Being happy

I want everyone to be happy. I want people to choose careers, mates and hobbies that make them happy.

I know a few people who never seem to be happy. One misfortune leads to a domino effect of unhappiness. While things for me don’t always go exactly as I’d planned or hoped, I’m usually able to tell myself that the pain or unhappiness part is only temporary, or that something good will come of it.

Side note: I don’t believe that fate will just take over and turn the bad things into good things. It’s about our mindsets. When bad things have happened, life has almost always turned out perfectly fine “in the end.” It’s not because fate stepped in, it’s because I had to stop the situation from sucking. And things didn’t become awesome instantly – it took time. Usually a lot of un-fun, unspectacular time that eventually resulted in a positive outcome. Maybe not the positive outcome I originally wanted or expected, but a positive one nonetheless.

How do we all make these decisions about whether to play the victim or “control our own destiny”? Why are some people able to keep an optimistic outlook, even when they encounter life’s setbacks, while others can never seem to get over any of the setbacks they’ve experienced?

How we define happiness

I’ve talked about defining success – the two can be intertwined. For me, being successful means I’m happy. But everyone’s definitions of success can be different. For some, just because they’re happy doesn’t also mean they’re successful. And for so many more, they might think of themselves as successful but they are absolutely miserable.

Why is this?

Part of it has to do with setting expectations. For a lot of people, setting expectations comes from external sources: our parents, extended family, neighbors, friends, coworkers and now social media.

Social media

Social media makes us constantly compare ourselves to one another. We compare our opinions on controversial things and about where we are in life and what should make us happy. If I get an email from my boss that says I epically failed on something at work, I won’t take a picture of it and post it on Facebook. Why? Because Facebook isn’t a place to tell everyone about my failures – it’s a place for me to post my perfectly staged holiday photos that took 80 tries for ONE DECENT PHOTO where one of my eyes isn’t more squinty than the other.

People post all the things that make their lives look happy and fulfilling and flattering. But that’s a sliver of what’s happening in their lives. A couple may post a photo where they’re smiling big for the camera, but in reality, they fight every night. A family might post a photo that makes them look like one big happy family, but in reality, Aunt Ida openly hates Aunt Judy, Mom just said something offensive to your new boyfriend because of his neck tattoo, and your nephew runs around the house screaming because your sister hasn’t disciplined him one day of his life.

All we see is a simple photo with smiling people. We compare our entire lives to that and wonder what’s wrong with us, our relationships, our families. The truth is that lots of things are wrong with you, but they’re wrong with everyone else too. You just don’t get to see it.

Our families

You can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your family. This is somewhat unfortunate, because our family members can have such a huge impact on how we see and approach the world. I know there’s nature versus nurture. I think a lot of how we “turn out” as adults has to do with what we experienced as kids. However, I do think that we all have the choice – and obligation, really – to try to think critically about what we experienced, interpret what happened and assess the results. But not everyone thinks that way, or we think that way sometimes, yet hold onto beliefs passed down to us from our families in other cases. Some of those things we hold onto can be detrimental to our potential for happiness.

For example, if your parents expect you to become a surgeon because that’s what your mom/dad did, you might think 1) you can only be happy if you become a surgeon, even though you don’t really enjoy the school work required and you faint at the sight/thought of blood, or 2) you’ll never please your parents because you know you don’t want to be a surgeon and they’ll never approve of anything else you’d choose to do.

Everybody else

The rest of our world can influence what we think will make us happy. They can set expectations about whether we should go to school, what kind of job we should have, what kind of house we live in, etc. All of these things that are so impactful in the equation of what makes us happy, yet it’s being influenced by people who might be in our lives for less than a handful of years.

The people with whom we interact – both in-real-life and virtually – all have an effect on how we define what makes us happy. I’ve focused on how they negatively impact our happiness, which isn’t fair. Social media, our families and everybody else sometimes help us see a completely different perspective we wouldn’t have otherwise seen. But we have to be careful about how we process that information.

This article is the beginning of a series on happiness. I’ve always wondered how people’s decision-making impacted their happiness, and how that influences future decisions. Because of this, I’ve been reading about happiness, trying to understand why we crazy humans do what we do. I’m hoping I can use that information to help the less-happy people in my life approach things differently. Life’s too short to be miserable.

In future posts, I’ll share some of the barriers to happiness and what we can do to change. In the meantime, if you have any thoughts on happiness or how you developed your definition of happiness, I’d love to hear it.

