If you complain about your job, drive slow on your way to work or have to give yourself a pep talk before you walk into the office, Dr. Melissa Luke, an author, professor, professional speaker and career performance expert says most likely you’re the problem, not the company.
Studies show that at least 80 percent of employees hate their jobs. That cancerous attitude can ultimately flow to other employees and sometimes the customers or clients they serve. This angst can also bleed into people’s personal lives.
“If people are really operating at such low levels, it’s basically causing mediocrity. People who are unhappy at work, you need to leave,” said Luke.
Companies aren’t totally off the hook. Employers do have a small obligation to employees, however, people can still make a choice to stay and work for the company or leave.
Although it’s a simple concept, Luke understands that one quitting their job is easier said than done. She said the driving (an inevitable) emotion that occurs is fear followed by contemplating the “what ifs.”
“Will this work?” “I have a family to support.” “There are no jobs out there.” “What if quitting turns out to be a mistake.” “I don’t know how to do anything else.” Luke says fear is a natural emotion, however she ultimately believes that changing one’s mindset about their profession can have a momentous impact on people’s happiness and how they contribute professionally to society.
“If you focus on a career or something that makes you happy – even if you don’t know what that career is called – if you focus on what it would feel like to happily go to work you’re going to start to build your brain to accept this concept,” said Luke.
Sandy Cropper, senior consultant at Human Capital Consulting located in Fishers, Ind., said what Luke proposes is not at all far fetched. She said the key to understanding these concepts is to not run away from what you don’t want, but to run toward what you do want.
“You’re defining what is it you want out of work. You can figure out what’s not working and what you value,” said Cropper. “This isn’t just your work self but your whole self.”
Both Luke and Cropper aren’t just paying lip service to the “quit your job, do what you love” concept. They’ve done it.
Luke said that although she’s in her early 40s, she’s changed careers at least five times. Each time, they’ve been drastic changes and she didn’t have to obtain additional education.
“I read about it,” Luke said. “It’s not going to happen immediately, but it should make you happy to know a change is going to occur.”
Cropper took a career life planning course, realized she enjoyed helping people reach their potential and went on to become an instructor of that very course. She then worked for The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis as a training manager then transitioned into career consulting.
Neither Luke nor Cropper believe people should quit their job immediately without a plan. What they are advocates of is daring to do something different and making purposeful steps to reach that goal.
“The process of starting to think differently can start in five minutes. Imagine what would being happy at work look like and build upon that. Give yourself a deadline. It shouldn’t take 14 years to get into a different career. It should take a couple of months,” said Luke.
She went on to say that when making the decision to leave one’s job, one must realize just how unhappy they are. Those who are slightly unsatisfied may not need to quit their job, but possibly move around within the company, relocate, decrease responsibilities or look to fulfilling other life goals, which may make them happier in their current position.
Those who are truly unhappy should look at their salary and realize exactly what they’re giving up. They should also realize who the change will affect – your family or yourself.
The next step is to discover true skill sets in order to apply them to a successful career.
Cropper said there are many tools available to identify strengths and suggest people visit MasteryWorks.com, which has a five-step model. People can also get help from a life coach like Cropper, take a career development course or read books.
Luke wrote a book titled Life in the World of YOMO where readers create an avatar, or virtual character, that shows them the possibilities of a professionally fulfilling life using their real life strengths and qualities.
Happiness hunters should do research on the industry they wish to enter. What are new trends? Will you offer a new or a better service? What resources do you need to compete and/or exceed competitors? What’s the pay range?
Happiness seekers can also do an internship so they can get a good understanding of what the job truly entails. Luke said older adults shouldn’t shy away from internships or think they are just for college students.
While some job changes may require some education, Luke also said people shouldn’t let degrees and certificates hinder their goal.
“Corporate America is causing inflation in college degrees. People are being forced into the university level because they think they need a degree. Corporations are asking for degrees that aren’t needed. I’m asking corporations to stop doing this. If they were wiser, they’d look at credentials, experience, personality and passion,” added Luke.
Having candid conversations with people in the industry you’re interested in is also beneficial. Cropper said many jobs are filled based on informal meetings and encourage people to pound the pavement meeting and networking with others.
Luke also encourages people to think big, no matter their age, and even if their dream job seems unrealistic, they should still try.
“I really think people should be unrealistic in their goals. Once they get in there and find ‘I cannot do this job because I do not have the ability to do this’ at least you tried and you know what the learning lesson is,” said Luke who turned her childhood passion for racecar driving into a weekend hobby.
For those who ultimately decide to take a leap of faith and quit their job to pursue career happiness, Luke strongly suggests they at least give a two-week notice to their current employer.