Most jobs have both positives and negatives. But just as we may be so aware of our weaknesses that our strengths are obscured, so we may be so aware of our job’s negatives that the positives are obscured. You are free to choose which attributes or failings of the job you will focus on – the positives or the negatives. Focusing on the positives makes you healthier and happier. And at the same time, it will not diminish your chances of getting a better job. As Richard Leider says in his book, The Power of Purpose, “purpose brings fulfillment. Even recalling good things that happened to you as you return home each day will lift your spirits and help remove the stress of the day.
Of course, there is purpose for staying with your current job if you have reframed it as a training job for your ideal job that is waiting for you, as explained in previous segments, people who understand the purpose of their work tend to enjoy it more. If you don’t fully understand how your contribution fits the overall goals of the organization, ask.
Daniel Levitin, in his book, The Organized Mind, tells of luncheon talks for non-research staff initiated by the dean of science at McGill University. Professors in the science department described their research to secretaries, bookkeepers, technicians, and custodial staff at these “Soup & Science” sessions. Although far removed from the science staff members, they saw themselves as part of a cohesive group that shared the same goal of helping save lives following natural disasters, curing major disorders, and so on.
Richard Leider, in the book mentioned earlier, reports that 84% of those who felt their lives have purpose said that they were living a good life. There must be a purpose to everything you say and do, including your job.
Humans are goal-oriented, and work should have purpose and meaning as well. But as the late martial artist, Bruce Lee is quoted as saying, “A goal is not always meant to be reached. It often serves simply as something to aim at.” The moment you aim at something, you have a purpose.
Having a purpose for doing anything relieves boredom and increases engagement. I will never forget what my boss told me one time when I was complaining about a boring dinner meeting where the speaker droned on and on, saying nothing of consequence. He told me, “Harold when you are part of a captive audience in any situation, take it as a personal challenge to get something valuable from it regardless. Regardless of the incompetence of the speaker, the irrelevance of the information, or the discomfort of the environment.” He went on to tell me to “Listen intently, get involved mentally, and something the speaker says will usually remind you of something else that you could do, or spark a completely different idea you could use. Actively listen and you will learn.” And he was right. I have never attended another dinner meeting without leaving with a few useful ideas or a few meaningful contacts. And when I became a professional speaker myself, I used to tell my audiences “Listen intently, folks. Sometimes I inadvertently say something that makes sense.”
In the same way, resolve to get something out of the job you have, regardless of how uninteresting the job might seem on the surface. You may be surprised how the information and experience will come in useful in the future.
If you reframe this present job as a training program for whatever you would rather do, you will want to learn as much as possible, and get a “good mark” to add to your resume. It is also an opportunity to improve your social skills and emotional intelligence as well as any specific skills that will help you excel in the future job that you have in mind. Soft skills are becoming more and more valuable in any position in any company. What a great opportunity to practice empathy, trust, kindness, teamwork, and so on. If you can model a positive attitude and enthusiasm in a job you dislike, you will excel at any job. Who knows, you may even begin to enjoy what you are doing! In school, I used to love the subjects in which I excelled. And in business, those who excel usually get promoted to better jobs.
Don’t be in a hurry to change jobs. Look how long it takes to become a doctor, lawyer, or CEO of a Fortune 500 company. They didn’t step into those positions upon graduation from college. And I doubt whether all those part-time or full-time jobs on the way to success as a CEO were like picnics in the park either. Consider using your current job as a springboard to something much better. An opportunity to excel at something you love.
If you are going to improve your chances of securing that ideal job that you have in mind, you should know how learning takes place. It doesn’t happen through experience alone. In part 5, we will summarize what the researchers tell us about becoming a top performer in any field.
In the meantime, if you would like a copy of the 31-page report on which this series is based, How to love the job you hate, it is available for immediate download at our website for $4.95 CDN. Click here.