What I’m reading: Jan. 2

I’ve been doing a TON of reading on happiness lately. I consider myself a pretty happy person, which might be weird since most people also consider me an incredibly sarcastic person. But sarcastic people can be happy!

I’m working on a series of posts about how we define happiness, what are the barriers and how we can be happier. I’ve read two books so far, with a few others on my list. (After a few bad books, I’m too scared to buy any, so I signed up for library card Thanksgiving weekend and have been trying to take full advantage of it.) If happiness is something you’re working on or interested in, here are a few recommendations:

Books

The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work – Shawn Achor

The first 60 to 75 percent of this book was great. I found the studies and research shared to be really interesting, and definitely things that made me think about my life. However, since I think I’m a relatively happy and optimistic person, I read this feeling affirmed in my life’s outlook. I’m not sure what a pessimistic person would think. If you’re pessimistic and somewhat happy, please read it and tell me what you think:) I want to know if it shifts anyone’s mindset. The gist of the book is that if you approach life with a mostly optimistic outlook, you’ll be more successful (positive psychology).

The Myths of Happiness: What Should Make You Happy, but Doesn’t, What Shouldn’t Make You Happy, but Does – Sonja Lyubomirsky

The first section of this book focuses on a general overview of what is happiness and why we grow bored and discontent with things that once made us really happy (hedonic adaptation). The book then breaks into chapters that focus on areas of dissatisfaction for people (relationships, lack of relationships, career, money, etc.). The author explains why we’re feeling the dissatisfaction and steps we can take to turn things around (if possible). I haven’t finished the book yet, but I found the first part of the book really interesting. I’m skimming the remaining sections – skipping what I don’t need help with and reading more closely what I want to learn more about.

Articles

The 3 biggest mistakes people make in their 30s – Inc.. A revealing thread on Quora uncovers the most common ways people mess up their lives in their 30s — and how you can avoid their mistakes.

The success theater: Don’t confuse enviability for happiness – Life Hacker. Social media has changed the way we behave. Making us more connected has also made it much easier to compare ourselves to each other. That’s why it’s ever more important to differentiate between being enviable and being happy.

Exercises in decision-making: grad school, part 2

Since writing my post about my grad school choices, I’ve done a complete 180. Well, the program choices are still the same, but the choices for where to go have changed.

I was originally dead-set on doing a 100% online program, mostly because I’m lazy and didn’t want to have to battle the roadways throughout a Minnesota winter in order to get to class. I’ve become so spoiled living and working in the same suburb. I rarely have to leave my ‘burb, and it’s amazing. I’m a mega paranoid driver, so the less driving I have to do, the better. It’s not that I hate any of the places I have to drive to, I just truly hate all of the drivers on the roads I have to drive on. I hate people who don’t drive the speed I want them to drive, I hate people who don’t know how to merge onto highways, I hate people who don’t know how to use their blinkers, I hate people who tailgate me during bumper-to-bumper traffic. I hate them all.

During a dinner with a former coworker (who is now a great friend), I was sharing my recent experiences with grad school research, and explained the type of program I was looking for. My friend is currently pursuing her MBA, and knows all about the grad school process. She mentioned that one of her MBA classes sounded really similar to the area of study I was interested in, and offered to connect me with the professor. I said that would be great, but reiterated to my friend that I was planning to do an online program. My friend is great in that she can hear what I’m saying, know that I’m wrong, but not tell me to my face that I’m wrong. She listened to what I said without telling me how closed-minded I was being, and instead just encouraged me to at least consider in-person program.

I, being the closed-minded person that I was, pretty much dismissed what she said, but begrudgingly agreed to meet the professor and sit in on one of the classes.

As I drove to the class – on one of the busiest and scariest freeways in the Mpls/St. Paul area, mind you – I told myself over and over that there was no way I’d end up doing an in-person program. I almost talked myself out of going, but decided that since I had committed to showing up, I probably should do it, especially since my friend had vouched for me.

After I parked, I walked through the parking ramp and found my classroom’s building. In this building, I passed a wall with photos of guest speakers who had visited the campus. I saw a photo of one of my favorite authors. “Big deal,” I thought. “Thomas Friedman speaks practically everywhere!” There were students scattered all around, some of them studying up before their next class started, others discussing a group project they were working on. I hate to say it, but the on-campus energy had already hooked me.

