How's Your Relationship With Your Job?

Ekingwrites

Have you found your dough-mate, or is it time to break up?

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So you thought you found the one.

You were in for the long haul, but now you're not so sure.

The things you loved about them are wearing thin. The fit you thought was so right is starting to feel a bit wrong.

All the things that made you look forward to being together are losing their appeal. But doesn't that happen in all relationships?

Suddenly the walls are too close, or maybe there aren't any walls, and you wish there were.

Maybe there are too many people sticking their noses into your business.

Or maybe there's just some low-level dissatisfaction you can't quite put your finger on.

So how do you know when it's time to leave?

How do you know when you've fallen out of love - with your job.

Because you might not realize this, but your job is a relationship.

You commit to it, you're expected to be faithful, and how it treats you affects your happiness.

So when it's good, you feel great.

When you love your job, it feels natural.

You can't wait to get at it.

Everything feels mutual and healthy.

Here are some signs of a healthy relationship.

  • You have shared values and goals
  • There is mutual trust
  • Your individuality is respected and encouraged
  • You spend quality time together and apart
  • Inspires personal growth and change
  • Your needs are respected, and you feel safe communicating them
  • You can respectfully disagree on your differences
  • The expectations you have of each other is realistic
  • Both parties bring something to the table and contribute to the relationship
  • Personal time outside the relationship is respected and honored

It's pretty easy to know when things are good.

The signs are there.

But what about when you've hit a rough patch?

When you've given it your all, and it still isn't working. When you've lost the feeling or never had it in the first place?

When is it time to break up?

At what point is it not just a rough patch?

When is it really time to move on?

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First, a story

When my daughter was born, we moved from the big city back to my hometown.

It was quieter, cheaper, and safer. So it made sense to raise our family there.

However, there weren't the kind of people I typically had as clients in the small city where I grew up.

I was a personal chef, so it wasn't something I could do remotely.

I had to go to my clients, so I had to travel if I wanted to work, and my commute was an hour and a half each way - on a good day.

So I began looking for work closer to home.

I tried a bunch of different things, but none of them panned out:

I tried:

  • Network marketing gigs: I bought those things. Why not sell them?
  • Cooking lessons: I cooked for a living for ten years, so why not share my knowledge?
  • Food delivery: Like personal chef but in bulk.
  • Service industry: Waitressing was a good way to make cash in hand.
  • Medical Transcriptionist: I started courses just when the software that would replace the job was just coming out.

I gave all of those a fair shake, even pursuing some of them long after I should have stopped.

I actually lost money on some because I was determined to keep working at it against my better judgment.

I hadn't found a reliable way to tell if something was working. I was too caught up in making it work.

And because I couldn't tell if it was time to walk away, I kept going with most of these when I should have quit.

Then I opened my daycare, and everything changed.

It was right, and I just knew it.

It felt right, and my success was instant.

I filled up immediately and haven't looked back.

Even after open-heart surgery that kept me closed for months, I effortlessly filled up again when I re-opened.

I wish I'd started sooner. If I'd just been able to break up with those other jobs earlier, I'd have found my dough-mate a heck of a lot quicker.

How many times have you stayed with the wrong job only to look back later and realize all of the signs were there telling you it was time to move on?

If you've done that, statistics say you're not alone:

  • 53% of Americans are currently unhappy at work

Among 1,001 Canadians and 1,000 Americans surveyed:

  • 37% said they were either actively or casually looking for a new job
  • 36% say they'd consider a new position if recruited

And it's not just a North American problem:

  • 15% of the world's one billion full-time workers say they care about their jobs
  • 85% of people on the planet are unhappy at work.

No wonder a lot of us have a wandering eye when it comes to employment.

We're just waiting for a reason to pack it in.

So if you think you might be one of the 55%, wondering if it's all over or if you should stick it out and see if things get better, here are a few things I wish I'd noticed when I was in the same position.

