Making A Bad Job Good

  • Article by: MATT KRUMRIE , Star Tribune Sales and Marketing
  • Updated: February 9, 2009 - 9:42 AM

If you are unhappy with your job – but can’t afford to make a change - there are ways to make the most of a murky situation. These tips show how to do just that.

Dear Matt: Can you provide suggestions on how to be happy at work? I'm doing a job that isn't fulfilling for me - but it pays well and it would be difficult to find a new job that pays the same - especially if I change fields. How can I get motivated?

Matt: I agree with Curt Rosengren, author of "101 Ways to get wild About Work" ( /101ways), who says the first thing you should do is take stock of the good, the bad and the ugly in your current situation.

Make a laundry list of things you like about the job. Maybe you like one specific aspect of the work you do, or you like the people you work with, or they have really good coffee. Whatever you see as positive, add it to the list. Then make a laundry list of things you dislike. If you're unhappy with the work, this one is probably going to be a bit easier.

By breaking the job down into positive and negative pieces, you give yourself more to work with, says Rosengren. Look at each of the things on the positive list and ask, "How can I bring more of this into the picture?" Then look at each of the items on the negative list and ask, "How can I reduce this, or eliminate it altogether?"

"You might not be able to work miracles, but you might be surprised just how much potential there is to sculpt your job in the right direction, especially over time," says Rosengren.

If you've fallen into any kind of habit of complaining about the work, the company, the commute, your boss, your cubicle, the lousy coffee, whatever, stop, says Rosengren. You're never going to complain yourself happy. You're only reinforcing what you don't like and making an active choice to wallow in the muck. Try doing an end-of- day review every day with one simple question: What did I like about today? Sometimes, it really is all about what you choose to focus on.

Remember, what is happening in the rest of your life has an effect on how you feel at work. Outside of work, what gives you energy? What depletes it? How can you bring more of what energizes you into the picture? How can you minimize the things that drain you?

"The more energized you feel by the rest of your life, the more energy you'll bring to the job," says Rosengren.

Matt Krumrie is a freelance writer from Inver Grove Heights, and has nine years of experience reporting on the employment industry. This column will answer readers' questions. E-mail questions or subject ideas to


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