8 (Flawed) Things You Say When You Are in a Crappy Job

We’ve all been there. My crappy job was working in a factory. By the second day, I had mastered all of my tasks. By the end of the first week, I was categorically bored.

Here’s why I didn’t walk out the door:

  • I had rent to pay next month.

  • My aunt had pulled strings to get my job; she told me I better not quit.

  • I had spent all of my savings while looking for a job.

Each day I looked at my long-term co-workers and wondered how they could stay there for 20 years (or more!).

Now I know my boredom is a pretty good clue that job wasn’t a good fit for me. There are other signs: frustration, annoyance, unhappiness, resentfulness, feeling lost, restlessness, and feeling either depleted or disheartened. 

The feelings are accompanied by thoughts, often conflicting. Wanting to stay. Wanting to leave.

When I talk to people who are unhappy in their work, they have a lot of reasons to stay in their job. Here’s what some of them have to say and my response:

1.         “My work isn’t all bad. I like the people."

I remember once talking to my Spanish teacher about the idea of moving and how I didn’t want to move because I knew so many great people. He told me that great people are everywhere.

            Good point.

Although it is imperative to have a work environment where you feel at ease and enjoy your team members, your motivation and satisfaction level is measured by an internal drive. Intrinsic motivation. Examples of intrinsic motivation are knowledge, growth, accomplishment.

            Staying in a job mainly because of the people will eventually wear thin

If you are in a job where the majority of the time you are involved in activities that do not engage you, you will be counting the hours until the weekend no matter how great the people are.

2.         “I can’t afford to make a change.”

            If your job is sucking your life energy, you can’t afford not to make a change.

There can be a high cost to staying in a crappy job. Always an interesting activity is looking at how you spend money. Especially when unhappiness enters the equation. Coping strategies are about creating ease and happiness in other areas of life. Take out coffee every day? Going out for lunch?

In addition to the financial costs of not making a change, it is intriguing to watch the willingness to trade happiness or meaningfulness for financial gain.

3.         “Something familiar is so much more appealing than something unknown.”      

Yes. Familiar feels better. Because our survival feels like a guarantee if we stay on the couch.

            We are hardwired for survival so there is a strong tendency to stay with the familiar.

Except humans are more complex. There also is a strong pull to learn and grow and that takes us into the unknown.

            When I made a big change in my life, I carried this quote around with me:

“A ship in harbor is safe — but that is not what ships are built for.” — John A. Shedd.

4.         “I’m scared.”

This is tied to the previous item in that fear is one of those feelings integral to making sure that you are safe.

If you know that any time you do something new that fear is going to come along for the ride (and it does), you can have a little chat with it.

Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Big Magic, wrote a letter to fear. She talks about it here.   https://www.facebook.com/GilbertLiz/posts/980409515374497:0

5.         “It’s called work for a reason.”

Embedded in our culture is a sense that being miserable at work is the way it’s supposed to be. Indeed the 70% of people are not engaged with their work according to a Gallup poll.

A price you pay.png

That belief is one of those shrewd traps to keep us in our place. The underlying component is fear.

There is a price you pay when you are miserable at work: physical ailments, emotional and mental conditions, disconnection from ourselves. It also spills over onto your family and relationships. 

What do we model to our children when we are coming home depleted and cranky from crappy jobs?

6.         “Work isn’t that important. My family is.”

Work is a significant part of who you are.

Work is an expression of who you are. When you are introducing yourself, the first question that often arises is what you do.

Work is where you develop your mastery and where you contribute to others. Whether you get paid for it or not.

             So it isn’t a matter of family or work; it’s about both.

Work is an expression.png

7.         “I can’t imagine anything different.”

Once I met with a client and asked him what kind of work that he wanted to do. He said that no one had ever asked him that. And so he found work that he saw around him – what his father or friends did.

Except he was having trouble staying in one job. As we worked together, what he found out about himself was how important it was to work with people. Being a mechanic alone in a shop wasn’t working for him.

Imagining that you can find work that makes you happy can be new and strange. But once you find it.....

