The ‘Uncut Series’ is a set of audio out-takes that I recorded on the fly based around the 7 Job Search Pillars. The audio contains comment and valuable insight – on how to be happy at work – derived from personal and professional experiences that have helped me and many others discover a career path towards their dream job.
The eight mistakes that I’m about to present could lead to you alienating yourself from your colleagues at work, which in turn could give you a feeling of not belonging at work. These mistakes could be a symptom of something much deeper. It might mean that you’re not happy in your situation and if that is the case, then it’s up to you to make a change and you’ll need to make that change yourself and instigate that change so that things improve.
Some of these mistakes are mistakes that I have made myself or mistakes that I’ve seen other people make and I hope that in reading this and in listening to this, you recognise any of the mistakes that you read and listen to and then go ahead and make the improvements to make your whole situation much better.
Mistake number one is something that I did. I got comfortable in my job and I stopped pushing myself. I stopped presenting ideas, I stopped really talking to my colleagues at work about new ways of doing things. There was even a point at which I stopped improving myself, my skills … there was a point where I was suggesting courses that I could go on to improve myself and enhance my skills which would then obviously lead to my situation at work improving and helping my team to improve. That all began to stop as I lost enthusiasm for the role that I was in. Don’t take this for granted because people around you will notice that that enthusiasm is beginning to drop and the likelihood is that you won’t be able to move on, you won’t be able to advance yourself, you probably won’t get that promotion that you wanted or you end up just treading water and getting even more bored and more frustrated. As I said, people around you will notice that and probably the person who will notice most, is your boss.
There’s another way in which people get comfortable. They get comfortable in the job that they’re in, they’re happy just to tick along and again, they miss out on opportunities to develop themselves and sometimes that development could be a necessity rather than just an option. So what happens in that case when they’re ready to move on from their job having spent five, six, seven years in the same job or even sometimes even ten years in the same job without having improved themselves. They find it very difficult to move forward because they haven’t developed their careers, they haven’t developed the skills in order to make a change and in fact, they find that they’re behind the times and find themselves having to catch up so that they become more attractive to their next employer.
The solution here is continuous networking, whether you are looking for a new job or not. That will keep you abreast of what’s going on in your market, in your niche. It will tell you how you need to develop your career, what skills, what training you need to undergo in order to stay competitive. You’ll be presented with new roles, new opportunities if you are the kind of person who does do that networking. Talking to other people will give you new ideas that you can present to your boss and it will keep your brain going in a sense, so that you remain enthusiastic and driven to improve yourself.
Mistake number two is something that I hear [dissatisfied people do] all the time and that is, people who complain about the situation they’re in at work. Complaints vary from, the work’s not interesting, they’re not getting a pay rise, they’re not feeling as though they’re moving their career forward, they hate their boss or they don’t like the people that they work with. Now I’m not saying that people shouldn’t complain. I complain a lot and it’s just a matter of complaining to the right people, I guess and talking to the right people so that they understand and can offer you positive advice to change the situation that you’re in. That’s one solution to being in a situation where you are not comfortable because that’s probably the reason you’re complaining in the first place.
Another solution is actually realising that you’re in a situation that you’re not comfortable with and sometimes that’s not an obvious thing to be able to do or it’s not something that is easy to do, by any means. I’ve even come across and spoken to people who believe that it’s not possible to change the situation that they’re in, regardless of the job that they’re in. That’s just not true. Any situation that you’re in … almost any situation that you’re in, can be changed to something that is better so you need to believe that you can change the situation and, another solution, is to take action to make that change. Focus on the things that are positive about what you’ve learnt, about the skills that you have, get yourself into a growth mindset and look at how the future can be as opposed to looking back on how things are at the moment. Talk to people who could help you to make that change and identify the problems that you’re having, so that you can then come up with solutions and a plan to take yourself forward and get yourself out of the situation that you find yourself in.
