizations once they were able to better understand what kind of work and work style they needed to be engaged.

Escaping your current job isn’t the solution. After all, the next job isn’t going to be ideal either. Learning to work from your strengths and advocate for yourself is the key to being happy in your current job, and in future positions.

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    Keith is President of Creative Results Management. He helps busy leaders multiply their impact. Keith is the author of several books including The COACH Model for Christian Leaders.

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