Is it just me? Deciphering career dissatisfaction

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Over the years I have worked with so many clients who are dissatisfied at work.

You can see it in the way they talk about their skill set, their role or the manager they work for. If you live with this underlying sense of disengagement for long enough, it then becomes very difficult to understand exactly what you’re dissatisfied with.

Is it the work you do? Are you being underutilised? Is your supervisor managing you in a way that matches your style? Is it your team?

With so many variables, it often seems like the smartest choice is to jump ship and find another role.

That should solve the problem, right? Perhaps. But maybe not. That’s because you may simply be repeating or reinforcing the same issues, just in another company for a different manager.

So, before you decide the dissatisfaction is too much to handle, work through the steps below to really understand what it is that’s causing the friction. The core issue might surprise you and lead to a completely different "fix" than you imagined. 

  • On a blank piece of paper, draw a timeline for the last 10-15 years on the horizontal axis. On the vertical axis write the label ‘Satisfaction’.
  • Plot the start of each job role along the timeline according to your general feeling of satisfaction during your time in the role and join the dots.
  • For each role, list what you liked and disliked as well as the reason you left.
  • Now look over the graph to find patterns and trends. Do you tend to leave jobs because your leader is not providing direction? Are you no longer interested in the work you do? Is there any link between job location, or roster, and dissatisfaction?
  • If you can, show the graph to your partner, a friend or someone you trust. What patterns can they see? An external perspective can be helpful. 
  • Based on the trends and patterns you identify, the last step is to take action. While making change can be daunting, remember than doing much of the same will result in much of the same.

Although this process might sound simple, it can be exceptionally powerful. It should only take 30 minutes from start to finish, but this reflection can arm you with some better direction and the knowledge that you are making changes to solve the core problem that is leading to your dissatisfaction.

Therese Lardner is the lead psychologist for Mindset Coaching and Consulting. She's a registered psychologist with extensive experience in all areas of the employment cycle from recruitment and selection to development, employee engagement and career transition. Click here to ask for her expert advice on landing your perfect mining and resources job, moving up the career ladder or dealing with job insecurity.

Click here for lots more expert career advice from Therese Lardner.