5 Tips to Finding a Job that Won’t Give You Sunday Blues

How you can actually find a job you like or even love

Photo: Pavan K Gireesh/Unsplash

Careers. Sigh.

We all have big dreams of skipping to work, getting so lost in our work that we spend hours indulging ourselves to realise that we’ve worked way past our dinner and adding so much value we could burst.

When you are building up to entering the work of world the anticipation is exciting. It’s a thrill to be building the foundations to your working life that will one day mean that you will be living the life you’ve always dreamt of.

But we all know the realities of work can be much different to what we dreamed of as our younger selves. However, seeing as I’ve dipped from being a lost puppy to now finding my feet I thought I share some of my lessons.

What happened to me

Rewind 2 years ago and most mornings I would get up and have the same thoughts. They were largely negative thoughts and largely unfounded. Worry, stress, confusion about life were the thoughts that filled my head and occupied my brain for the best part of the day. I would often spend entire days thinking that I’d failed in life because I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with my time. I didn’t know if what I was doing was the right thing, the wrong thing or the in-between thing. I just had no clue.

On reflection, it’s not a surprising feeling when leaving University and entering the world of work that you can feel slightly lost. It’s nice to talk about it now but at the time it was not so nice. I would spend weekends endlessly Googling ‘how to find a job you love?’ ‘how do I add value?’ ‘how do I find my passion?’ Time and time again I’d be met with surface advice that felt like nobody understand the deep pain of unfulfillment I was feeling.

Some astounding facts released from Allaboutcareers.com found that in a sample of over 37,000 undergraduates and 1500 school and college students 52% of school students agreed or strongly agreed with the statement, “I have no idea what I want to do with my career”. It’s not a surprise that we feel pretty stressed about careers, it turns out the majority of us have no idea what we want to do. On top of that, it turns out that according to a Gallup Poll, 85% of people don’t like their jobs. So not only do we not know what we want to do, when we do decide we get it wrong anyway.

1. Have no expectations for 2 years

“What you stay focused on will grow.” ― Roy T. Bennett

A few years back, mid-panic, I read something that said: “what if you just focused on what you were doing for the next two years?” At the time I was constantly obsessing over what I doing with my life, questioning whether I was on track, whether this career was right for me, if what I was doing now was helping me become the person I wanted to be.

You know, all the stuff we all think but never say. Well, I was saying and thinking it all. And then I came across this idea of just not thinking. What if you didn’t obsess?

What if you took away the need to obsess about everything on a daily basis? Just completely struck it off your to-do list. Well, then you’d have much more time to think about the doing. So, at the end of my tether, having tried every trick in the book, I decided to try this.

It took some time and some persistence. But eventually, I trained myself to ask less looming questions like ‘is this what you want to spend your life doing?’ and more practical questions like ‘did you enjoy your day today?’

The shift from the huge, hard to answer questions, to practical and answerable questions, was the first step in becoming happier with where I was.

2. Spend time getting to know who you actually are

“Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.” — Aristotle

We all have great expectations of who we are and who we want to be. If you’re anything like me you’d spend hours envisioning living your dream life where you go to work and do what you love. Where you have conversations that light you up and make you feel on top of the world.

Where you come home after a long day and feel like today you made a dent in the world. Today you spend the day exactly how the world intended you too, working on the things you are good at and can make a difference in.

You then knock yourself out of your daydream and contrast that thought to your current life. Where you might reluctantly drag yourself to work to endure a day of restlessness and daydreaming. This life somehow feels completely at odds with the dream life you are destined to live if you could only figure out the way to get there.

But notice that story never tells tales of how you actually spent your day. What you were doing between the hours of 7 am — 7 pm. Instead, we choose to talk in more unspecified terms. Words like ‘working on my passion’ or ‘adding value’ fill your vocabulary until you realise that those terms could be applied to any job, anywhere. In order to fill in the gaps and figure out what you want to do, you need to look at yourself. You need to understand who you are and what you want. And that always starts with asking some questions.

  • What makes you feel on top of the world?
  • What’s the best day you’ve ever had?
  • What were you doing on that best day?
  • What made it so good?
  • What makes a terrible day?
  • What do you spend your time doing on a terrible day?
  • Do you love working with people?
  • Do you love working with animals?
  • Do you enjoy solving problems?
  • Do you enjoy working with data?
  • What’s the best day you can think of at work?
  • Was it spend with people, working on a project, working with data?

All these questions are a good place to start. They won’t give you the answers but they might give you somewhere to look next. Most likely, you won’t be able to answer all those questions — I know I couldn’t. I couldn’t remember the best day. I liked working with people and animals. My best day ever was spent not at work. But what that did tell me is I needed to go back to the drawing board. I needed to go and collect some more in-depth research about myself that would help me answer those questions.