Author Barbara Sher offered an analogy for a person finding their fit. She thought of a horse being raised in a basement. Even though it has no idea what a pasture was, when it gets out there, it just knows what to do.

That is true for you. When you find that great work fit, you will move into it with amazing ease (and joy!).

8.         “I can address my crappy job issue later…. (when the kids are out of the house, when the mortgage is paid, etc.).”

Also known as the martyr syndrome. There is an illusion that there is lots of time and that what you want can be put on hold because of other priorities. But is that true? What we know for sure is we have no idea how much time we have on this planet.

When you have a crappy job, a question to reflect on is how going to work every day is a priority yet what you actually do during work time is not.

So how do you get out of your crappy job? You start moving in the direction you want to go. How do you figure out that direction? One step at a time.

 Other blog postings you may like:

5 life-changing tactics to improve your work life

Life is quite the teacher. In April I wrote a blog about my lessons with impatience as I recovered from knee surgery. There is so much to learn when you aren’t where you want to be. 

My knee has changed my life. In so many ways.

Which got me thinking. Of metaphors. Because that is the best way to describe this process of finding work that matters.

You have heard me talking about the importance of building a foundation, just like a house. What we really want to do is decorate the place. But imagine what would happen if you didn’t have a basement or supporting beams. 

Work that fits for us always begins with us. And who we are. That is the foundation.

Don’t worry, I say. We will get to the decorating part. The part where we find that career that makes us want to leap out of bed in the morning. 

Like all good metaphors, there is so much to be learned when we make those connections between seemingly disparate parts of our lives.

Here is how my knee can help you on your path to finding your dream job:

1.         Be selective about who you listen to

After about 6 weeks of rehab, my knee was not doing what it was supposed to do. Bend. Well, technically it bent, just not that much. I began the process of digging for what was happening. A degree in anatomy would have been handy.

I asked a lot of questions. I got a lot of responses, opinions and advice. There was none that were off the mark; all were full of caring.

I went to the Internet. That’s where it got a little wild. “The thing that helped me was all that walking.” The next one said don’t walk. What on earth do you do with that?

I was an eager patient. I did everything the physio told me. And not much changed. I went to a second physio. A chiropractor. An acupuncturist. A massage therapist.

They all offered ideas, some of which wonderfully built off of another. I fine tuned the exercise program. I discarded some ideas and added new ones. Some of what I was told made perfect sense and some did not.

Ultimately, I had to pay attention to what made sense for me.

When it comes to your career, you will find lots of opinions. You may even solicit them. Not all of it will make sense for you. Listen. Check it out.

Most of all – listen to yourself! Here’s a quote I saw this week about listening to yourself:

Don’t forget to remember that the truth comes in whispers….after we have shut out all of the other voices around us. Be still.
Unknown Author

2.         Follow your own pace

As much as I willed my knee to bend, it wasn’t happening. I had an idea that I needed to push harder. I did this for a long time. Not much changed.

I have seen this before. If something isn’t working, I push. I have seen this in others who are in work that doesn’t work for them and what do they do? Try harder. Negate their own misery.

What I was experiencing was the body giving me some strong messages. I wasn’t paying attention.

What I had to find was my own rhythm. What worked for me.

When it comes to creating a happier worklife, there may be a desire to be there already. You may be a square peg fitting itself into a round hole. The idea is that you stop jamming that peg.

Beyond the fear, how can you find your own pace, the one that allows you to find your place?

3.         There’s more going on than meets the eye

Often I hear people saying that they “just” need to find a new job. Then they find another job and after the excitement has died down, they find themselves unsatisfied.

During my healing process, I was told that mechanically my knee could bend. In fact, during the surgery, the surgeon bent the knee to full flexion. So what was going on?  The answer isn’t really clear.

For sure what the trained professionals know is that it has to do with muscles and tendons and tissues and the brain?

The brain? What was explained to me is the brain is anticipating pain, after a long period of time with pain, and it is sending messages not to bend.

A lot more going on than you might think.

The same with your work life. When you are dissatisfied at your job and want to make a change, what is happening is so much more.

I heard this week about a study of people who lost their jobs either by quitting or getting fired, no one wished they could get their old job back.