The kinds of people who can help you range from your most trusted friends, trusted colleagues and professionals and people who you don’t know, for example, recruitment consultants, career consultants, counsellors and coaches. I think one of the most important groups of people or sets of people to talk to about the problems that you’re having are those closest to you. I always talk to my mum, for example and my other half, as well because usually what happens is, if you’re in that negative frame of mind, you will bring those problems home with you and if you don’t share those problems, or at least tell your partner about the problems that you’re having, it has an impact, a negative impact on work and home life. At least if your partner knows the problems that you’re having, they can understand and help you to get around those problems. After all, a problem shared is a problem halved.
Mistake number three is deliberately isolating yourself from your colleagues and it doesn’t matter whether your job requires that you work alone or work in a team. There’s no excuse to completely isolate yourself from your colleagues. In fact, it’s necessary for you to network with them and talk to them, whether that be in the kitchen while you’re on a coffee break or outside on a smoking break with your colleagues. You need to try to get to know your colleagues in one way or another, because again, whether you work in a team or alone, there may come a time where you need their help and they’re less likely to want to help you if you’re not prepared to help them and get to know them.
You need to make an effort to build relationships so that you can all get on well and yes, there are times when you will deliberately have to isolate yourself if you’re working on a project or something that you really need to concentrate on. Again, if you’ve been able to build those relationships with your colleagues, then you’ll be able to manage their expectations and tell them, “Actually, I need to put my head down for an hour or two and go and sit over there on that desk over there so that I can really get my head down and focus on this particular project”. Of course, then they’ll understand because they’ll be in the loop, they’ll understand that you need to get your head down and concentrate.
Following on from mistake number three is mistake number four where you don’t socialise or you deliberately choose not to socialise with your colleagues. Work, especially in the UK, I’ve found, is not just about working at your desk or your day to day nine to five; it’s also about socialising with your colleagues outside of work. After all, we are naturally a sociable species so it only stands to reason that we socialise outside of our usual working situation. It’s good to understand what your colleagues’ interests are and vice verse, to share your interests with your colleagues. That all contributes to helping to build a relationship and enables you to have conversations when you get back to work the next day that are around things that aren’t just related to work. That just helps to lighten the atmosphere before you get into the serious business of doing your work.
My advice here is, just go out every once in a while. If you have children like me, then the colleagues around you, if they’re on the same wavelength, should accept and understand that you won’t be able to go out every time. If you do get resistance and gossiping around you, going out or not going out, every Friday or every Saturday when they go out, then you have to question whether you’re in the right place and working with the right people.
Then there’s mistake number five which again, follows on from mistake number four and that is, sharing too much information and by that, I mean sharing everything about your private life all the time so that it becomes the focal point of your conversations at work and so that you become the focal point of conversation at work and you highlight everything that you do and everything that you’ve done over the weekend and you go into detail, into painful detail. As I said previously, there’s no harm in sharing some of your interests, some of your personal interests with your colleagues but, as I said, going into too much detail can sometimes set you up to become the centre of attention. It can make it look as though you’re not focused on your work and people will begin to question your professionalism so, my advice here is simply, just moderate the amount of extracurricular information that you share with your colleagues.
Mistake number six is when you smile or tell yourself that everything will be okay when things quite clearly aren’t okay, or you tell yourself that things will get better. You go into work every day and you’re grinning and bearing whatever situation you’re in or you’re trying to put a brave face on things. I think the first thing that you need to realise is that things will not get better on their own. First and foremost, you need to figure out what the problem is that’s causing you to feel the way that you do and as I alluded to earlier on, it’s not always easy to actually figure out what the problem is on your own and trying to tackle problems with your career on your own, is a mistake in itself because if you speak to somebody else, whether that be somebody who is in your close network, whether that be somebody who is a family member or a professional career consultant. They can help you to figure out what your problem is and they may even be able to offer you a solution to your problem and your situation that will help to take you out of the feeling of unhappiness.