When I got to the classroom, I stood outside awkwardly for awhile, too nervous to go in. I don’t know why I was that nervous – what did I think was going to happen? Everyone in the room was going to stare at me and yell, “Who the heck do you think you are and what are you doing here?!” That would have made for an entertaining story, at least. In reality, after I worked up the nerve to go in, a few people looked up at me when I entered the room, but they all smiled politely and then went back to whatever they were doing. I found the professor, introduced myself and then settled in.

The class was awesome. Initially I was really worried that everyone in the room was going to be crazy smart and I’d be too terrified to speak because I didn’t want anyone to know how stupid I was. Thankfully, that wasn’t what happened. While everyone did seem intelligent, I didn’t feel intimidated or out of place. I even felt comfortable enough to participate in the class discussion, which is so unlike me. I talked to a few students, spent some time chatting with the professor and drove home feeling convinced that I needed to attend an in-person program.

The main reason I decided to go the in-person route was because I’m basically trying to switch careers. If I were going for a master’s in communications, I’d honestly feel comfortable doing a 100% online program because making connections with people isn’t a need: I have connections already and I have experience. However, I’m hoping to eventually get out of communications, or at least move to something that isn’t going to be part of a communications department, so I need new connections who will be able to help me down the road in getting a different job when all I have is a degree on my resume and any experience that I’ve spun to sound like relevant experience. When I was considering the all online program, I told myself that I would be fine: I just wanted to get through the classes and I’d figure out the networking piece on my own down the road.

But eventually I decided that I didn’t want to be “fine” with a program, I wanted to be “awesome” with a program.

So now I had to start my research all over, this time focusing on schools in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area. There were a handful of schools with programs that were relevant, but I felt the most passionate about two. One of which was the school recommended by my friend. I sat in on a few more classes from both schools, LinkedIn-stalked the professors and spoke with recent alum from the programs.

While one program looked awesome on paper, and probably would have looked great on my resume, I just didn’t get a good vibe during my interactions with the school. When I sat in on a class, I learned that most of the students in that class were PhD students, and they were students who had always been in school, going straight from their bachelor’s to their master’s and now their doctorate. I worried that it wouldn’t be the right set of classmates for me. Like I said, the No. 1 reason I think it’s worth my time to attend an in-person program is that I need networking connections. While the doctorate students I met were wicked smart, they are not wicked employed, which makes them not wicked valuable to me.

The other school – the one my friend had recommended – never gave me a bad vibe. The people with whom I interacted were all awesome and helpful. When I sat in on classes, it was clear that nearly everyone was a working professional taking classes on the side. I made a few great connections that evening, and that was just one night! In the end, I decided that was the school for me.

I’m both thrilled and terrified of this new adventure. I’m thrilled to learn more about a new subject matter and see what lies ahead, but I’m also terrified that I’ll discover I’m horrible at it or that I’ll look like an idiot. While I don’t consider Saturday Night Live to be the epitome of self-affirmations, I’m going to keep repeating the wise words of Stuart Smalley: “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me.”

I’m also slightly terrified of the costs. While most of my program will be covered through my company’s tuition reimbursement program, I’ll still have a sizeable amount coming out of my own pocket. I’m hoping I can curb my shopping habits, ramp up my freelance writing work and become an extreme couponer.

What I’m reading: Nov. 29

Hi, friends.

I’ve found that in order for me to feel creative and thoughtful, I have to be reading and learning. I had a stretch where I read one awesome book after another and it was like the creative juices were splashing around my body like someone had opened a floodgate in my brain.

Then I had three – THREE – less-than-inspiring reads in a row. All three had great reviews on Amazon and were referenced in the awesome books I read. So I’ve been a bit nervous to buy or start any new books. I don’t think I can handle the disappointment. It’s definitely taken a toll on my creative flow. Until I can muster up enough courage to start a new book, I’ve been doing a lot of online reading from some of my favorite publications. Here are a few things I’ve been reading, along with a brief intro from the article.

4 reasons you really don’t want to be a perfectionist – Health Magazine. Being a perfectionist is often thought of as a plus. But it turns out, the life of a true perfectionist may not be so, well, perfect. In fact, a growing body of research suggests that this personality quirk has a dark side.

Choosing not to negotiate your first salary could cost you $65,173.56 – The Penny Hoarder. It’s that first job that can set the stage for the rest of their lives and provide much needed experience for their careers. It can also set the scale for how much they will earn over their lifetimes. Settling for a low salary or choosing not to negotiate can cost workers thousands of dollars over the course of their careers.

