When Work Doesn’t Work…

Written by: Grace Owen
Published on: 16 Apr 2014

Do you feel that work isn’t working for you at this stage of your career?

Time and experience have shown me that work works best when it is ‘you-shaped’. Where there is a ‘misfit’ and you are trying to fit into someone else’s work shape (like forcing a square peg into a round hole), you are likely to end up being dissatisfied, unhappy, bored, frustrated, stressed and even angry. We are not square pegs or round holes and were never meant to be.

Thomas Aquinas said “There can be no joy in living without joy in work.” So, when who you are, what you do and who you work for fits with your values, beliefs, personality, talents, passions, skills, interests and energy, you’ll be joyful, motivated and fulfilled at work and home. I believe there has never been a better time to do work that is ‘you-shaped’ and enjoy it!

It has taken me many years to build and sustain work around who I am, the life I want to live and do what I love both in my corporate career and through the last ten years of running a successful business. In this article I share C.A.R.E.E.R tips to increase your satisfaction in your work and seek out opportunities for change or development.


C is for clarity – Where do you want to go next in your career?


Being clear about what the future might hold for your career requires energy, discipline, patience and curiosity…. it is hard graft…but in the long term is worth the effort!


Action: Look back over your entire working life; identify the highlights and low points. What do they reveal about what is really important to you? Think about what kind of experiences, talents, skills or interests you want to take with you on the next stage of your career journey and the values that matter most.


All of these factors will give you the confidence, drive and motivation to take control of where you are going, steer a course to the future and realise your work-life dreams.


A is for attitude – is your glass half full or half empty?


How you feel about your career and working life can lead you to feeling powerless or powerful. Whether you are employed or self employed the first impression you make is the most important of all because it only takes a few seconds but lasts for months, even years.


Action: Become more self aware. What kind of attitude do you convey on a typical working day? What are you thinking about, saying or doing that creates a negative attitude? If you are not sure ask 4 people, who will be challenging and supportive, for feedback. Then identify what one action you can take to think and behave in a more upbeat and welcoming manner.

A positive attitude makes all the difference at interviews and pitches for business. In a labour market where there is an abundance of talented people, employers and clients are spoilt for choice, so your disposition will go a long way to determine if you are hired or fired!


R is for relationships – what kind of network do you have?

If it is full of people who are like minded, but also complement you, and that you enjoy spending time with, great! However, if there are people who sap your energy or that you want to avoid, there is pruning to be done! Your network, personal and professional, is a valuable source of expertise and advice, so it is vital that the people you need are in place.


Action: Review your address book, mobile phone directory, email contacts, Facebook friends, Linked In connections and Twitter followers. Identify an ‘inner circle’ of 12 people you want to contact regularly and make time to see and support them. With others the odd email, coffee or evening catch up will suffice.


Harnessing your network to find out about job vacancies or create strategic business alliances are examples of the benefits it can bring. Some people will come in, others will be there just for a season of your working life, others you will seek out and some will be with you for life.


E is for equipped – Are you investing in your own learning and development?


Your talents, knowledge, skills and experience are priceless. Utilising, growing and updating these assets are essential in demonstrating your ability to deliver outcomes to a high standard of quality. Who you are and how you perform determines your track record and reputation.


Action: Create a self development plan for the next 12 months based on things that you want to improve; remember to play to your strengths (rather than trying to correct your weaknesses). Doing this is how you add value, give your best and it will get you noticed.


Developing yourself isn’t all about going on courses. You can learn by listening to those with proven experience, reading, joining online webinars, networking and Youtube, on the job, through mentoring, conferences and coaching.


E is for excellence – What does excellence in your work mean to you?


When you make the most of your career other people see you as a role model and want to hear about the successes and pitfalls along the way. Being visible and sharing your story to an individual or group inspires others to be courageous and confident to take calculated risks. Ultimately you can influence people to change and fulfil their potential by being your best self.


Action: Set your standards of excellence by being authentic and completing each of the C.A.R.E.E.R tips. In your heart you know if you’re operating below or above par. If you are content to stay in your comfort zone, watch out because the bar will be raised whether you want it to or not, so be proactive and step up.


We all have the capacity to be more and do more; I believe that our potential is unlimited. Remember that as the world changes the strategies that bring you success today may not necessarily work tomorrow.


R is for reflection – Are you taking care of yourself?


If you’re feeling irritable, fed up or burnt out it is time to get real and set your priorities straight. You have one life and none of us knows what tomorrow will bring so enjoy all aspects of your life each and every day.


Action: Pause and take time to check out your spiritual, mental, emotional, physical and financial wellbeing. If your work and life is out of balance identify just one key action that will redress this. For example, if you’ve been working too hard, then organise a night out. Keep taking small steps and the changes you make will spur you on.


Self care is not selfish but a necessity in a world that demands our attention and time 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and 365 days a year. Guard your time and enjoy the present moments.


Now that you have read this article, what are you committed to changing over the coming months? The first step is often the hardest to take, so consider carefully what you are and aren’t going to do. In this way you will start off well and keep the momentum going until 31st December. My hope is that these C.A.R.E.E.R tips will bring the boost to your career that you desire in 2014!


About the author

Grace Owen develops leaders for greater impact and specialises in career transition. Her book The Career Itch – 4 Steps for Taking Control of What You Do Next, £9.99 is available from Amazon and leading retailers. www.grace-owen.com