Are you happy at work?

I know, I know. The probability of you answering this question with a strong “YES” is pretty low. 6 out of 7 people are not happy and satisfied at work (Forbes article – from 2013). Which is a pity. Think of all the productivity being lost by this fact alone. If someone is not happy, not satisfied, and is just doing their job – how much do they actually achieve at work? Compared to A-class performers, who actually improve the business, unhappy and unsatisfied workers are either just doing their job or, even worse, are damaging the company and its reputation.

So, even though 85% of people are unhappy in their current job, most of them are not doing anything about it. There’s a nice quote called “Love it, change it or leave it“. I know I might sound superficial here, but this quote has so much truth to it. If we are faced with a situation we don’t like or enjoy, we do have those three options. One of the problems is that a lot of people are falling into victim mode when it comes to work. They will complain privately (to their family and friends) or, worse, in the workplace (to co-workers) about “work is shit, my boss is stupid etc”. But instead of doing something about it, they just keep complaining. Does that sound familiar? I’m pretty sure a few of your co-workers or friends came to mind when you read that sentence. Or did you recognize yourself? That’s also OK – awareness and acknowledgement are the first steps to actually change something!

If you are unhappy in your current job, you do have the three options mentioned above: you can learn to enjoy your job (“love it“), which means you might want to think about the all the positives your current job has. Often times, we are only looking at the negative sides, but we ignore the things which are going well. Mindfulness and meditation are two powerful tools to consider – and some simple exercises might already shift your reality. The 2nd option is to change your current situation. That could mean different things: talk to your boss about potential improvements, change the scope of your current job, check for different options within your company or start to increase your business network. If we open up ourselves and try to see the situation from an objective point of view, we might discover a lot of possibilities. The 3rd option is to leave your current job. Usually, that’s the last option available – if the first two options didn’t work out. Don’t get me wrong: if you are currently in an abusive and toxic work environment, the first two options don’t make sense. You need to search for another role and get out of your current job as soon as possible! Especially if your current situation has an influence on your physical, mental or emotional health. No job in the world is worth risking your health and sanity!

How to improve your employ-ability?

I’m sharing some experiences from my life as an employee. I stayed almost 10 years with my first company and even though I changed roles every 1.5 years (while gaining more and more responsibilities), my salary stayed the same. I fell for the nice words and the shoulder tapping from my bosses, who always promised to increase my salary next year. And guess what? Next year there was another reason why they couldn’t raise my salary. Still, I take full responsibility for those facts. Even though I was not happy with the money I earned, I didn’t do anything about it (“change it”). That’s when a friend of mine introduced me to the sentence “love it, change it or leave it”. And even though it still took some external event to pull the trigger and leave my old company, I finally did something about my unhappiness and dissatisfaction. I contacted several recruiters who were searching for IT specialists in Switzerland, and they started to find job opportunities for me. It didn’t take long to have job interviews with different potential employers – and after having received an offer which was much higher than my previous salary, I decided to change countries and move to Switzerland. I already had an idea about life here – having visited Switzerland several times before.

If you are also in the situation of not feeling happy, not appreciated and not valued in your current job, I’d like to share some tips with you. First of all: keep yourself attractive. Obviously I’m not talking about your physical appearance here (even though this is also important), but I’m thinking about being attractive for a potential new employer. You should always keep your CV up-to-date, keep in touch with recruiters and apply for jobs you are interested in. By doing this, you stay up-to-date and you also find out how much demand is for you job / your skill set. Which will help you to get an idea of your employ-ability. You can start small: just making some minor adjustments in your CV can already go a long way. Even if you are just doing some small adjustments, you are starting a process. And you are showing your subconscious mind that you are serious about it.

One word of caution: I don’t recommend to apply somewhere else without the intention of actually working there. It’s not a good practice to just get an offer and pressure your current employer. That’s not fair to the other company, but also not to your employer. Yes, your boss might agree to raise your salary, but there will be resentment and he/she knows that you might jump ship very fast. It will put a very sour taste to your relationship with your boss / employer.

General recommendation

As a general rule of thumb, I would recommend to think about job changes every two or three years. One of the most common problems for people who stay too long in the same company: they often times don’t get salary increases at all, or the increase is pretty slim. Somehow, a lot of the companies still have the mindset that they are willing to pay more for an external hire than to increase the salaries of their own employees. Which can massively backfire if the internal person decides to quit and take a job somewhere else. Replacing a worker who knows all internal issues and knows how to navigate through obstacles costs way more for the company than to “just” increase the salary. Of course there’s also the other side of the coin – an employer can’t just pay more if the financial numbers are not good. E.g. if there’s no increase in turnover and productivity, there’s no money to distribute. Additionally, most employers are usually very aware of who is an A-class performer in a company and who is not. A-class performers should be rewarded – because those are the people who are making the company successful in the long run. Unfortunately, a lot of companies are not paying their A-class performers the money they deserve. The topic of salaries is more complex than what I just described now, and of course there’s a difference between a SME business and a large corporation.

As some of you know, I’m self-employed now. Which has its own advantages and disadvantages. Some of the positives are:

  • I always have to keep my CV up-to-date
  • I know my worth – from other projects and from the constant negotiations with recruiters
  • My job doesn’t get boring – there’s always another project available or a customer who needs my help
  • I can jump the ship faster than any employee (the downside: clients can also cancel my contract much faster as well)

I really like being self-employed and at the moment I can’t imagine going back to be an employee again. There’s much more responsibility now, but also a lot more freedom. I know that being self-employed might not be the right choice for everyone and I also know that it’s much easier being self-employed in IT compared to other industries. Nevertheless, you are still the one responsible for your own life. Even as an employee, you have way more options than you might imagine.

If I could travel back in time, I would give my younger self the following advice: change jobs every 2 or 3 years. You will make more progress career- and salary-wise compared to staying too long in the same company. It will also teach you how to cope with changing situations – and that you are able to deal with everything. It’s much easier to change jobs if you have done it successfully before, compared to someone who never switched companies and/or locations. And maybe I would tell my younger self to buy lots of Bitcoin in 2009/10 and hold it for a very long time 😉 (no financial advice!)

I hope this post will help you to start a process and hopefully change your life to something better.

What we fear of doing most is usually what we most need to do - Ralph Waldo Emerson

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