How being busy makes you unproductive – LinkedIn via Travis Bradberry*. Being busy has somehow become a badge of honor. The prevailing notion is that if you aren’t super busy, you aren’t important or hard working. The truth is, busyness makes you less productive. *Travis Bradberry is one of my favorite writers on topics like this. If you have a LinkedIn profile, follow him.

The power of saying “no” – The Undercover Economist. Every time we say yes to a request, we are also saying no to anything else we might accomplish with the time.

Exercises in decision-making: grad school

I’m typically anti-grad school.

Let me try to rephrase that. I’m typically anti-money-spending when there’s no guarantee of a return on investment (ROI). You might ask, “Lindsey, have you gotten a return on investment on those $10 dresses you purchased from Old Navy and have NEVER worn?”

The answer would be no, not at this time, but ANY. DAY. NOW. I believe this will be a true story. I bought a super cheap dress from H&M at least five years ago and have not worn it a single time because it never fit quite right. Now, thanks to being 32 and all my weight shifting from one area of my body to other areas mysteriously, the dress fits. My weight has stayed approximately the same, yet my clothes fit completely differently. It’s annoying and rewarding all at the same time.

But my opinions about higher education and ROI will have to wait for another post. This post is about my inability to make a decision.

Do you change your mind very often? I change my mind all the time. ALL. THE. TIME. I haven’t figured out if it’s entirely good or bad. One week I will only be a bargain shopper, the next week I’m telling someone they should spend a little more money on name brands. One week I’m a cardio-girl only, the next week I’ve decided strength training is the only way to go. Some days I want to work in an office every day, other days I think working from home full-time would be amazing. Sometimes I’m super happy we don’t have cable because I’d never get anything done, and sometimes I think having 24-hour access to HGTV wouldn’t be such a bad thing.

This post isn’t an advice post, by the way. It’s a Lindsey-ranting-about-something kind of post. The only value you’ll receive is entertainment, and that’s only if you enjoy my writing style. A lot. Like you really need to enjoy the way I write in order to get anything out of this post.

I’m in the process of researching masters programs. Technically I found one, and was like 87% sure it was the right program for me, so I applied for it, asked people to write letters of recommendation, paid for transcripts from my previous school – the whole kit and caboodle. (Do people still say that?) There was this little part of me that was terrified I had made the wrong choice – analysis paralysis – but I convinced myself that it was the right thing to do.

On the final day of my recent road trip vacation with my mom, I got an email from my admissions counselor at the school saying that, unfortunately, the school I had applied to doesn’t have a particular kind of authorization that the state I live in (Minnesota) requires. I don’t know exactly what this means, beyond “we didn’t feel like paying the state of Minnesota a ton of money to obtain this specific authorization.” More importantly, it meant I wouldn’t be going to school there.

Back to the drawing board.

I had spent months researching masters programs. Part of the problem is that I’m interested in multiple areas: Industrial and Organizational Psychology, Organizational Development, and Organizational Behavior. These three programs are very similar, but there are some nuances that make them a little different. Another part of the problem is that with technology, it’s possible to go to schools from all over the country (or world) by attending classes online. I think you have to be very careful about which schools and online programs you choose, but that’s a different post.

I’m targeting schools that are similar to where I went for my undergraduate degree: schools where most students live on-campus or near campus and attend courses in a classroom. I realize it’s maybe hypocritical for me to want a mostly campus-based school when I plan to attend 100% online. Call it what you will.

Because there are so many schools and programs available, it is nearly impossible to be confident you’re picking the right one. Well, it’s nearly impossible for me. I’ve looked at more than 20 schools. Here are the things I’m paying attention to – let me know if I’m missing anything:

  • What’s the degree? Master of science, management, art or education.
  • What’s the program? Organizational development, organizational behavior, organizational psychology.
  • How many credits are required? I’ve seen anywhere from 30 to 64.
  • Do I have to take an exam to get in, like the GRE or GMAT? If the school requires a test, the school is immediately removed from my list; I don’t have time for that, seriously.
  • How interesting do the classes sound? And how doable are they? If there’s more than one statistics class, it usually means it’s not the right program for me.
  • How credible do I believe the professors are? I read through all their bios to find out where they went to school, what’s their area of expertise, have they written any papers, do they also act as consultants for any companies, etc.
  • How many semesters are offered per year and how long is each semester? I’ve seen as few as three semesters a year or upwards of six, and anywhere from 12 weeks to as few as six weeks per semester or session.
  • How much is the tuition? I’ve seen as cheap as $415 per credit up to more than a thousand per credit.