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Here are some signs that it might be time to divorce your day job:

It feels hard.

If what you're doing feels hard, it probably isn't working.

I spent years trying to sell the products I loved - cooking and natural cleaning products.

It should have been easy since I was passionate about both, right?

It wasn't.

Eventually, I realized that the sales model wasn't for me. I was never comfortable with network marketing, no matter how hard I tried.

I'm socially awkward at best, and I've never been "salesy."

Other people made it look easy, but for me, it was like pulling teeth.

Oh, and did I mention I hate groups?

Organizations, associations, clubs, gatherings, assemblies, crowds - I hate them all.

I hate being in them. I hate being around them. I've had an aversion to these things my whole life. I never feel comfortable being part of anything, even if I've been welcomed into it.

I'm a consumate loner.

I made myself join my daughter's school PTA as a personal challenge - the meetings made my skin crawl.

Some of the sales meetings were called "parties," but they didn't feel like it for me. I wasn't comfortable selling to people in that way.

So even though the products should have made it easy, the method made it difficult.

The moral of this story is - If you can't make yourself love what you're doing, even though in theory you should, it's probably not a good fit.

You dread going in.

Things you may have loved at one time can lose their charm.

When I was young, I enjoyed bartending. It was exciting. To be out until all hours of the night with young people ready to party.

But as I got older, the appeal wore off.

At the age of 43, I found myself a server again in a high-end hotel.

Sure, the money was great, and the hotel was impressive, but I didn't enjoy the work anymore. I had a small daughter whose toddler years were slipping through my fingers with every night shift on the schedule.

Most nights, I dreaded going to work. I wanted to be home with my family.

There was nothing wrong with the job. I just didn't really want to be there.

I stayed longer than I should have because the money was good and I liked the people.

But I couldn't really enjoy my daughter because I was so tired during the day, and I was sad that I had to say goodnight to her over the phone most nights.

I stuck it out because there wasn't anything really pushing me to quit until they hired a manager who was a jerk and made my life miserable.

In reality, I should have quit and started my daycare when I started feeling unhappy.

If you dread going to work for no real reason or just have a low-level dissatisfaction, that's a sign that it may not work for you anymore.

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You're not 100% invested, and it shows.

If it feels hard to convince people your product is amazing, maybe you're not really that convinced yourself.

Whatever you're selling, whether it is a product or service, you need to really buy in if you're going to do it well.

If you're not 100% invested, it'll be hard to convince others to get on board - if you're not excited, nobody else will be.

If you're not invested in your job for whatever reason, chances are you're not fired up enough to make it worth your while.

You might stay because you think you'll discover the magic formula eventually.

But, sometimes, your attitude is the real magic, and you can't make it if you can't even fake it.

You feel physical resistance.

If you feel a physical pull away from your workplace, your subconscious is telling you something.

If you feel dragged back when you're getting in the car or walking out of the house in the morning, something's off.

This can even happen when you work from home.

If you avoid sitting down at your computer because you just can't face getting stuck in, there's probably a reason.

Does your stomach hurt, or you get a headache when you walk in or start?

Maybe there is a toxic person in your workplace who makes you physically react.

There could be an underlying emotional feeling the whole office gives off or even a problem with the building you don't know about but physically pick up on.

No matter what it is, your body is probably giving you clues.

Body Language:

  • Is how we communicate nonverbally
  • Communicates what we can't or won't say
  • Indicates how we're really feeling
  • May account for between 60 to 65% of all communication
  • Is a subconscious way we judge people's intelligence based on faces and expressions

It's a pretty important part of how we communicate, so why not listen to it?

These are the nine types of nonverbal communication:

With so many different ways to express yourself, you're sure to find some clues if you pay attention.