How I see this is a person is ready for a change. For a change to be in the direction you want to go, you need to think about that direction. The more you are strategic about where you want to go, the more you will experience satisfaction at work. There probably is some mathematical formula in there.

4.         Work hard; rest hard

Photo by Tim Gouw on Unsplash

Photo by Tim Gouw on Unsplash

Remember the line about music and how it is mostly made up of rests? The space in between is just as important as what it surrounds.

Resting is so underrated. In my world. Pushing hard is the answer. My knee needed to be kept moving. I began physio the day after my surgery. When I came home, I was exercising every 2 hours.

I was also told about the importance of putting the leg up, regularly icing and being mindful of how much I walked.

Work and rest. So it is when you are looking at work that matters to you. Just as important as doing the legwork of exploring who you are and what you want and looking for your place in the work world, it is also vital to take a break.

Make it fun!

What an amazement to me is when I am in the midst of fun and an idea arises to solve my problem!

Taking work and rest both seriously is quite the concept.

5.         Experience the dejection and keep moving

Photo by Hanson Lu on Unsplash

Photo by Hanson Lu on Unsplash

In my recovery, I did a lot of the right things. Still, they was no significant change. I was discouraged. Big time.

In those moments, because I didn’t know what else to do, I kept doing the exercises.

Then the feeling changed because feelings do. And my knee felt better because it was doing what it was supposed to do.

The discouragement factor arises when we are in the middle of an important change. You will find this happens when you don’t know what to do for the work dilemma.

What you may notice is you are frustrated with your work scene but you have no idea what to do.

The answer is: keep moving. Keep moving in a forward motion. Seek out people who can help you. Look for books, websites, ideas and even metaphors for your situation. Ask a lot of questions to others and yourself. 

There will be an answer.


Was there a life-altering event that happened in your life? What did it teach you? I would love to hear from you. Send me an email message here.

Great advice about work from Einstein

“Can you tell me the work that I should do?”

For work, like so many of life’s biggest challenges, there is a deep desire for the answer to be quick and easy.

Attached to that desire is a buried thought inside of us that we missed something or somebody else knows the answer better. 

After looking at the problem for many years and from many angles, I believe our bewilderment about work is because of how we look at the situation. Or don’t.

I read a quote some time ago that helped me look at this in a different way.

The quote has been attributed to Einstein though it seems there is some question about who actually said it. Still, I believe Einstein would have been the perfect person to give us a good view on problem solving.

“If I had an hour to solve a problem, I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and 5 minutes thinking about the solution.”

Really? 92% of the time considering a problem?

We want the answer and he is suggesting we hold off?

When we are stymied about being in work that sucks and how to find one that doesn’t, the desire to find a solution is intense. We want the answer. We want it now.

Humans are great at finding solutions. In a way we are problem solving machines! Try an experiment when you have a dilemma and ask people what to do.

I have done this from time to time. I get many different ideas, often ones I would never have considered.

Which is great. Except.

Except often we don’t really know what the problem is.

I’ll give you an example.

I met with a young man who was new to town; his first question to me was, “Can you tell me where there are job openings in town?”

I immediately thought of the sign I read in a window that morning. “There is a dishwashing position at the deli.” 

His shoulders fell. He stopped smiling. 

Clearly, not the solution he wanted.

How he was looking at the problem is that he was broke and needed money as soon as possible. And he thought job postings was the solution. If it was, the dishwashing position would have solved the problem.

What if – he was asking the wrong question?

On some level, even though he wasn’t saying it, the problem was more complex. He had a dream which brought him to this town, a dream of living close to nature and getting strong. As he started thinking more, he understood his dream was all about experiencing joy. 

After we talked about the idea that 20% of jobs are ever posted and employers are looking for a good fit, he understood his response to the dishwasher position. 

He would have been a terrible fit! 

He could also see that the problem was so much more than getting money as soon as possible. 

The problem was he had no idea of how to find the right fit. He didn’t even think that way. Up to then, his thinking was – get a job and hopefully it works out. That’s how he knew dishwashing wasn’t for him. He had done it before.