I’ve spoken with six admissions counselors from different schools, and I’ll cross off any counselors who know nothing in-depth about the programs they’re trying to sell me on. One guy I spoke with kept calling the program the wrong thing. I’ve had some who are over-the-top salesy and others who are strictly informational.

As I sit here today, I’ve narrowed my choices down to three programs. But I’m still researching. I’ve Googled every combination of the different degrees and programs to come up with the most likely career paths, and they tend to be nearly the same. That should be reassuring, because it means no matter which of the degrees/programs I choose, I’ll probably be able to do the same kind of work. But I’m still terrified I’ll pick the wrong program.

Right now, I think I know what I want to do with my career. But I’m so worried about investing a significant amount of time (and some money, although not a lot because I’ll take advantage of tuition reimbursement opportunities at work) into something that might not be the direction I want to go with my career in a year or two, let alone by the time I finish in three or four years.

Why am I so worried?

Because I’ve changed my mind before, after investing time and money. In my mid-20s, I started my master of public health in health education. I was SO SURE that I wanted a career in health education. Almost to the point where I’ve never been more sure of anything else. I had a few job changes during the time I was pursuing my degree, and ended up at a financial services company where I felt like I’d never end up using my degree (plus my employer wouldn’t have contributed any funds to it since it wasn’t related to my current job or a future job with that company). I stopped pursuing my degree, and focused on work. Today, only five or six years later, I’m confident that I don’t want a degree in health education anymore.

So despite being so absolutely sure I wanted my masters in health education, I’m now so thankful that I stopped when I did rather than sinking any additional money or time into it. What if the exact same thing happens again?

Unfortunately I don’t think I’ll be sure until I get into the program and start doing the work. I’m hoping to incorporate some aspects of my schooling into my current job. I hope everything just sort of “clicks” for me and the study/work feel right. Only time will tell, I guess. Patience is not one of my virtues, so we’ll see how this goes.

How to quit your job

I’m always super excited for my friends when they’ve landed a new job. Starting a new chapter in your life is awesome and exhilarating. But prior to getting started at your new gig, you have to quit your current job. Before you tell your boss and coworkers, “See ya, suckers! I’m out of here!” consider the following steps.

Define the tone of your message

If you’re leaving your old job on a…well…less than pleasant note, it’s tempting to go out in a blaze of glory – the kind of resignation that will go down in history and all your coworkers will tell your story for years to come. While that sounds super fun, there are a few things to ask yourself first.

  • Will you ever need or want a reference from any of these people? If you’re leaving on a sour note, you probably don’t have a good relationship with your boss, so it’s doubtful that you’d ever expect a reference from that person. But you might want a letter of recommendation from others across the company who did appreciate your work or found your skills valuable. Running out of the office with your middle fingers waving probably won’t entice them to refer you for a future position. Well, unless you know that kind of exit is something they wish they could do too.
  • Is there any chance you’ll want to come back to this company? Right now, the idea of working for this company sounds horrible, but five or more years from now, you might want to go back. It’s safe to assume that whatever legacy-building resignation you provided will be well documented on your personnel file.
  • Is it possible you’ll work with any of them in the future? Most career fields are kind of “small world,” meaning once you’ve been in a particular field, like HR, for a few years, you start to notice that you hear all the same names and players throughout the rest of your career. I’ve had several coworkers with whom I worked at one company end up at another company I worked for not long after. This happens all the time. People talk – do you want people sharing with a future employer or prospective employer what kind of antics you displayed on your day of resignation?

No matter how you answered the questions above, or how big of an ass-hat your boss is, I highly encourage you to avoid the blaze-of-glory resignation.

However, if you do decide to do something memorable, please film it and email it to me.

What to say

When I was leaving one of my first jobs out of college, it was for a job opportunity that I was SO super excited about. I really loved the company I was at, but wanted to go in a different direction with my career and I thought this new job was the perfect stepping stone. While I did think about how to give my notice of resignation, I’m confident that I didn’t do a good job. I know that I tried to express my gratitude to my boss – who was awesome – while also explaining that this was a special opportunity to work in the field I thought I wanted to be in.

