Blue Eskimo

Doing what you love is the key to career success

You don’t get many successful people – in any walk of life – saying they got to the top despite hating every minute of the journey there. If you hate your job – you’re doing the wrong thing – or doing the right thing in the wrong place.

The alarm clock rings. It’s time to get up and go to work. When you think about the day ahead, do you feel energised or deflated? Do you want to get up and seize the day or crawl under the duvet and hope that the day goes away?

If you hate your job, the chances are you’re doing the wrong thing. This isn’t just bad for you in the here and now – it’s bad for your long-term career prospects too. If you’re not happy, you’re not going to go the whole nine yards – which means you’re treading water. Your career can only falter or stagnate.

It’s only when you’re enjoying your job that putting in the extra effort doesn’t seem like – well, extra effort. You want to get it right and spending a little more time on it isn’t a chore. This feeling of being energised by what you do and enjoying your job is essential to career success.

If you find yourself in a role that you’re not enjoying, what can you do?

The first thing is to assess whether it’s the role that’s not right for you or the place that you’re working. Working within the wrong environment can seriously taint your enjoyment of a job – so separating your feelings for your role and those for your employer is an important assessment to make. If you change your role with the same employer, you could make matters worse still. If you decided you’re working for the wrong company, then rather than just ‘bail out’ looking for the nearest safe harbour, you should assess what attributes you’d like to see from an employer. Don’t leave finding the right employer to chance – understand yourself and research potential employers. Seek a place to work that is going to fit with your personality and needs.

If you do find that you’re in the wrong role, then your task is harder. It’s time for some serious soul-searching and self-assessment to find out why you’re not doing something you love. It might be that you’re not far off where you’d like to be or it might be that you’re in completely the wrong job, or – in the worst case – the wrong industry.

So, start by thinking about the industry you’re in. Since Blue Eskimo is focused on the learning and development industry, we’ll assume that you’re in the same industry. We can’t consider every scenario, but let’s think about some likely examples.

If you’re a salesperson, consider your feelings about learning and development. Do you care about it? Do you understand the personal and organisational development processes? Or would you rather be selling something easier – like televisions or fridges? There’s no shame in this. Some salespeople really don’t care what they sell – it’s the act of selling that they enjoy, though they may show a preference for selling face-to-face, in a store, on the customer’s premises, or over the phone. You’re going to be happier and more successful if you understand what you sell and if you like what you sell. That’s not to say that if you don’t feel your grasp of learning is strong enough that you can’t do something to improve it – finding out more about learning processes can give you that boost of knowledge and confidence needed to make selling learning more enjoyable (it’s true to say that when you’re floundering around for knowledge, or the buyer knows more than you, then selling can be a very uncomfortable task).

Knowing more about something helps you to appreciate it – and even love it. This knowledge gives you the confidence to enjoy your role more. So even though you don’t love something now, you can learn to love it.

Or perhaps it’s not the thing you’re selling, but the way you’re selling it. You may be in a telesales role but crave the contact of people on a face-to-face basis. Some salespeople really like to build relationships, but others prefer the ‘one-step-removed’ feeling that knocking down doors gives them. When you’re selling in a way that doesn’t suit you, sometimes it’s hard to tell that this is the root cause of your unhappiness – it may feel like it’s the act of selling itself that you don’t like.

The same principles apply to L&D consultants, instructional designers, LMS specialists – you name the L&D role, there’s as much potential to be unhappy as there is to be happy. Ask yourself:

  • Are you unhappy with what you do, or is the job fine and you just don’t like where you are doing it?
  • Do other roles in your industry look more attractive and interesting?
  • Do the roles of other people in similar jobs look more attractive and interesting?
  • Do you feel uncomfortable or out of your depth during your normal working day?
  • Do you feel that more knowledge about what you do, what your company does, and the industry you’re in will help you to relax more – and be more successful? Or, don’t you really want to learn more, as it isn’t interesting?

It may be that you’re not able to answer all of these questions yourself, in which case chatting to a (trusted) friend might help – or you may prefer to seek the advice of a career counsellor. A counsellor can help you to understand yourself better – and then understand in what roles you will be happiest.

This isn’t just some left-wing tree-hugging super-woke ideal either – being happy in your job is an essential part of being successful. In the right role, doing what you really, really enjoy, you can achieve with relative ease what would seem almost impossible in other roles.