Your Job Is Not Your Life

A few days ago, I had a chat with a friend of mine who is struggling mightily with his job right now.

He took a high-paying job with a rather prestigious title at a well-known company. The biggest drawback of this job is that he carries around a company phone and receives calls on it at all hours of the night.

At first, this wasn’t a big deal for him. He actually only needs to be at the office a couple days a week. The rest of the time, he telecommutes or, on some days, he just deals with crises.

As time passed, though, he got married, then they had a child. This child is currently three months old.

The child wakes up multiple times during the night. Coupled with that are the calls that my friend gets from his job, often three or more per week in the middle of the night.

Simply put, he’s sleep deprived. He’s fallen pretty ill twice in the last month. He not only looks miserable, he is miserable. He’s drinking more than he ever has, mostly to take the edge off of the constant jumpiness in his life.

He’s growing to loathe the job he once loved. His life has changed while his job hasn’t, and the relationship isn’t harmonious any more.

What should he do?

I know this is a story that’s familiar to a lot of people. You have a great job on paper, but deep down inside, you hate that job. How do you get through it?

The solutions to the problem are different in the short term and in the long term. I’m going to suggest both short term and long term tactics for dealing with this type of situation.

(Yes, this is advice for a friend of mine, but it’s good general advice for anyone who might find themselves in a similar situation.)

Effective Short-Term Results
How can you make the pain of your job subside in the short term?

Figure out exactly what’s wrong. Why are you unhappy? Why are those things happening? Dig into the problem until you can figure out where the roots of your unhappiness really are.

Talk to your supervisor. If there are elements of your job that you are finding untenable, be completely up front about them with your supervisor. Explain what the core problem is and ask if you can find a solution.

For example, in the above picture, my friend might want to simply tell his supervisor that the constant nighttime calls are creating a disastrous home life.

Have a solid short-term fix in mind. Is there something simple that can be done to help with this situation? If you’ve evaluated what the problem really is, see if you can imagine some situation where the worst of that problem is resolved while causing minimal additional problems.

For example, my friend might suggest having someone who can take the “emergency” calls during some periods during the week. This person wouldn’t be the ultimate “go-to” guy most of the time. Instead, this person would serve to keep the edge off of my friend so he can get the basic rest he needs to function.

Lasting Long-Term Results
The solutions above can certainly take the edge off of a challenging situation, but they often don’t completely resolve the greater issue that led to the job discomfort to begin with. The real solution revolves around making sure you have a healthy exit plan.

Live on less than you earn. If you’re bringing home $50,000 a year, don’t spend $50,000 a year. Spend $30,000 or so and put the rest away for whatever might happen to you down the road – like a job turning sour. It’s never, ever too late to start doing this.

The easiest method for doing this is to automate it. Have your bank automatically take part of your paycheck and transfer it to a savings account so that it’s out of sight and out of mind. Let it build quietly in there and don’t think about it until the time comes. Eventually, that money will help you leave and transition on to the next step in your life when the job becomes untenable.

Have connections in your industry. Get as involved as you can with the business you’re in. Connect with people in your industry on Twitter and Facebook and LinkedIn. Go to conventions for the real purpose that conventions exist – building relationships.

These relationships will be there for you when you’re ready to move on to the next stage in your career. They’ll point out job opportunities to you. They might even feed job opportunities to you. This often happens whether you are actively looking or not – I know that I had several job offers that trickled in at my previous job.

Jump at every chance to do something that stands out. When there’s a chance to present – particularly to people outside your organization – do it. When there’s a chance to write something that people outside the organization will see, do it. Start a blog. Write a book. Do anything and everything you can to do exceptional things that will cause your name to stand out or, at the very least, provide some interesting resume fodder.

Not only are many of these things exceptional and intriguing, they also sharpen many of your transferable skills and demonstrate them directly to employers.

It is those “stand out” things that get your foot in the door with future jobs. When a job opens in a hot field, they’re often inundated with applications. The thing that stands out from the field are the exceptional steps that you’ve taken along the way. Everyone’s done a ho-hum job, and almost all of those resumes are thrown straight in the trash.

Your job is not your life. Your job is an exchange of your energy and time for your employer’s financial resources and other benefits, nothing more, nothing less. If that equation changes to the point where you feel like you’re giving far more than you’re receiving, you need to resolve the situation in both the short term and the long term.

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