Happiness at work is a big deal for most people. I wouldn’t even want to make a guess on how many people aren’t happy at their jobs. Using my own experience the question most people need to ask themselves is – what am I actually unhappy about at work?

I write this post because I have recently had a couple of epiphanies regarding the job I recently left and have considered returning to. I thought I had a lot of issues with said job at the time, but looking back it isn’t so much that I didn’t have issues, it was that those issues were small in the grand scheme of things. To give some clarity, here is a list of the issues I had in no particular order:

1. Never enough credit or recognition for a job well (or outstandingly) done

2. Promotion not based on merit so much as time served and who your boss is

3. Certain people in authority I wasn’t happy with

4. Being owned by the contract I was under

5. Having to wear a uniform

6. Not feeling like I was an individual

7. Feeling my abilities were squandered by management

Looking at these issues, I’m sure a lot of people feel the same way about the current job they are in. In isolation, they are important, but what I never really considered was the good parts of the job and what it actually added up to. The good parts were:

1. Excellent pay with multiple serious perks

2. A job that I really enjoyed

3. Excellent working hours that allowed me to pursue outside interests

4. Excellent people to work with

5. The chance to converse and challenge myself on an intellectual level with other curious minds

6. The opportunity to pursue work that interested me

7. Autonomy in my position

When I began to reconcile the two lists, I found that the ledger was firmly on the pros, rather than the cons of the job. Importantly, there were also a lot of bad incidents that happened along the way which were on the con side – but for the most part they happened to people I knew, not to me. The other problem that contributed to my distorted view was my period of training. To put it mildly, it was rough. Rough to the point that I think on some level I have been carrying the trauma for a long time. I made the hasty (and stupid) decision on completion of my training that I was not possibly going to stay any longer once my contract was up. My projection of this trauma onto a job I actually liked caused me to look at it with an erroneous view.

Trying to look at it objectively, there certainly are problems with my old job. Without a doubt. However, most of these problems were things that I made bigger than they were. I assigned them an unnecessary amount of weight which tipped the balance in the wrong direction. What I learned from this is that it is possible to be both wrong and right about something at the same time. I was right about the problems, however I was wrong that things would be so much rosier on the other side. Had I been able to look at things objectively from the start, I would have realised that the cons on my list were cons at most workplaces, and the pros were things that most people could only dream of.

If you are unhappy with your current job, it is difficult to look at things objectively because all you can do is feel how crappy your situation is. Believe me, I know from experience. I think it is important before you make rash actions to look at things as objectively as possible and ask yourself the following questions:

1. What exactly is wrong with my current job?

2. Will changing jobs actually improve that?

3. What do I like about my current job?

4. Am I likely to get that at a new job?

I think when you can answer those questions objectively, you can make the right decisions about your career. Without those questions, you are making assumptions, and we all know how that turns out.