The story is familiar. Jumping onto a solution before really understanding the problem takes us down strange side roads. 

And like Einstein (or whoever) implied, we don’t spend enough time thinking about the problem. 

That is especially true when we are thinking about our work. If we think of it as a problem, it needs to have 55 out of 60 minutes of our time before we can even begin looking at the solution. 

What does this mean? It means looking at some age-old questions.

2.       Who are you?

Gaining a good understanding of your uniqueness, your strengths, your gifts and talents is the best starting point. You like working with people. How can you imagine that? One-on-one? In groups? Selling? It helps to get specific. There is a reason why career exploration programs begin with the first step – Know Yourself.

2.       How do you want to spend your brief time you have on this planet?

Getting in touch with your desires and what you care about is where the spark resides. This is what will get you up and keep you going on those days when life feels draggy. Knowing your spark will also connect you with your tribe and workplace where you will feel understood. And it so happens that spark is what employers are looking for, too.

3.        What is your purpose?

What is important enough that you want to be committed to? Your purpose can be one that extends your entire lifetime. More likely it will change. When I became a mother, it became quite clear to me what my purpose was: do whatever I could to help these people soar. After my children were launched, my purpose shifted. That time in between was a time of soul searching and asking myself a lot of questions. If you are going through a transition, know that it is a rich and fertile time even though it may feel like the rug has been wrenched away.

4.       What makes you feel alive? 

Know what invigorates you and makes you jump out of the bed in the morning. This is always connected to your strengths. Once you get clear about your strengths, this is the time to get some ideas from others. Leading a conversation with your strengths and then asking for any ideas that would help you allows the recipient to be creative in their responses to you.  They may have a thought about a job opening or they may know a person who might be a connection for you. Or other gems to invigorate your quest.

5.       How can I help?

People want to help. One of the key pillars of having a life with meaning according to Emily Esfahani Smith, author of The Power of Meaning: Crafting a Life That Matters is transcendence. Transcendence is having a deep connection with others and everything else in the world. That connection happens through our contributions to each others’ lives. When you ask yourself how you can help, your own life feels more meaningful.

These questions are great starting places for defining the problem. What has happened to me by considering my problem in a deeper way is I have seen that what I thought was the problem was not at all.

I think there is a reason that the quote resonated with me. When I have got a clear picture of my problem, the solution has come easier and faster. 

I am all for efficiency. 






Why you need a career coach

Some time ago when I lived inland, I became fascinated with whales and yearned to live close to them. Nearly a decade later that dream came to life. Somewhere in those 10 years, the aspiration got buried under a thousand to-dos and daily priorities.

When it comes to your career, what is happening to your desires? 

What I have now come to realize is how easily a dream gets buried and how much time can pass before the dream re-emerges. 

Johnstone Strait

Johnstone Strait

This weekend, two friends and I travelled to Telegraph Cove, a waterfront village at the entrance to Johnstone Strait and home to the one of the most predictable places to see orcas in the wild. I was reminded of a book I read in the late 90s called Among Whales by Roger Payne. The author is a field biologist who studies whale behaviour and why they do what they do. 

He says, “For I believe that the principal gift that whales offer humanity is that they are the only animals that can impress us enough to persuade us to change our minds about the importance of the wild world.”

What we forget is that we are part of the wild world and how important it is for us to keep in touch with our wildness.

Whales remind us of life so much bigger than we know. They have existed on this planet for approximately 50 million years. That is some perspective. A perspective that is too often absent from daily life.

One of the most challenging dilemmas of western culture is how much time is caught up taking care of business. Too frequently a day, a week or a month passes without being in touch with our dreams. 

Like whales, dreams lie below the surface and arise from time to time. It is the immensity that can be both exciting and daunting. 

When it comes to your career ambitions, there is no need to navigate the exploration on your own.

This is where a career coach can be your strongest ally.  Here are 5 reasons why you may need a career coach in your life:

Honing in on your career dreams

My work is all about helping people find their lifework. The definition of lifework is the principal work a person has in their lifetime; this is where we step into the ring – with dedication, creativity, enthusiasm and wholeheartedness. 