I think the other thing about smiling even though you’re feeling a deep sense of frustration or discontentment inside, is that the people around you will sense that you’re not quite right, you’re not feeling right. They may even be able to feel your negativity even though you’re not deliberately trying to be negative. It’s going to affect your work at some point and your performance and in the long term, it’s going to affect your happiness and your state of mind to a point that you may become or experience feelings of anxiety. Don’t wait for a solution to present itself. Take action and try your best to figure out what that issue is and take steps to resolve it. The thing is, you never know the problem or the frustration that you’re feeling that’s causing you to put on a brave face, might be something really small and easy to implement.
Mistake number seven is linked to mistake number six in some ways and that is, trying to fit in to a situation or a role that clearly doesn’t suit you. I can give you an example of this from my own experience. One of my previous boss’ said that his file was like a wheeler dealer, which didn’t compliment him in the slightest and he described me as a connoisseur, which I thought was a strange way to describe our differences, but it was quite clear eventually to me, that there was a massive difference in my style and that of the organisation that I was working for at that time. For you, it might be that you don’t necessarily agree with the values of the company. You don’t agree with some of their ways of working, the principles and me, for example, I could never work for a tobacco company because that’s completely against my values, my personal ethics.
I want to work for companies that are helping to make the world a better place and are helping people and not necessarily focused on profit all the time and want to help people to grow and develop and again, are aiming to make things better for everybody. I want to be able to look my children in the eye and be able to talk to them in a way in which I feel proud about what I do. I want to share with them what I do and I want to be able to inspire them to do what’s right by other people and there’s no way I could do that if I was in a role in which I was working to the contrary.
The solution here is, really before you start with your next employer or before you even begin to make applications for jobs, you need to understand what the company is all about. That involves doing some in depth research into the people, into the ethics and values of the company. I’m not saying the research that you do is going to reveal everything and tell you everything, but to your best ability, try and find out as much as possible and even if it means talking to people who have worked with them or worked for them. For example, you could work or speak to a current manager who works there to find out about the company. You could speak to or read press releases to understand what impact this particular company is having. Research is certainly key and also taking into your own hands, the job search process as opposed to relying on recruiters who will feed you the information to convince you in some cases to take a job.
Mistake number eight is something that is common in the workplace. It might be something that you’ve come across yourself in your day to day work. I think every office has one of these types of people and that is somebody who moans about absolutely everything and is negative about, it seems almost, everything. That’s not to say that they’re not necessarily nice people, but they just have a tendency to see the glass as half empty. They might moan about the weather, they might moan that they’re uncomfortable at their desk, they might moan about the work and lack of pay rise, etc, etc, the list goes on and on. The problem here is that talking negatively just really alienates people and it makes them want to avoid any negativity so if you’re that kind of person, then you’ll probably find that people start to avoid you.
You have to begin to ask yourself, why is it that you’re so negative about the situation that you’re in. Why can’t you find something positive to say instead of turning everything into a situation that seems downbeat. Don’t get me wrong, we can’t be positive every single day and I think that’s impossible, to be positive every single day and there are times that we all need to let off steam, to vent, but the important thing is to do that with the right people and at the right time and not do it on a constant basis so we get a reputation as being negative. If you find that your constantly saying things that are negative, try and temper it with saying something’s that positive and if you find that you can’t say anything positive, then just don’t saying anything unless you can find something that is positive.
I think more importantly and more seriously, again, going back to a point I just made, you have to understand what it is that is making you have such a negative mindset. Again, it’s about diagnosing what the situation is, what the problem is, with yourself maybe, or the problem that you find yourself with and trying to transfer yourself from a situation and an environment that is negative to one that is positive. Again, that might mean talking to people. That might mean self-assessment and understanding what it is that is wrong and taking steps and taking action to improve and you’ll find that if you can transfer yourself from that negative surround to the positive, you begin to then talk in a much more positive style.