Are you working more and enjoying it less?

Do you read stories about other people’s jobs with a sinking heart? Do you get the feeling that the new economy is for someone else? Are you working too many hours, accumulating too much stress and doing work that doesn’t give you personal satisfaction? It’s time to take stock.

Far too many of us trudge off to work in the morning, ready to accept another day of a job that leaves us empty and wanting. We rationalize that it provides us with the material definition of success; we have a good lifestyle, enough money to enjoy a vacation or two each year and a nice place to live. The problem is we feel stuck and miserable.

The tape that plays in our heads says, "I can’t leave now, I have too many years invested," or "I finally reached three weeks of vacation. I can’t leave," or "I like my co-workers, so I’m willing to stay, even if I don’t like my job." While some reasons make good sense, others are rationalizations we chant like a personal mantra to block out that little voice, "You’re just too afraid of the unknown to leave," or "You’re stuck in a rut and too lazy to do anything about it."

It’s hard to live with that that little voice. Why not take a moment to either quiet it or act on it? Here are some questions to help:

§      Why did you take this job in the first place?

Examine what it was that seemed so interesting or promising. Do you still get satisfaction from the job itself, or have you outgrown it? Often, the first year or two on a job are new and challenging. We hit our stride in the third year but by the fourth or fifth year, it starts to become routine. Since people change jobs more frequently these days, that cycle may run its course in two years instead of five. If you don’t have anything new in your job to provide challenge, you are not going to perform at your best for long.

Most people who visit career counselors discover that they don’t need a drastic overhaul to rediscover their job satisfaction. Sometimes just a talk with their manager helps them to identify a new project, or results in a newly designed job responsibility that ignites the spark. But if the embers are dead, stirring them won’t help. It’s time to move on.

Business owners can find themselves in the same fix. In one case, a sole proprietor described himself as "burned out" and said he was ready to quit his career as a marketing consultant. He liked working with his clients, which was why he started his business in the first place. However, he hated the financial and administrative side of business ownership. He reasoned that he could make more money by doing it all and had delayed hiring someone to help him. When he finally outsourced some duties and hired a full-time assistant, he got his life back. He wonders why he waited so long, "The money I pay to have someone else do these things for me is nothing compared to the job satisfaction I have now."

§      Do you know what is out there?

We are creatures of habit and it makes us uncomfortable to be in new situations. Changing jobs means a huge upheaval in our daily routine. We must travel somewhere else, make new friends, live up to a new manager’s expectations and maybe even dress differently. Many people find this new scenario so unsettling they would rather stay in a boring or miserable job than face the prospect of changing jobs.

There is only one way to decide whether to stay or leave: go see what’s out there. Check out Internet job boards to take a confidential look at what is available. It’s easy to be a passive job hunter—you risk nothing. Apply for a few positions and go through some interviews. You’ll find out what you’re worth and what your choices are.

§      Are you seeking advice from people you trust?

The more you talk about it, the more things will happen. Fear and insecurity will begin to fade as you learn more about yourself and new opportunities. Be honest about what you are feeling and ask for their advice. Choose people other than family members, who are too subjective to be much help. The process of informational interviewing (talking with people to discover if there are opportunities that would be right for you) will illuminate the options you have.

If you do decide to stay on your current job, it will be a result of a decision, not indecision. Either way, you will feel more in control and that little voice will finally leave you in peace.

Joan Lloyd is a Milwaukee based executive coach and organizational & leadership development strategist. She is known for her ability to help leaders and their teams achieve measurable, lasting improvements. Joan Lloyd & Associates, specializes in leadership development, organizational change and teambuilding, providing: executive coaching, CEO coaching & leader team coaching, 360-degree feedback processes, retreat facilitation and presentation skill coaching and small group labs. Contact Joan Lloyd & Associates at (414) 573-1616,, or 
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