A couple jobs later, I was much more prepared for how to properly give my notice.

If you’re a rockstar employee who has a good relationship with your boss and other leaders, they won’t want to let you go. To get around this, it’s imperative that you come up with bulletproof talking points.

First, I like to say something about how I’ve been “offered this amazing opportunity.” The way I say it, it sort of sounds like someone just called me out of the blue to offer me this job, instead of what actually happened: I looked for this job, fixed up my resume for this job, applied for it, had multiple interviews for it, negotiated and finally accepted. I like to make it sound like I was sought out by a special headhunter or recruiter because it doesn’t sound as disloyal.

Next, I like to emphasize how this new role is totally different than what I’m doing now, and something that I wouldn’t have the opportunity to do unless I left to do it somewhere else. For example, I used to work for a financial services company. When I got a job offer for a healthcare company, I really emphasized how the work I wanted to do was tied directly to helping others live a healthier life – and I couldn’t do that in my current role or in any other role within the company since that wasn’t their focus.

Maybe your new job is something totally unrelated to what you’re doing now – that’s perfect and makes things super easy.

A friend of mine recently accepted a position with a new company and had to give her notice. She and I talked about her plan of attack. Someone had told her that she should claim that she’s just looking to change things up in her life because she was in a time of change – she had just gotten married. While this isn’t necessarily a bad explanation, it won’t hold water if your current employer tries to convince you to stay. Saying that you’re leaving because you just want some change can sound shortsighted, as if you’re making a decision based on nothing but a whim. Your current employer will shoot holes in this almost immediately.

Their rebuttal: how to stick with your plan

Look at you, being a rockstar and therefore getting called into your VP’s office so she can convince you to stay. While it’s incredibly flattering, you have to be prepared with those talking points we just talked about.

After you mention that you’ve been offered an amazing opportunity, your VP will tell you about all the amazing opportunities awaiting you at your current company. That’s awesome, you say, but then you hit her with the talking point about how this new role is totally different from what you’re doing now and unavailable anywhere within your current company.

Let’s say you didn’t take my advice and said the reason you were leaving was because you needed something new. Your current VP could say, “Lindsey, I think you’re making a rash decision right now – one that I think you’ll regret once the ‘newness’ has worn off. Plus, with all that change, I think you’ll find it comforting to have one stable thing in your life.”

Argh! That’s not what we want. That’s why you have to stick with something your VP can’t talk you out of. When I left my last job, I told my VP that I was really excited about this new role because it was an opportunity to do work I’ve ALWAYS wanted to do, and that I felt like I had to take advantage of the opportunity. My VP told me that she had done the same thing in her past, and after being there for a few months, she realized she had made a mistake. I told her that I appreciated her sharing that experience, but that I would always live with regret if I didn’t give it a chance. The next thing she said was that she understood, and that she hoped I’d keep the company in mind when I was ready to move on to my next role. Score! The dream situation is to have your current company hoping that you’d eventually come back, or at least they are open to it.

The most important thing is to avoid offending them. Stick to how this is all about you and your desire for what your next step is, not any shortcomings of the company. You might have a long list of shortcomings, but this probably isn’t the place to share them.

Do you really want to leave?

The last thing to think about is whether you really want to leave. For me, that answer has always been steadfastly yes, no doubt about it. By going through this process, you’ll hopefully have done a lot of thinking about why you want to leave and why you are excited about this future job. Aside from the normal fear of the unknown, did you uncover any other red flags or thoughts that have caused you to second-guess your transition?

I have a friend who applies and interview for jobs on a regular basis, even though he loves his current job. I think he does it for a couple reasons: 1) to find out whether he’s hire-able somewhere else and 2) to use his hire-ability and new salary offers in order to get raises at his current job. This tactic has worked for him on more than one occasion. I’m confident that when he’s going through the process of applying for jobs and interviewing, it really has nothing to do with a desire to leave his current job. It’s more about maximizing his current position, or making the hard decision to leave if his current employer doesn’t value him as much as a competitor would. While he doesn’t plan to leave, he still has to be prepared to leave if his current employer chooses not to give him the raise or promotion he’s asked for.

