This article is supported by Swinburne University of Technology, who can help set your career up for the future. In this series, we look at aspects of work life.
I know what you’re thinking. I do, I do. I know what you’re thinking because practically every person sat at a computer is thinking the same thing: What am I doing here? Sure, it’s a heavy question, a Big One, but you can bet your sweet ass we’re all asking it. Why? Because life is chaos my friend. Life is a surrealist abstraction and it’s impossible to accept, oh I want to say, like, 91% percent of the time?
What am I doing here, again, doing unpaid overtime while a cleaner sheepishly vacuums around my desk? What am I doing here working for this fintech company where a 12-year-old is literally my boss’s boss? What am I doing here “plugging away” at the novel I’m not even writing from this specialty toast cafe, where they brought me my breakfast under a Heston Blumenthal-esque cloche, cloaked in dry ice and edible glitter?
All valid questions. I get it, I’m right there with you. Not literally but figuratively. Forgive me for what I’m about to say, but in an age where our attention spans are shrinking and we’ve found we can master practically any skill after a measly li’l hour on YouTube, who are we to ignore the call of our untapped possibilities? Who are we to say to ourselves in the darkest part of the day (3pm), sandwiched between meetings and stuck smelling the breath of our deskmate: “don’t do anything rash, buddy, this may be the best the world has to offer you.” Maybe I’m not a writer, you know? Maybe I’m a brain surgeon. Do you see what I’m saying? I mean I’m not a brain surgeon, that’s mental, I almost didn’t pass year 9 math but what I’m saying is Dream Big.
Alex Dawson, founder of Positive Scenario, a consulting organisation dedicated to creating happy workplaces, says that “the research over two decades of positive psychology shows a myriad of benefits to being in a positive emotional state at work.” Apparently when positive at work we’re three times as creative, and ten times more engaged.
So what happens when you actually stop ignoring those deep-seated urges to flip your desk on its side and say at a frustrated but respectful volume to a sort-of listening office space: I can’t do this anymore! Stop the ride I want to get off! I think probably life gets a bit better. You start to feel a little less like you’re gently choking and start to feel a little more free, a little more like the world is your oyster rather than a pile of Christmas seafood scraps that’ve been left out in the sun.
How do you know it’s time, though? How do you know you’re not prematurely abandoning the ship? Basically only you can tell you that. If you’re truly quaking with uncertainty, though, some telltale signs you’ve really had enough are:
- You spend more than fifteen minutes in bed each morning staring at the ceiling, telling yourself half-baked positive reinforcements about why getting up is going to be worth it.
- You think of your job as a kind of, I don’t know, way to purchase the beer with in order to wipe the memory of the working week away. A feedback loop of semi-convenience, it would seem.
- Your family and friends know all of your workplace villains by name, job title, and every annoying thing they did this week.
- You count down to clocking off time for more than sixty minutes.
- You strategically spend all your free time with people you work with so that when you talk about how much you hate every aspect of your job you won’t have to explain characters or process or scene to anyone, which would (unacceptably) eat into pure complaining time.
- You’ve stopped daydreaming about cool things like holidays to Aruba or making out with your crush on top of a mountain, and you’ve downgraded to exclusively daydreaming about pathetically quitting. One day. Maybe.
Probably the greatest indicator, though, is just that you can feel it. Deep down in your gut, acute like a rumbling hunger for cheap steak night at the pub. Trust yourself. “Recognise that you are the architect of your life,” speaker and coach Shadé Zahrai says. “You’re in control here. You’re the one who decides what to do next. If you have a negative outlook on your life and your prospects, it’s going to negatively impact your desire to make any changes, and make you even more miserable in the present. By shifting your perspective towards optimism, and realising that the future is what you make of it, you’ll feel empowered to make changes.”
But where the heck do you begin? “Sometimes changing your morning routine, meeting new people, getting involved in some different work or picking up a new hobby outside work is enough to expose you to different ideas to help challenge you and possibly discover a new passion,” Zahrai says.
Phil Lee, a transformational expert and motivational speaker, agrees that getting off the computer and actually talking to real humans can help. “Speak to people who are already doing what you want to be doing. Seek their advice and ask them what they would do in your position. Take their advice. If you speak to enough of the right people and are persistent and remain positive, a door or two will open for you.”
Get on those job sites in your Unpaid Overtime and see what’s out there. Spend as much time looking at careers as you do looking at real estate when you’re not even remotely thinking about moving. You could even go back to uni to study something you actually care about.
Sick of writing meaningless ads? Try kinesiology, buddy! Kinesiology not all it’s cracked up to be? Follow your year 6 passion: manga illustration! Manga illustration not lucrative enough for ya? Bitcoin, baby! Ride the wave.
This guide to reversing your misery is supported by Swinburne University of Technology. If you’re ready to suss out new career options, find out about the degrees here. You can see the rest of the content in this series here.