I spent months then, going to work and asking myself on the way home what I liked and what I didn’t like. Being more in the moment helped me understand truly what I liked and what I didn’t, not just what I thought in retrospect.

Get answers by asking questions of yourself. By doing that you start to unpick who you actually are and what you want.

3. Pick up the ladder, place it firmly on the ground and leave it there for now

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” — Mark Twain

When you’ve got the constant pressure to climb you stop exploring and start doing what you think you should do. So instead of following that thing that genuinely sparks your interest, you think things like:

  • I need to get a job where I can manage to prove I’ve got managerial skills
  • I need to speak to that senior person to make a good impression
  • Maybe I take that job because it’s highly respected in the company

So personal interest and what you are naturally gifted at goes out the window. Instead, you find yourself doing things because you think you should rather than because you are genuinely interested in that. True, there will always be roles that are highly regarded. There will always be people looking for proof of your managerial capabilities and becoming friendly with seniors is obviously a smart move.

But there is an alternative.

Instead of taking the job because it allows you to manage a team, think about whether you will actually like doing that job. The reality is, if you do something you love, you’ll be good at it. If you’re good at it, you’ll naturally start to teach people. You’ll naturally start to fall into the position of leading people because you are good at what you do and people look up to you.

Instead of putting pressure on yourself to make a good impression to the seniors of the business, just be yourself. They are people and you are a person. You are on a level playing field there. Take away the pressure and work on being a nice person to everyone in the business.

Take the job that you respect. Take the job that you find genuinely interesting and that you could do a good job of. It doesn’t matter what everyone thinks, what do you think?

4. Focus on right now, right here

“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.” — Steve Jobs

Focus on today. Focus on doing a great job today. Moving the dial for the day. Having a better day today than you did yesterday.

It sounds like the oldest advice in the book and it probably is. Time spent thinking, wondering, dreaming about the future isn’t time spent in the now. What then happens is that you live life forever thinking about what’s to come and spend no time experiencing what is here.

It means you actually forget to notice the beauty of the world around you. It means miss out figuring out who you are, how you actually behave and what you actually want. You spend all your time thinking about who you could be rather than exploring who you actually are.

Spend more time than you ever have in concentrating on the day. Be present in the meetings, conversations and phone calls. Make time to ask how people are and be mindful of how you are and what you feel. That way you will learn more about yourself than you ever have. You’ll notice what makes you tick, what triggers your frustration and what lights you up.

Once you focus on the here and now, the future starts to unfold itself.

5. Look after your mind and body they are the only ones you’ve got

“I have come to believe that caring for myself is not self indulgent. Caring for myself is an act of survival.” — Audre Lorde

When I first started work I was a total mess. I would only ever eat beige food, feel so tired I would fall asleep at the wheel and spend all my time consuming endless amounts of social media. I was unhealthy and probably quite unhappy.

To increase the likelihood of finding a job you love, you need to look after yourself. If you aren’t on your A-game you’re going to do little in the way of finding what you want to do with your life. For the first 6 months of work, I spent all my time just getting used to the expectations and pressures of the world of work. And I think that’s pretty normal.

But you need to maintain self-care, in fact, it needs to be an absolute priority if you’re going to find a job you enjoy. More often than not we feel down or disheartened because of an absence of self-care. You might feel like the world is ending at 1 pm because you’re job isn’t what you want it to be and you can never figure out what you want to do with your life. A sandwich or two later you can feel back to normal again. It’s quite surprising what good a good meal and some water can do.

You must look after yourself, it is an act of survival as Audre Lorde says. When in doubt remember:

  • To eat before any big decisions, we’re always happier after a good meal.
  • To get a good nights sleep, there is little a good amount of rest can’t fix.
  • Drink water through the day to feel awake and energised.
  • Be mindful, spend time thinking about your world and your thoughts.
  • Look after your body, stretch, bathe, rest.
  • Create and flex your mind, explore your thoughts through creativity.

Look after yourself first, the rest will fall into place.

Final thoughts

Finding what you want to do in this world is important. It’s also a tall order. It’s not something you will find by thinking, it’s something you find by doing. Trust me, I’ve been there. 6 or 7 jobs later I felt like I still couldn’t figure out what I wanted to do and I’d all but lost hope. Yet a few years of hard work, careful deliberation and self-care and I’ve now found a job I really enjoy.

If I can, you certainly can.

Be patient, trust your gut and don’t overwhelm yourself. Spend time learning about yourself and figuring out what lights you up. It’s not time wasted, it’s the opposite, it’s the best way you can spend your time.

Don’t worry about the future, try and stay present in the here and now. Before long you’ll be learning more about yourself than you ever thought was possible and you’ll be on your path to finding a job you love.

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340k+ views. Science-led self-help. BSc Biomedical Science, studying MSc Behavioural Science.

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