What a career coach does is help you get clear about what it is you want to do with this “one wild and precious life,” as Mary Oliver has asked. 

Your work dreams will manifest faster

Work dreams are tricky to realize. Sometimes you may not be clear about the type of work that is a good fit for you. Sometimes you know what it is that you want but you may be experiencing fear.

Finding your dream job is not easy. (For those who always knew what they wanted to do, you are the inspiration!)  If it was easy, you would have done it already.

What a career coach does is put the focus in the right direction. On you! What a career coach understands is to be happy in your work, you need to know what makes you happy.  Another way to think of happy is energized and engaged. 

Figuring what energizes you is the foundation. Build a strong foundation and what comes after is strong.

The focus career coaching brings will get you on your true path in a timeliness that is difficult to do on your own.

The discouragement factor will be decreased immensely

Opinions are rampant about the best direction to take for a career. Suggestions like, “go into healthcare, you will always get a job,” “you will never get a job doing (fill in the blank),” or “you can’t go wrong if you go into the trades.”

What if those ideas don’t work for you? 

I have seen clients so deflated after hearing others’ ideas or embarking in a direction that leaves them cold.

What a career coach does is encourage you to look at many possibilities (there is not only one career for a person) and understand your choices. What they can help with, too, is narrowing the focus in the right way so it isn’t overwhelming. 

Keeping you on track

When I was in between careers, I read books, hired a career coach and attended career exploration courses. The in-person assistance was full of ideas and inspiration far exceeding what I found doing it on my own.  

My own career coach kept me focused with meeting times where I had a deadline for reflection and completing assignments.

Conversations with a career coach keep you focused and moving towards the overall goal. 

Get a personalized approach

What a career coach does is listen to you, asks the right questions to help you better understand yourself and pinpoint what works best for you. They will notice themes and patterns, helping you to see where you can offer your best. They help you answer the question, “what will work best for me?” 

They will also help you:

Getting engaged with your life

In a world where your daily activities are directed towards an organization’s goals, it is easy to understand how your dreams and aspirations are abandoned. Is the work that you are doing in alignment with where it is that you want to go?

A career coach helps you get in touch with what engages you in the right way. The work you do with a career coach generates a good picture of your gifts and talents and then where you can put them to the best use. 

The result is you being fully engaged in your life, once described by a client as “in the driver’s seat.”  The bonus is what you emit into the world is confidence and competence, highly attractive attributes to employers.

Confidence is something you create within yourself by believing in who you are.
Author Unknown

When I think of whales and their mighty presence, I think of their compelling songs. What biologists have observed is the complexity and elaborateness of their communication.  There is a whole world known only because of scientists’ recordings.

I am reminded of wildness, the innate part of you that is the signature of who you are and helps you understand where you belong in the world. And how do you get to know that part of yourself? There is an important lesson (at least one!) whales have to teach – by listening carefully to yourself, you tap into your dreams.    


The Top 8 Myths For Finding Your Dream Job

If only we were taught in school how to find work we love....  I work with adults who are grappling with the big question of finding work that matters, some old enough to have children in high school. “Why don’t you teach this in high school?” I am often asked.

Good question.

Career exploration at its most effective begins with an inventory of yourself. In high school, there is still a lot to learn about who you are. Off to experience the world is what I say. 

Through life experience, it is what you learn about yourself you will use to discern what sparks you.

During career search, you will likely have come across some ideas that muddy thequest. Here are the top 8 myths that get in the way of you finding your best work fit:

Myth 1:  Someone else knows the answer better than you. 

Often when I work with people to identify their strengths, a pivotal exercise in work and job satisfaction, they are truly stumped. They frequently suggest asking close friends and relatives to assist with the task.

Since strengths are about connecting to what makes you strong (see strengths exploration here), no one else can really know for sure what your strengths are. How people can help you is noticing your behaviour. For example, you may notice that your friend’s eyes light up whenever they talk about a certain subject.

In our culture we are discouraged from stating our strengths. It is akin to bragging. Though you are expected to know your strengths, at job interviews for example, there are few places that help with getting to know what they are. No wonder we look to others for the answer.

