Work Philosophy: when reality does not meet expectations

I think that this post will be beneficial for many of you out there who are unsure about your jobs, or don’t really know what to do when a job does not give you what you want or expect. Don’t be scared of all this text. I’ll try to make it as easy to read as possible. But just a warning, it is an essay. A 3000 word one, too.

Everyone has expectations when working: hours worked, the quality of the workplace environment, stress levels (directly proportional to workload), where to sit in management hierarchy and a very major part – pay.

Let’s all be realistic, unless you are working that dream job where none of those factors I have mentioned are a problem (in this case you wouldn’t be reading this), you must step back for a moment and ask yourself: “what are my goals? What goal is next? What have I achieved? What have I done to achieve it? Could I be working harder?”.

A lot of work problems are generally solved when you actually question yourself if there is a problem with you or with your workplace. As much as I would like to side with you and say that every employer on earth is evil (to some extent – and that is, on the condition that you are an employee), sadly, a lot of employees really haven’t done anything substantial to deserve the extras they want. On the other hand, employers must really question themselves as well – “how much do I value my employee? What can I do to ensure they are happy to produce the best for me? What rewards can I offer to keep them working here? Do I need to review them?”.

Not every feedback is positive, but not every feedback is negative either. I have known friends who have searched for the perfect job and waited months or years before landing the job they feel they will stay in for a long time. I also know friends who are more than comfortable switching jobs when they feel that it is time for a change.

Let’s put things into context

Statistically, women are less likely to quit their jobs and find new jobs. I am definitely one of them. I have a lot of insecurities about myself although people would tend to describe me as someone with many abilities. I am single, don’t have rent or mortgage to pay (though I do need to pay bills, strata fees and keep myself and my friends happy), and I am solely responsible for being the breadwinner in the family as my mum is not really fit for working.

I don’t have bad habits such as drinking, smoking, gambling or anything that requires periodic spending and I don’t own a car so there is no need for petrol or registration either (though my mum has one, and well, okay it’s sort of mine as well though I don’t drive it – and I need to pay for that). I have taxes to pay and I pay 2x health insurance premiums. Everything is double on a single income for me. I pride in having a substantial amount of savings for those emergencies, and I have never really lived with the absence of money. I don’t need to save up for the things I want, but I do so anyway as a habit.

On top of a full time job I have a casual job on the side which easily covers groceries or transport, provided I do it at least twice a week, but that means extra hours on top.

In a summary, my lifestyle is quite comfortable, not overly abundant, yet not lacking much. I am a paranoid person at heart – things really need to be the way they should be for me to feel comfortable about things.

The good: a stable full time job, solid work ethics

My previous job offered me the “security” of a stable job. I had continual career advancement, hit my peak, took on a whole heap of responsibilities and basically somehow managed to do the workload of approximately 2.5 people at once, with the responsibilities of perhaps 5 in 1. By no means was the job originally that demanding. I don’t think it was ever meant to be that demanding. There was a lot of stress involved because being stuck in the middle is the most difficult position to be in. It’s hard to coordinate between different opinions, and I was not used to having extra people twisting your words and telling them to other people in a way that made you feel and look bad.

I believe that I am one of the most honest people I know. Of course I tell white lies and do stupid things, I am human. But when it comes to work, I take any work seriously. There are no lies involved in work. No nasty surprises, no drama – this is my work philosophy. I never come late to work unless there is an emergency (emergency does not include “the alarm didn’t go off” or “I missed the bus” – there are NOT emergencies, only you have yourself to blame for not being earlier!) or a genuine mishap, and I always own up to my mistakes if I make any. I am responsible and I fix my mistakes to make things right.

I’m terrible at communicating things, but I do it anyway because it is my job to do so. I try my best. I really do. I try to set myself as a good example to others, and I also set myself to complete all tasks as soon as possible. I rarely take breaks, and I rarely procrastinate on the job or describe myself as “idle”.

The bad: work overload, obsessive compulsiveness and stress

Because I take my work so seriously, I was always tired, thinking about work and remembering all sorts of work details that really shouldn’t be on my mind all the time. I had an irregular lifestyle and my meals were messed up. I would eat lunch at about 12:30, get home past 7:30pm (sometimes past 8:30pm, latest being almost 9pm) without any meals or snacks in between. Add in another job, I would sometimes return home past 10pm. The latest I have ever tried was returning at midnight after 3 hours’ of my second job.

