No job is perfect and every one of them comes with stress, but life is too short to feel unfulfilled, day in and day out. Still, job dissatisfaction is rampant across all industries, titles, and pay levels, afflicting executives earning six figures as well as employees making minimum wage. So if you're wondering why you are unhappy at work — even if you've landed a "great job" — there are factors (beyond your paycheck) that may be causing your discontentment. "It’s important to recognize that 'success' means something different to everyone," points out Blair Decembrele, a LinkedIn career expert. "One of the best first steps is to ask yourself what you’re 'in it' for — what makes you tick, and what type of work will support that?"
Ahead, two career experts and one entrepreneur weigh in on what may be making you miserable at the office. From feeling inauthentic in your position, to lacking a work-life balance, to not knowing how to ask for exactly what you want, these tips will help you to re-evaluate your job beyond its monetary value. After all, says Decembrele, you'll spend 90,000 hours of your adult life working; you might as well do something that makes you feel fulfilled.
Your Job Doesn't Align With Your Strengths Or Values
Avery Roth, a career coach, says a common source of her clients' unhappiness is their inability to be authentic at work. "Our culture values certain skills over others: Analysis over creativity, assertiveness over gentleness. In a nutshell, the traits we value in our society are more masculine. Both men and women have masculine and feminine traits, and ideally, we would embrace all parts of ourselves so as to live balanced, fulfilled lives. But men and women both tend to repress their feminine attributes, especially in a work context, which can create misalignment between who we really are and the work we end up pursuing."
How To Fix It: The next step is to identify your values, then decide whether they're reflected in your work, day by day. If not, consider whether it's your industry, your position, or your employer that's holding you back from satisfaction — in your career, and ultimately, in life. "Diving deep into self-exploration is the most direct way to uncover all of who we are," Roth says. "Take an inventory of your strengths and transferable skills. If these align with the work you're currently doing, then chances are good that the role itself is a good fit, but your values no longer align with the opportunity."
You Lack Work-Life Balance (& May Be Burning Out)
No matter how much you love your job, if it starts consuming your life, unhappiness is almost inevitable. "Seventy percent of professionals feel their biggest driver of stress is a lack of work-life balance, and 70 percent admit that even when they do take vacation, they don’t break away," says Decembrele, referring to a LinkedIn report on stress at work. With technology making employees constantly accessible, and the ability to work from nearly anywhere, people are having a hard time "clocking out," one probable cause of the widespread burnout epidemic.
How To Fix It: The answer is simple in theory, but tricky in practice: You have to find a way to unplug. For many, the easiest way to fully relax is to get out of town. "Take a vacation — seriously — work is just one aspect of your life," says Beryl Solomon, founder and CEO of Poplar, a CBD wellness brand. "Take a minute and connect with the other pieces that bring you happiness/fulfillment. Go with your kids, with your sister, with your girlfriends, with your significant other, hell, go solo! But take a real break and gain some perspective."
As far as maintaining your balance post-trip, small changes can do wonders for your mental wellbeing. Set a time every night and commit to shutting off your laptop and phone (or at least, stop checking work emails); let your boss know you won't be available after said time; and, of course, don't forget to practice self-care.
You're Not Pursuing Any Outside Interests
To that, it's so important not to let work overwhelm your entire identity. After all, when your job starts taking up too much headspace, your work stress will start to take over the rest of your life. "Make sure you are nurturing more than just your work persona," advises Solomon. "Oftentimes, work is frustrating because success is such a big, lofty ideal, it feels insurmountable."
How To Fix It: "Add one new activity to your rotation, and set a goal, [like starting a] book club or new workout regimen," she suggests. "Set some small, achievable goals. And, I bet what seems small to you is actually huge. At one point in my career when I felt stuck, I decided to train to run a marathon … it seemed so much easier [compared to solving problems at work]. The irony!"
You Don't Know How To Ask For What You Want
Yes, you work for the paycheck, but career satisfaction is about more than just money. Benefits, a flexible schedule, good co-workers, and positive office vibes are all contributors to employee happiness. But as it turns out, millennials, especially, seem to have missed the memo when it comes to negotiating perks (and pay) in a job. "Our data indicates that [millenials are] not always asking for what they want, specifically in negotiations," Decembrele explains. "While 59 percent of millennials think hiring managers expect them to negotiate salary and benefits, 53 percent have never negotiated for salary or benefits."
How To Fix It: "Consider if there are tweaks you might be able to make to your role that would make you happier," Decembrele recommends. "And then ask for what you want! That might mean putting in a request for a work-from-home day or more flexible hours, or seeing if your company will provide you with on-the-job training to up-level your skills and discover a new role within the company."
If your employer refuses to compromise -- or at least, help you come up with a game plan -- then you might want to consider looking for opportunities elsewhere.