How to Manage Employment Misery

Secretarial School c. 1930. Photo by Herbert. F. Cooper
Secretarial School c. 1930. Photo by Herbert. F. Cooper

Secretarial School c. 1930. Photo by Herbert. F. Cooper (Public Record Office of Northern Ireland) [No restrictions], via Wikimedia Commons

Yesterday I offered some ways of surviving unemployment, and after hearing about some of Toseland’s workplace issues this morning I wondered whether I might in fact, be the lucky one. No employment misery.  Of course, Toseland’s paid work is part-time and that never really helps, because part-timers are always unintentionally excluded simply because they aren’t there.  That isn’t to say that they aren’t intentionally excluded as well, but that is a whole other post.

The main difficulty for employed people is that if their boss is suitably engaged with their work, and notices that their engagement is reducing, they might find themselves on the list for the next round of redundancies.  Or if the boss gets some small hint that other opportunities are being explored…  And it has to be considered that many potential employers want references from current supervisors.

So I wondered what Jelle Hermus (see note below) and I could offer to those who are unhappily employed.

  1. You’re not the sum of what you do: we do other stuff besides work.  While you can’t focus on that other stuff as an unemployed person might, you can start weighing up your options.  What do you love and hate about your job?  What can you tolerate, and what do you have to change?  If you lived in an ideal universe, what would you do?  Can you start a side gig, or leverage an existing one?
  2. Being without a job doesn’t mean being without work: okay, so this one doesn’t really translate – you do stuff and you get paid for it.  But as above, you could still be doing stuff that makes you feel useful and valuable, even if it is on the side.
  3. Keep growing: you also need to develop yourself, but in many ways, it may be more important for you.  You are caught in employment limbo.  As above, you may be able to focus your attention on development through your side gig, but if you hope to move into a more interesting and satisfying position you should consider upgrading or learning new skills.
  4. Work towards more freedom: It’s still the income and capacity for choice that it important, not the job.  If your job is not satisfying you, change it!  It will be scary, and it might be difficult, but isn’t that better than dying a slow death in a job you hate?  You’ve already started thinking about what will make you happy, now you have the opportunity to make a concrete plan to bring about the changes you desire.
  5. Don’t get depressed: you are on the verge of changing your life for the better.  Do not let fear drive you away from what you want.  Take the first step, and then another.  Hold firm to your dream of a happier and more satisfying life.

So it seems Jelle translates fairly well, but what about me?

  1. Get out of bed, get showered and get moving: I really hope you are already doing this.  But on the assumption that you are going to actively start job hunting, now is the precise time to up the personal presentation ante.  You don’t want to be noticeably dressing well on random days as people will guess you are going to job interviews.  Upgrade your image with some new clothes and start polishing your shoes.  Aim for a look that screams modern thinker, go getter and makes things happen!  Start updating your LinkedIn profile (after disabling automatic updates) and cleaning up your Facebook and other social media feeds.
  2. Don’t sacrifice your fragrance, skin or hair care: Again, it is time to up the ante.  Get a new hair cut and maybe some colour.  Visit a department makeup counter and get some tips on freshening up your look.  But keep it real – you don’t want to look like someone else here, you just want to look like the best version of you.
  3. See people:  Be very discreet about who you tell about your search for a new position.  A quiet word here and there can help immensely, but the wrong person can make life difficult at your current employment, and potentially damage the future of a potential new position.
  4. Don’t save your work clothes for best: I’m putting this in the category of wearing your pyjamas to drop the kids at school.  You never know who you are going to run into, or who is watching.  Always dress your best.
  5. Use this time to reconnect with your loved ones: a few weeks ago I wrote a series of self-care emails for one of my favourite not for profits.  And one of them suggested that when you are activated during an emergency situation it’s important to remind your family that while you love them, right now you are focussed on the wellbeing of others.  It’s a sentiment that works for this time as well.  Let your family know you are facing a time of change, and may not be as available as you would like – you know how much detail that you can share with them.  I’d also suggest trying to save a period of time to devote just to them, even if it is only a couple of hours a week.

So that’s my thoughts on unhappy employment.  Don’t think for a moment that the irony of the long term unemployed advising the employed is lost on me.  If you are in this situation, please do something about it.  Do not waste another moment being too scared to change jobs – the devil you know is not always better than the devil you don’t.

It’s been a while since I was unhappily employed, does my logic follow?  I’m a bit out of touch – is there anything else you think should be on the list?

NOTE: Jelle has made some changes to his website, and the post I originally linked to isn’t there anymore. The site’s still worth looking at though.

13th February 2015

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