During the long course of the day I would have on average about 3 toilet breaks which is probably less than what many office workers have (given the amount of coffee consumption involved). I lacked Vitamin D, in a severe way – not even near a mild deficiency. I was always grumpy, miserable, and I no longer wanted to talk to people or see people in my spare time. I would try to stay in my room as much as possible and retreated from the outside world.

When I would think about how hard I believe I worked and thought about my life and what I was getting, I would feel sad. If I thought of something unhappy during the course of the day, I would be depressed. This was not normal. Work should not affect your daily life like this. To have work stress you out to the point that you can’t control your feelings and end up an emotional mess is not normal at all.

I thought about myself and work for a very long time. I came to the conclusion that I did have my flaws, but I was almost 95% positive that the work I have done was more than enough to cover for those. I wasn’t sure if I expect to have more at this rate. But I knew that I wasn’t able to give any more effort, because I was really at my limit, if it meant that giving that extra effort to receive that extra “more”. Here is a graph I drew to explain what those last two messy sentences meant:

pay

Generally you are always working more than what you are paid (if you are a diligent worker). At least the graph sort of shows what I think or feel at the very least. There is a point when the amount of effort or labour hits a point that you cannot exceed (which is where the curve starts to flatten). This can be due to a variety of factors – probably one being that you know you aren’t ever going to get pay to match your effect. Another could be that the workload you get only increases, doesn’t stabilise, and doesn’t decrease as it is not distributed to other people.

In Misa’s ideal world, this is what the graph should look like:

idealworld

Regardless of what those two lines look, they should be somewhat closely knit. In fact, there should only really be one line. This is the type of “justice” I stand for. I believe that hard work has rewards, and that little work you fully deserve to get your ass (verbally) whipped. It’s only fair in this world. I know that this pretty much means that you can’t turn into a wealthy person overnight and you get laughed at by people to “get paid to sit and do nothing”, but I actually prefer to work hard and get paid, even if it’s not much. Perhaps it’s because I’m humble in that respect.

What do we seek in a job?

Sometimes, and in fact, most of the time it’s not about how much you are paid. It’s about being appreciated, that person that people rely on. That someone people can say “thankfully I had you, or else I wouldn’t have been able to do it!” to. I thought I was that kind of person, but I guess not. Working, sometimes, is simply a transaction. You supply the goods (in this instance, labour) and you get paid. Don’t like the pay? Don’t do the job. I think that was one of my biggest downfalls – mixing in personal attachment and emotions with my work, which is not recommended. At least in hindsight, I do not recommend it to anyone.

Why rage/quit?

To be honest, I was getting sick of people asking me when I was going to quit my job. I didn’t have any problems with my job but people made it out like either I was too good for it or I should do something else better. I don’t necessarily see changing workplaces as a level up or accomplishment as long as you are happy with what you are doing. That was the way I felt, and I didn’t let people pressure me into staying or leaving. I merely focused on myself, from a very objective point of view.

Most people thought that when I resigned from my job it was a sudden decision. It wasn’t. I did not rage/quit my job. I don’t think anyone should do this, because it puts you in super awkward situations. Leaving my job was something I contemplated over carefully over a course of 6 months. I wrote my first resignation about 4 months in, but didn’t hand it in.

When one door closes, another opens

I tried a variety of things – I went for interviews, two weren’t very formal, one was. All three interviews were positive and all three parties expressed an interest in hiring me.

When work makes you depressed for a period of about a year or so, the response from these interviews to me was overwhelming. The confidence I lost in myself came back slowly to me, and I was willing to try new things. I was no longer afraid to meet or see new people or people in general. This was because these potential employers had confidence in me, which is something I value greatly and think is a major drive. I was too used to all this negative air, and admittedly had a pretty bad string of events happening to me. This was really the rainbow after rain.

But things didn’t end there; at least three other parties encouraged or expressed an interest in hiring me as well. In total, six. This was over a span of just 6 months, with very spontaneous and limited submission of my resumé. Of course there were those who never replied, but the mere fact that I got people replying was something I appreciated greatly. In fact, I still got one even after changing my work profile to “not interested” and restricted access to my information. So, seven.

