By Carina Alanson, Crosswalk.com
I settled into my office chair, took a deep breath, and ran through my mental checklist:
Review client’s case notes—check.
Make sure there’s a box of tissue next to the couch—check.
Have my notepad and pen handy—check.
Though everything was ready and I was well prepared for my next appointment, I felt like ants were marching laps around my digestive tract. This stomach-churning sensation was nothing new—it had haunted me throughout my years-long counseling career, and no matter what I did, I couldn’t seem to shake it.
I knew that no job is perfect, and no matter my occupation, there would probably be some parts I enjoyed and some I didn’t. I also knew that I truly wanted to help people, and I truly loved my clients. Yet, when I was honest, I had to admit what my feelings were revealing: I just didn’t love being a counselor.
5 Things to Do When You Don’t Like Your Job
According to statistics cited by Psychology Today, the average American worker will spend around 90,000 hours at work over the course of their lives. That’s a lot of time! And because jobs consume so much of our time and can have such a huge impact on our quality of life, most of us aim to find careers we enjoy. But what do we do when we realize that, despite our best efforts to find fulfilling work, we don’t like our job? Should we cross our fingers and hope things get better? Swallow our feelings and settle for a less-than-satisfactory work life? Start looking for alternative employment?
If you can relate to my experience and you’re wrestling with these types of questions, here are several actions I found helpful during my season of career distress that I hope can help you on your journey too:
1. Take Your Feelings Seriously
When I first started working as a counselor, I assumed that my feelings of unhappiness were the natural growing pains that often come with adapting to a new, demanding career. I’m sure I’ll feel more confident and find more fulfillment in my job once I have more experience, I thought.
I also theorized that I would enjoy my job more if I could focus on a specific type of clientele or work in a certain clinic. But despite accumulating experience and practicing in multiple settings, my discomfort persisted until, finally, I started taking those nagging feelings seriously. I got really honest with God and told Him about my turmoil. I didn’t really know what to do with my feelings other than acknowledge them, but it turns out that was one of the best things I could have done because it was in the midst of my honest conversations with God that He provided clarity and direction.
Whether your job merely irritates you or makes you feel outright miserable, I encourage you to pay attention to your feelings. Take them seriously. Don’t pretend that everything is fine if it’s not. Ignoring our feelings not only leads to frustration but can also hinder our progress in our personal purpose.
Instead, be honest about your feelings, and consider confiding in a trusted friend, family member, or mentor. Most importantly, bring your feelings to God. He welcomes your feelings and loves when you talk to Him, and there is no one better suited to help you figure out what your feelings mean and what to do with them than your Creator!
2. Determine Why You Don’t Like Your Job
When you reflect on your feelings about your job, a great question to ask yourself is, “What, in particular, about this job makes me unhappy?”
As I considered my own discontentment, I eventually realized that though I was good at my job and I cared about the people I worked with, there were significant aspects of my career that were not a good match for my personality and gifts. Much of the nature of the work itself—treating mood and trauma-related disorders, diagnosing mental illnesses, and engaging in mandatory continuing education—depleted my joy and drained my energy.
While the reason I didn’t love my counseling job turned out to be that it was not a great fit for who I am as a person, keep in mind that just because you’re unhappy in your job doesn’t automatically mean it’s the wrong job for you.
Rather, the reason for your feelings could be that you’ve gotten burnt out, and you might discover that after some rest (and perhaps some fine-tuning of your personal boundaries), you experience a renewed enthusiasm for your work. Or perhaps your feelings have more to do with the people you are required to work with rather than work itself.
In any case, do your best to pinpoint what exactly it is you don’t like about your job and don’t worry if it takes weeks, months, or even longer to figure it out. Just keep exploring, acknowledging, and expecting that God will give you insight.
3. Don’t Settle
Have you ever thought, it doesn’t really matter if I’m happy in my job? What matters is that I’m doing good work and serving God. This belief seems to be common in our modern Christian culture, and it’s certainly one I’ve wrestled with on my journey.
But here’s some good news: Serving God and being happy are not mutually exclusive. Yes, it’s true that God does call us to do good work (Ephesians 2:10), and it’s true that our personal callings will likely bring challenges and come with costs. But it is also true that God is a joyful God (Galatians 5:22; Hebrews 1:9). Jesus said that He came to give life to the full (John 10:10), and I’m convinced that He wants us to enjoy our lives—and that includes our work.
If after honestly reflecting on your feelings, you conclude that the reason you don’t like your job is that it simply isn’t a good fit for you, I encourage you to decide that you won’t settle for less than God’s best. Leaving your job might feel impossible, especially if your job provides the finances you need to pay for food, clothing, and housing, but remember: With God, anything is possible—and that includes having a job, career, or vocation that you actually enjoy!
4. Keep Asking and Seeking
If you’ve resolved not to settle and you feel certain that you want to leave your job, you might feel excited, but you also might be wondering, What now? How will this actually happen?
Though it’s human nature to want to see twenty steps ahead, God often reveals His plans one step at a time. Even after I realized that God was leading me away from counseling, I didn’t feel released to leave my career right away. Though I was sure it would happen eventually, exactly how or when was initially unclear. But during that period, I continued praying for direction, and slowly but surely, God revealed my exit strategy.
If you’re not sure what your next step should be, simply keep seeking God’s guidance. Declare His word over your situation, and ask Him to bring you new opportunities. Jesus said to ask and you will receive (Matthew 7:7). So, keep asking and keep believing that He has a plan and that He will open doors and provide a way out of your current job and into a new, more rewarding vocation in His perfect timing.
5. Be Willing to Take a Risk
When I first felt God calling me to leave the mental health field and become a writer, I was elated. But I was also nervous. I had spent over a decade of my life studying and practicing counseling, and I was earning a decent income. When the time finally came for me to let go of my hard-earned counseling license and a steady paycheck, it felt risky, the way I would imagine it would feel to leave my home and move into a house I had bought sight unseen. I knew exactly what I was saying goodbye to, but I wasn’t sure exactly what I was getting myself into.
Despite the uncertainty, I followed the wild wind of the Holy Spirit and left my counseling job when I felt Him directing me to do so. And while my new vocation has come with its own set of difficulties and has definitely required sacrifices, I’ve never been happier, and I have never regretted my decision.
Leaving the familiar and stepping into the unknown can be scary, but if God is leading you, you can rest assured that He has something wonderful in-store. So, if you feel Him prompting you to leave your job and venture into something new, don’t let fear stop you! Be willing to take a risk, trusting that He will adjust your course if needed.
More Than We Can Ask or Imagine
Regardless of your present circumstances, God is at work, and He can use this season in your current job to strengthen your character and prepare you for what’s next. You can have hope for your future because He “is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine” (Ephesians 3:20, NIV), and His plans for you are good!
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/Sitthiphong
Carina Alanson is a former professional counselor turned writer and artist who is passionate about helping women live with purpose and grow in their relationship with God. She lives in the subarctic town of Fairbanks, Alaska, where she enjoys going on scenic drives with her husband, skiing, snowshoeing, and reading by the fire. Visit carinaalanson.com to connect with Carina and get her free journaling workbook, How Do I Know if a Desire is From God? 5 Questions to Help You Decide, plus other resources for purposeful living. You can also connect with her on Instagram @carinaalanson and on Facebook @carinaalanson.