career

'I spent years in a job I hated. Here's how I finally got the courage to quit.'

Being unhappy at work can be like a toxin that creeps into everything you do. It can taint your attitude towards life, suck your motivation and infect your relationships. I know this because it happened to me.

For over seven years I worked as a project manager at a software company. From the outside looking in, I appeared successful, but on the inside, I felt unfulfilled. Every day I would just go through the motions. I felt lost and stuck. Eventually, this led to me feeling depressed.

During these years I could never shake that "there's got to be more to life than this?" feeling, but when I analysed my issues, quitting never made sense. The pay was good, I had a great manager, and I excelled at what I did. If I searched for a new job - I never found something that felt suitable.

While you're here, watch the Mamamia team confess their most cringeworthy job interview stories. Story continues after video.


Video via Mamamia.

I always tried to be proactive and make things better both within my job and outside of it. I asked for different responsibilities, studied various things, volunteered, tried different hobbies, took a sabbatical, and started a family. These things may have improved the way I felt for a short period of time, but life always returned to feeling mundane.

What I didn't realise at the time was, I was missing a sense of meaning in my work. Nothing in my role felt rewarding or fulfilling. We all find meaning in different ways, but in essence, we need to have activities in our day that feel purposeful and worthwhile.

Meaning is a key ingredient in life satisfaction and our feelings of well-being. Research has found that meaning can improve both our mental and physical health. Now is a fantastic time to search for more meaning in our careers. Many of us are not satisfied with our jobs and with low unemployment rates, there are opportunities out there to test new waters.

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I eventually stumbled into a new career full of personal meaning that transformed my life from feeling boring and directionless into one that feels exciting and purposeful. After wasting years because my work-life held little meaning for me – these are the things I wish I had known.

1. One out of five days of your work must feel meaningful.

A study found that workers spending less than 20 per cent of their work week on activities that were meaningful to them had an increased chance of burnout and lower job satisfaction.

The great news is there are many ways we can find meaning in our work. It could be from the activities on our job description, unofficial mentoring, the relationships we cultivate, or the activities we can do because of the financial freedom our jobs provide. The key is to have the right balance of activities in our life that feel rewarding and worthwhile.

2. When there is nowhere left to go - you must leave.

Depending on our jobs and the size of our company many of us will have some opportunities to fine-tune our roles or explore other easier options. If you are lucky enough to be in this position - take full advantage of it. But don't kid yourself. 

Always consider whether an opportunity may realistically bring you more meaning. It is easy to fall into the trap of easier options and avoid facing the fears that can come with larger changes. Change isn't easy but finding meaning in your work-life is essential.

3. Don't wish your life away.

Many of us wish for Friday. Or, are hanging out for our next holiday. I know I was - for years. However, this means we are wishing our lives away. Don't fall into the trap of waiting to be happy. Our goal should be to find fulfillment and reward in the here and now.

Annie is passionate about supporting people to insert missing ingredients into their lives, such as meaning, purpose and happiness (as easily and effectively as possible). If you are interested in exploring what you need right now to feel successful, happy and fulfilled check out her  FREE 5-day course.

Feature Image: Supplied.

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