It wasn’t the fact that I felt that nobody wanted me to work for them or didn’t value me, suddenly I was just overwhelmed with choice. For the first time in years, I could actually choose what I wanted to do next. And this is new. Once again, I am terrible at making decisions because I don’t know how to choose. I eventually settled for something that was slightly more dynamic and provided a bit more flexibility, yet familiar.

Slight digression, for those who complain about their jobs

To people who complain about hating going to work and making work sound like a chore that you hate, I have a message for you. I was like you. I was one of you. But after a long sequence of events, lots of emotional turmoil, breakdown, frustration and contemplation, what I have to say is just stop complaining. Don’t like your job? Change it. Counting down the minutes or dreading the job before you even set your foot outside your door? You aren’t even thankful for your job, so maybe you should just find something you are thankful for, and give your “terrible” job to someone else who will value it. There’s no use in complaining about how much work sucks if that’s all you’re going to be talking about. Nobody likes negativity, and it took me a very long time, and the hard way to realise this.

For those who are scared of quitting their job and looking for a new one, please don’t think that I am telling you all to go out there and let loose. I’m not here to stop you from earning money by telling everyone to turn themselves unemployed. I’m just here to let you know that, hey, there is another world out there. There are so many opportunities. If you are not enjoying your job, try something new and see if things change for you. Because for me, things certainly did, and things aren’t so bad.

If you’re scared, like I was, and rather the security of working a job that made you unhappy and depressed but enjoyed having steady income, there’s nothing wrong in that either, provided you did the best you could while you were on the job. You need to be thankful to have a job. That’s the only way you can get any reward or satisfaction out of it. There’s no point in having the job make you unhappy and let it affect your work performance. You need to bear with it and do what your job pays you to do. If that’s not possible, it’s maybe time for a change.

Life-changing? It certainly can be

Now I am currently working an incredible 7 hours less than my previous job a week. I can do everything I want to do, and I finally have “time” for those things that I never seemed to have time for before. I have plenty of time for my second “job” which is the odd tutoring 1-3 times a week depending on when I need to go, and I am actually in control of my life. I don’t have work controlling my life now. It’s a very different feeling, and I feel liberated and my stress levels have really gone down a lot. I’m a lot brighter and positive these days, and I am actually enjoying life now.

To many, changing jobs might seem to be something small and something people do every day. It is indeed something we all do every day. But we must not take these choices and opportunities for granted, because greed might lead to downfall (and I have seen this before when someone put all their eggs in one basket and ended up with nothing). To me, it was an important decision, and I ended up improving the quality of my life – in my own perspective, anyway.

Tips for finding a job

  • Update your resumé often so that when you see a job that makes you go “I must apply!” you do it straight away. Sometimes it’s an impulsive thing. Don’t wait, your chance is there, so apply for it. This landed me an interview and pass to the second round, but I accepted another offer. A chance is a chance, and any chance is precious. Don’t waste it, don’t throw it away, keep it because it can possibly be the determining factor for the next few years of your life and career.
  • Sign yourself up for automated emails. Some people (including me) really dread sifting through pages of new ads every single day. Unless you have lots of time to do so each day, most likely the norm is to only do it once every few days or even just once a week. By then, all the good jobs would have received plenty of submissions, and when you submit yours, you will be on the bottom of the pile. Set up automated emails once a day so you can check your mail in the morning. See something that catches your eye? Click on it. Don’t see anything? At least you have an email reminder telling you to go check the new job ads today.
  • Ask your friends. More often than not, your friends actually might be able to offer you something. It sounds strange, but 2 out of 6 jobs I was considering were from friends. In fact, the one I am working at now was via a friend.
  • Be mature, don’t be too positive, but don’t be negative either. Prepare yourself for the worst, but also hope for the best. There is no definite when it comes to job-hunting.

To those who made it to the end and read every single word, I sincerely congratulate you. This post took over 30 revisions typed bit by bit after the course of a week or so, and it was a post that I wrote sincerely from the heart. I hope that for everyone to find happiness in what they are doing, and to go find that happiness if it does not exist currently. I am looking forward to working at my current place for at least the next year or so, and I hope that I will do a good job. I would like to say that a lot of the good things happening are partly due to my contributions, with sales raising over 150%. I want to consider myself as someone useful, productive, and valuable and I will work hard for that. Thank you for reading, and I will see you next blog!

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