Graduates are taught they should appreciate any job that they get, but what if the role is really unsuitable? Real World offers advice on what to do if you are stuck in a similar situation.
Every week (or so it seems) newspapers are describing the struggle of reams of graduates to find a job. By now we’re all familiar with the gloomy scene – new graduates fight tooth and nail for every position, job centres are brimming with disillusioned ex-students and, if forecasts are to be believed, the economy will get worse before it gets better. So what happens if, despite the miserable backdrop, you’re lucky enough to land a job? Great news! Unless of course it’s a job you don’t enjoy. So what should you do? Grin and bear it, or cut your losses and run?
Perhaps unsurprisingly, since the economic downturn, job dissatisfaction has been on the rise. Cuts, decreased promotion prospects and increased workloads are making more of us unhappy at work than ever. But what options are available for an unhappy employee?
Real World took some of these concerns to the primary career advisor at the University of Kent, Bruce Woodcock. According to Bruce, the sector you belong to has a huge impact on the options available to you. For instance, in jobs where professional accreditation is required, the possibility for change is generally less than in other careers. If you’re a lawyer, for instance, you’d be hard pressed to switch to accounting without significant retraining, which means investing a lot of time and money. However, you might be able to make a ‘diagonal move’ into a role that’s more suitable for you. For example, both lawyers and accountants could become chartered secretaries, a position which combines both sets of expertise.
The majority of careers however are less specialised than law or accounting, and most degrees lend themselves to a large variety of job options. Using the increasingly popular media as an example, Bruce described how a graduate may begin a career in advertising, but will often move into marketing or PR at a later time. Whatever the sector, Bruce believes there are three essential elements for job satisfaction: autonomy (having control over your own work), mastery (using a skill to a high level) and purpose (making a difference). The good news is that it’s possible to improve each of these both in the workplace and out of it. One way to make a positive change is to identify areas of your role that you do enjoy, and focus on making them a more fundamental part of your job – by taking a short training course to strengthen existing skills, for example.
Another key player in terms of workplace happiness is having a sense of purpose. This might be achieved by having a job whose demands closely match the things you’re good at. It might also be achieved by switching to the not-for-profit sector – doing the same role for a charity, for example, rather than a large corporation where profit is the main motivation.
Last but not least, commuting times have been shown to have a negative effect on job satisfaction. Moving closer to work or applying for positions in your local area can make a difference and give the option of walking or cycling to work.
The upshot is that if you hate your job, it may be easier than you think to change your circumstances. Adults spend out a third of their waking hours at work, so it’s essential to find an occupation that makes you tick. Changing your job might mean tailoring your role to encompass more of the things you enjoy. It might mean reducing the hours you spend travelling to work, or it could mean a new start altogether. Many degrees are broad enough in scope to lend themselves to many different sectors, and even the most specialised careers offer the possibility for sector related movement and the chance to get stuck into a different or more appropriate role.