If I had a top ten list of things I very much dislike, sitting with a group of people listening to them complain about their jobs would be on it. I’m not very good at hiding this particular displeasure, so I don’t last too long in these conversations. The last one I remember vividly. I was at a birthday party one of my son’s new classmates had invited him to. It was an indoor ninja warrior thing. We have four children so divvying up responsibilities is a survival skill in our home. On this fateful Saturday, it was me and my boy heading out to test our limits on questionably built indoor jungle gyms, slam some cake, and push through the small talk with other parents. What a joy.
My son is best friends with just about everyone he’s met in his five years on this planet so it didn’t take long before he was off and running with the bulls in the ball pit. I found myself standing awkwardly next to a group of four couples, each looking surprisingly dolled up for a Saturday birthday party. In my favorite sweat pants and not yet fully caffeinated I managed to shake a few hands and clarify that I was, in fact, not a single dad and that yes, we did have four children on purpose. Like every forced conversation amongst tired adults who don’t really know each other, eventually, everyone got around to sharing what they did for a living.
And then it started. First a small trickle and eventually a tsunami of malcontent. Adults in their 30’s and 40’s complaining about their jobs, their managers, their schedules, and more. As the migraine set in I did my best to hold my tongue. One of them, noticing my reticence to jump on the whine train, asked what I did for work. I responded, I help good businesses find great people, and good people find great opportunities. His reply? That must be rewarding work. Yes. Yes, most days it is.
As we come to the close of what was for most a pretty rough year, many are re-evaluating what they do for a living. A few will make the leap into something new, but most will go back into a job they hate the first week of January. Either they believe that there truly aren’t any better options or that work will always be miserable. Change the scenery, the product, the leadership, it doesn’t matter. They would always rather be doing something else. Like, not working.
I am not an advocate for the pursuit of a mystical dream job, some ethereal place where skill and passion intersect. Frankly, the people who typically peddle that nonsense usually have a trust fund, a tik tok, and a bad haircut. Some kind of backstop that allows them to live in a different world than the everyday Joe. Most folks are just trying to pay the bills and go on a decent vacation every couple of years.
I do, however, believe that if your job, the place where you spend most of your waking hours, is sucking the life out of you, then you should probably quit.
Responsibly and with an exit strategy preferably, but start the clock and get out of there. More often than not it isn’t the product we are building, the location of our office, or even compensation that make or break a job. It is the people. The people we work with and for. The people we serve on a daily basis. The people we lock arms with in our efforts to build something that matters. If you work with or for an asshole, then you should probably quit. Life is too short and the people who really suffer are your family members you come home to every night completely depleted. It’s not worth it.
If you’ve had several different stops in your career (say 3+) and you’ve always been miserable, unfortunately, my friend you are the common denominator.
A quick caveat. If you’ve had several different stops in your career (say 3+) and you’ve always been miserable, unfortunately, my friend you are the common denominator. You need to work on you. Go to therapy, find a good coach, or maybe just look in the mirror and tell yourself the truth. The formula is simple: be the type of employee and team member you would be excited to work with.
2020 was a doozy. Here’s to a New Year and new opportunities. Go get ‘em.