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5 Ways to know our Job is Sucking our Soul—& it’s time to Find a New One.

It happens to me at least twice a quarter.

The creative juices begin to slow down, the frustration builds up, and I start letting the doubt creep in. I compare my workload to others, how much I am paid, and the tasks I fill my days with. The questions begin to get louder.

Is it time to make a big life change? Should I look into moving to a new city? Is this actually having any impact on the world? Could my energy be better used elsewhere? What even is my dream job?

It turns out, I’m not the only one who has let the doubt creep in. According to Gallup, 51 percent of the United States workforce is not engaged and are actively searching for a new job. I would guess some of this searching is taking place on the clock, perpetuating the cycle of disengagement.

Over the past six years, my vocation has been in the nonprofit sector. This comes with wearing all the hats, small teams, and bootstrapping like we are running out of shoelaces.

There are five questions that help me when doubt creeps in. In the past they have provided me with the knowledge to dive deeper, the courage to ask for more, and the strength to walk away.

1. Are you learning?
If you are not learning, do something about it. Right now. Sign up for a webinar, listen to a podcast, take on a new project, or download an audible book.

Personal growth is one of the strongest ways we can feel fulfilled in our jobs. Find a topic that is exciting to you and relevant to your current position or a position you desire and dive in. Nerd out. Learning can be like a second cup of coffee for your creativity!

2. Do you have a relationship with your colleagues?
We spend the majority of our day at work. In a world of hyper-connectivity, with work emails and to-dos coming in at all hours, it is okay and oftentimes healthy to have an open, empathetic relationship with your colleagues.

Do you enjoy the company of your office? What about your manager? Do you feel heard?

If the answer is yes, that’s awesome. If it feels surface level, make the first move; invite someone to join you for an activity. This can be as simple as a walk outside. Salesforce found that employees who feel their voice is heard at work are 4.6 times more likely to feel empowered to perform their best work.

If your work space is a toxic environment, that is not okay. No excuses. Talk with others about how to change this around, or leave. Toxic workplaces, bosses, or colleagues kill the vision of satisfaction at work. This is a valid excuse to walk away.

Maybe you freelance and are on your own. If so, create a community of other freelancers that you can bounce ideas off of, or simply sit next to. Human connection and support is a vital piece of the puzzle.

3. Is your work benefitting society in some way?
This one is huge for my humanitarian heart. Does your work have a clear mission, and do you connect with the cause?

A business is capable of thriving beyond just making a profit. Missions and giveback models come in all colors, but every organization has the potential to use business as a force for good. According to a recent study by IBM, 80 percent of employees felt more engaged when their work was consistent with the core values and mission of their organization, and within the same vein, an Ultimate Software study reported that 85 percent of employees said they were likely to stay longer with an employer that showed a high level of social responsibility.

4. How do you feel about your income?
Money is one of the primary reasons we have a job. Talking money can be tough and is often the source of our frustration at work.

Consider these additional questions:
Do you desire to make more? Are you staying at a job that is killing you because you are making bank? How would you feel if you were to make less money, but had more fun? What about if your salary was greatly increased but you had to commit 25 percent more time? Have you asked for a bonus? Have you researched what other people at your level are making?

We have heard it time and time again, “money will not buy happiness.” In fact, 71 percent of employees would take a pay cut for their ideal job.

But money will buy a massage or a vacation, it will put a roof over our head and food on the table. If you truly are getting underpaid and putting in the work, this is a red flag.

Consider asking your employer to support you in other ways besides a raise, like a career development endeavor or something that improves your energy and health. These types of bonuses will stick with you for years to come.

5. Are you good at what you are doing?
When we are skilled at a task, it flows. Time can become irrelevant, and sh*t gets done. Employees who use their strengths, skills, and abilities every day are six times more likely to be engaged at work, 8 percent more productive, and 15 percent less likely to leave their jobs.

Think back to how you ended up at this position. Is your current day-to-day work in your skill set? Are there any aspects of the job that you would do if you were not getting paid? Are there talents you have that you are not using at your current position?

The final step we take when the doubt and frustration creep in is to make a gratitude list, fully focused around work. We can jot down what’s working, going well, and the wins we have had.

Being frustrated at work is normal and can often overpower thoughts of what is going well. Even the simple act of creating this gratitude list can change our perception.

When we are engaged, everyone wins. According to Business2Community, organizations with high employee engagement outperform those with low employee engagement by 202 percent!

Come back to these five questions often and remember you are capable and worthy of a career that lights you up and provides you with a stable income—all while benefitting your community.

author: Abby Stern

Image: The Office (2005-2013)

Image: Elephant Journal on Instagram

Editor: Kelsey Michal

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Kim Roberts Feb 19, 2019 8:19pm

The way we live our modern lives seems so out of balance..as if ‘getting a job” was the end purpose of life. Thanks for this practical look at an endemic problem.

Janice Dolk Feb 18, 2019 5:39pm

Abby, Thank you for this well-written and insightful piece. The points are excellent, succinct and can benefit so many people. Great job (sorry for the pun). Hope to read more of your work.

Katey Foor Feb 18, 2019 5:32pm

This article is amazing! Thank you!

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Abby Stern

Abby Stern lives in Aspen, Colorado where she is Director of Lead with Love, a social impact organization shifting culture from fear to love. Abby received a B.S. in Environmental Engineering and completed her first yoga teacher training in 2014, followed by a meditation training in 2016 that changed her work trajectory. She is an environmentalist at heart but believes we must learn how to first take care of ourselves before we can truly live in harmony with the planet. Community is an essential part of Abby’s life and she loves a good dinner party.