If you see a lot of this body language at work, take note:

  • Crossed arms can mean people feel the need to protect themselves.
  • Standing with your hands on your hips can signal aggressiveness.
  • Clasped hands behind the back can indicate someone is bored, anxious, or angry.
  • Fidgeting or tapping fingers can show boredom, impatience, or frustration.
  • Hunching forward and keeping the arms and legs crossed is called closed posture. It can indicate hostility, anxiety, or aloofness.

Of course, you might do these occasionally if you're having a bad day.

But if everyone is always like this where you work, or if you find you automatically snap into these postures, that's probably not good.

Everyone is making more money than you.

If everyone seems to be making easy money and you're struggling just to get by, that might be a clue.

Your attitude is probably affecting your bottom line, even if you don't know it.

I remember working with a girl at a hotel, she was a server, but she was only there until her "real job" kicked in. She constantly complained about the restaurant and the customers. She griped about the tips being terrible.

But they weren't terrible for the rest of us.

The rest of us liked the place well enough and made the best of it.

Our customers picked up on this and had a better experience because of it.

Their better experience translated to more money in our pockets at the end of the night.

She was so bitter and thought it was a crap job - it wasn't.

She had zero enthusiasm, and it showed. She didn't bother giving excellent service because she felt the job was beneath her.

People don't tip servers who don't make them feel special and taken care of.

You won't work as hard at something you don't like, so the money won't roll in.

If you take it out on your customers, your income will suffer.

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You've been doing something for a while, and you're not improving.

If you've been sticking with something for a while and not getting any better at it, that can't be good.

Your job is like anything else. Practice should build skill, and experience should build expertise.

If you're not improving at your job, it could be you're not plugged in enough to make your time translate into knowledge.

If you're just killing time, you won't want to pay enough attention to build your skills and experience.

Nobody gets better at anything by apathetically going through the motions. The first thing you need to get good at anything is motivation.

If you're lacking that crucial ingredient, your success souffle will probably flop.

Sometimes we stay in jobs because we think we should or because it's "what we do." Maybe it's a family business or something your parents forced you into.

If that's the case, you might function at the barest acceptable minimum to get by.

Wouldn't you rather be doing something you're so passionate about that you become an expert in your field—someone who's proud of what they do, who wants to share their gifts with the world?

These are all signs that you and your job might be on a slow train to splitsville - even though you might not hate it, you actually might not like it.

This is the part where I'm supposed to say something inspirational and totally impractical, like go out tomorrow and find something you love and do that.

You know...if you find your passion, the money will follow and all that. But generally, that's totally out of the question. We don't all have trust funds or rich spouses.

But you could try putting some feelers out.

One of the waitressing jobs I had before the daycare was so bad, I actually phoned my husband in the middle of a shift. I begged him to let me quit, he was heartbroken, but we'd both just lost our jobs and had to take terrible interim gigs. He said he'd give anything to say yes, but that job was the difference between keeping and losing our house.

So I stayed.

But every night when I went home, I got on Indeed and scoured the serving jobs just waiting for something in the high-end tourist town close by to open up.

Eventually, that opening happened, I applied and got hired.

That job wasn't my dream job either, but it was 1000% better than the other one and it got me to the point where I could open my daycare.

So yes, it's a process, but just acknowledging you want to move on is a baby step in the right direction.

Or you could do what I'm doing with writing now. Start a little side hustle just for the love of it and see where it goes.

Anything is better than nothing. You could try a bunch of stuff you enjoy and see what sticks. I guarantee something will eventually.

Take courses at night, volunteer somewhere, start a hobby, and see where it goes.

Being trapped in the wrong job is like being trapped in a loveless marriage. You'll have all the things, but you won't be happy.

If it:

  • Feels difficult
  • You dread doing it
  • You resist
  • You're not making the money you deserve

It might be time for a change.

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Because you get what you settle for, so don't settle for something that's not working.

Use these markers to see if it's time because you'll never move forward until you decide to move on.

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Musician, writer, toddler wrangler. Author of "How To Be Wise AF" guided journal available on Amazon as well as "The Automatic Parent" due out in Feb. 2022.

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