Receiving a job offer for a position you’re excited about it is one of the best feelings in the world. Sharing that news with your current employer is usually much less exciting. One last piece of advice: Even though a recruiter or hiring manager has made you an offer, nothing is official until they’ve sent you that offer letter and you’ve accepted. I wouldn’t start the resignation process with your current employer until you’ve received and signed your new offer letter. As far as notice goes, two weeks is the standard. I try to provide closer to three weeks, if possible. I also try to negotiate my start date at my new company so that I’ll have some time off in between jobs. This decision will depend on your comfort level of not receiving a pay check for that amount of time away from a job, as well as the situation for health insurance.

How to get the most out of a boring job

Being unhappy at work is the worst. We spend so much of our time there – it’s sad to think we’re just wasting that portion of our lives away.

Most of my job dissatisfaction comes from boredom. I miss college where your schedule of classes only lasted a semester. I loved that I was always learning something new. I also loved that if one class was mega boring, I just had to survive it for a few months and then I’d be able to move onto something totally new.

Unfortunately it seems like once you enter the working world, things don’t work that way. Yes, you get new projects at work, but for me, they aren’t new enough. I need an entirely new company with entirely new products to learn about.

I met with a friend recently who doesn’t quite hate her job, but she’s definitely bored. And not the kind of bored where she has nothing to work on; it’s the kind of bored where she has plenty to do, but she finds it all SO BORING. Like she will find any excuse to do something other than her work because she doesn’t have a good excuse for why she’s falling asleep at her desk at all hours of the day.

We talked about her options: look for a new job or stay where she’s at. Or ramp up her caffeine intake. While she knows she eventually wants to look for a new job, now isn’t the right time. So how can she make the most of her current situation?

Research

First, I asked her if she wants to do the same kind of work when she’s in her next role. She knows she doesn’t want to do exactly the same kind of work, but she wants to stick with something that would be a good transfer of her skills – she’s not willing to take a big pay cut to start over in a completely unrelated field. I asked if the work she’s doing right now will help her get her future job, and she was a little unsure.

“I don’t feel like I’m learning anything with the work I’m doing,” she said. “It’ll be nice to say I did this work, but I truly don’t think I’ve learned anything about this skill – once I’m in the new role, they’ll realize I’m an impostor.”

“Does it have to be that way? Can you push yourself to learn these things, even if you don’t need to know the info in order to be successful at your current job?”

“Oh…”

It’s like it never occurred to her that even though she’s not required to have this knowledge in her current role, she could take it upon herself to learn the more advanced skills.

I’m sounding pretty judgmental right now, aren’t I? How rude! I’ve been in this same position before. I think sometimes you get in a rut and you just throw yourself one pity party after another. That’s what I would do, and I’d stay in that rut until I had no other choice but to go into hardcore job-hunt mode. This is what I’ve had to do to myself: be rude and judgmental to snap myself out of my clouded ruts.

So I asked her, “OK, we just figured out one area where you could force yourself to learn more. What other aspects of your job would allow you to learn more and hone your skills in order to make yourself more marketable for a future role?”

We were able to come up with a short list of items for her to research and practice.

I’ve done this in previous roles myself. It’s kind of a win-win. Not only are you learning and adding skills to your arsenal, but it also gives you something to pass the time when maybe you are a bit…bored. In some of my previous roles, I had plenty to do, but didn’t feel a sense of urgency to get the work done, similar to my friend. By setting aside a chunk of time for research and practice, it meant I had less time to get my work done…which created some urgency! So I was learning and becoming more motivated to get my current work done, all at the same time.

Network

Since my friend was a little unsure about what her next role would be, I told her another thing she should be doing is networking. My recommendation was to network internally, just to capitalize on easy introductions and coffee dates since she’d be in the same building or general vicinity. I told her that a great thing that comes from networking is that you not only learn about different areas of the company, but you also might learn about a few additional people you should talk to, both internally and externally. Hearing other people talk about what they do on a daily or weekly basis can usually give you a good idea whether it’s something you could see yourself doing. It also helps you see the personality of the team, and provides some insight (possibly) on the leader. It doesn’t hurt to learn what future roles along that career path would be either, just so you’re prepared.

While it would be great to just move to a new role whenever we wanted, sometimes we need to stay put, whether we have a choice or not. I have a few friends who work for an organization that has amazing flexibility and other perks, but also has a long list of incredibly frustrating aspects. But the good perks, including better pay than most other employers, keep my friends in place. They all say the same thing: “I have to figure out how to change my mindset.” For me, it’s been impossible to change my mindset. Reminding myself how good I have it or how bad it is at other places never seems to help me. I have to figure out a new goal. Networking and learning are the only goals that have worked successfully for me.