If there was a top 10 chart of common gripes, “I hate my job” would surely be number one. About half the UK workforce are unhappy in their current career, and workplace-based misery only increases across the pond.
Of course, nobody wants to be unhappy eight hours a day, five days a week. Disgruntled employees have two options: quit their job or learn to like it.
There’s plenty of happy-clappy advice out there about finding your passion and doing what you love 24/7. But for most people, paying the bills means doing things that are sometimes uninspiring, unenjoyable or even unpleasant. This advice is for them.
It won’t make you love data analysis, but it will make you feel happier while doing it.
Nothing exists in a vacuum. How you feel about your job will depend a great deal on how you feel in general. Luckily, the cheat sheet to feeling good is well-known: eat healthily, drink lots of water, get lots of sleep and exercise.
Nobody’s claiming that an apple a day will magically dissolve all of the life problems you may be facing. But with piles of research extolling the widespread benefits of healthy lifestyles, taking care of ourselves helps us become the best version of ourselves each and every day, including from nine to five.
Homo sapiens are the ultimate pack animal: our societies are built around our need to cluster together with other individuals. But at work we’re often discouraged from forming bonds with colleagues under the guise that such personal relationships are unprofessional.
This isn’t good for us. Work friendships boost our morale, up our productivity and make us feel happier. Suss out common ground with colleagues, clients and managers and use that to build rapport. Accept and offer lunch invitations. You don’t have to BFFs with everyone you work with, but if you enjoy being around them you’ll find workdays much more enjoyable.
No matter how talented you are, you cannot be a career superstar every single day. Accept that and forgive yourself for those days when you’re horribly unproductive or everything goes wrong. Having ups and downs does not make you bad at your job – it makes you human.
Similarly, know when to quit. The human brain is not designed to work continuously, so if you’re starting to feel sluggish, frustrated or mistake-prone, it’s probably a signal that you need to take a break. Get up from your desk, make a coffee, take a walk. Use the time to rest and reset and you’ll be able to go back into the project from a much stronger position.
Work takes up so much of our life that it’s easy for it become our life. But when we get too emotionally attached to our job it causes problems. People can become reluctant to allow someone to input on “their” project, or take being assigned another difficult client as a deliberate dig by their manager.
It’s hard to stop ourselves getting angry or upset when things don’t go our way, but the more you can emotionally detach from business decisions that negatively impact you, the happier you’ll be. Make an effort to let the little things go, and to combat big issues in a neutral and professional way.
It is important to learn from your mistakes, but it is disastrous to dwell on them. Unfortunately, our natural propensity is to focus on the negative – one study found that a setback at work negatively impacts us three times as much as making progress positively impacts us.
Staying positive can be hard, but one way to cultivate it is to keep a ‘gratitude diary’. Writing down just one accomplishment a day can make your general state of mind much happier. Another idea is to keep a physical to-do list with some easy tasks included. Seeing those crossed-out items at the end of the day proves to yourself that you’re making progress.
There is a saying, popular on Pinterest and cushion covers, that reads, “The only person you should try to be better than is the person you were yesterday.”
It’s good advice. Trying to always outdo your peers is both exhausting and, if you don’t succeed, depressing. Moreover, workplaces are built for collaboration, not competition. So stop worrying about how the people around you are performing and focus on developing your own strengths and bolstering your own weaknesses.
Be conscious of your own limits, and set goals based on your personal progress, rather than the career path of others. As long as you’re learning and growing each day, what other people are doing is irrelevant.
Still think you’re ready for a new job? A career coach can help! Browse our directory of career coaches and get a FREE consultation or request a personalized coach recommendation!
Beth Leslie writes graduate careers advice for Inspiring Interns, who specialize in matching candidates to their dream internship. Check out their graduate jobs" listings for roles.