The truth is that you will always know the best answer. The challenge is that it takes some unearthing and focus.                     

Myth 2:  A career coach will tell you the best work fit for you.

This is related to the first myth. A good career coach will ask questions that help you dig deeper. They will keep you focused on those big inquiries like:  who are you? what is most important to you?  where do you see yourself in 10 years?

I see career exploration as a discovery process where you look at all the pieces and then develop your own vision of what you want in your life.

Sometimes the challenge is getting a picture of the repertoire of occupations. Simply reading through a listing of occupations is an overwhelming task considering there are thousands in Canada. Your career coach can help you narrow down those possibilities.

The truth is a career coach walks alongside you for the exploration journey. Think of it as a collaboration. 

Myth 3:  The listing of “hot” careers is where you should focus your possibilities.

“Hot” careers are those listings determined by government to be the ones that will have the most labour market demand in the future. Stats Canada has projected demand in various occupations until 2031. Choosing an occupation based on this list ensures you get a job. 

The challenge with the labour market is that it is always changing due to technology, changes in the economy and other influences. For example, there has been projections regarding baby boomers retiring but many have not left the workforce because they cannot afford to retire.

The truth is “hot” careers is not necessarily an accurate gauge of what is happening in the work world.  Solely basing your decision on what is in demand can be fraught with later disappointment.  

Myth 4:  The right opportunity will appear for me.

Opportunities present themselves every day.  Some you need to choose.  Some you should not.  Part of the challenge in life is figuring out which ones are which.  

The problem waiting for the right opportunity to come your way is that it places the power of choice outside of yourself, and lessens the possibility of finding work that is alignment with who you are.

Where you can see this playing out is when people have been in a company or organization for a long time; the tendency is to promote from within so you may be offered a position as a supervisor but have little interest or strengths in being responsible for other people’s work. The allure of increased wages can take people in directions that make life miserable.

If you see people who are doing work they love, you will see they thought carefully about what they wanted and then worked deliberately to land it. 

The truth is an opportunity is only an opportunity if it is what you want. 

Myth 5:  There is only one fit for me. 

Once I began looking at work choices from an integrated, multi-faceted model (see the model here), I understood the matter was about using specific talents of mine; those could be applied to different types of work.

For example, being able to look at the big picture and seeing how different elements connect together is a talent that could be used as a healthcare administrator or teacher or owner of a business. 

The truth is there are many fits for you but some fit better than others.

Myth 6: Once you pick a career, you are locked into it for life.

 One of the trends in the career development field is selecting your education based on your strengths rather than a specific type of career because work is changing so rapidly. One expert stated the work a person will be doing when they graduate university hasn’t been invented when the child enters primary school. 

Not only will you not be locked into a certain job for life, the probability is that you will change what you do several times during your career. The best way to prepare for change on that level is being clear about what it is you offer.  

 The truth is in the world of work, you can only count on more change. 

Myth 7: Career assessments will produce the right career for you.

 The short answer here is maybe. Career assessments are based on a variety of factors such as interests, personality type and skills. The most popular assessments have high validity scores and strong predictive results.  Studies are based on real people doing the specific type of work so your results are compared directly to their responses. This increases the likelihood of you experiencing satisfaction in the work.

The challenge here is the complexity of being human cannot be integrated into a career assessment. For example, you may be well suited to work in the healthcare field but have a decided disdain for witnessing others’ suffering.

The great outcome of doing a career assessment is that it produces a listing of occupations, some of which you may not have considered. One of the features that I appreciate about career assessments is a listing of related occupations so if you don’t have time to go to school for 7 years, there could be other choices that don’t require that degree of education.

The truth is that career assessments can be helpful but you still know the best.  After all it is your life.     

Myth 8: Choosing a career is a simple process.

If choosing a career was simple, you would have done it already. Wouldn’t I have loved to be the type of person who knew at a young age what I wanted to do for my work?  For me, finding my path was curvy, with lots of side roads.

 For you, be assured that once you begin your journey, there is much to discover; listen carefully and it will point you in the right direction. 

The truth about choosing a career is the process may not be easy but when you find your best fit, you will feel ease.