Job Satisfaction
January 7, 2005 9:26 AM   Subscribe

Job satisfaction: How did you increase yours?

I'm interested in hearing stories about how you became happier and more satisfied with your job. Did you have a talk with the boss? Move into a different department? Change careers? Shift your thinking about your current job? Branch out? Quit? In short, what were the successful changes you made?
posted by widdershins to Work & Money (22 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I ended up quitting. In part due to my manager being a twit and in part realizing that the changing corporate culture would be impossible for me to do anything about. I loved my old manager. She was a great people manager and a subject matter expert. She really went out of her way to help me with my growth, give me opportunities to shine. She went on maternity and my new boss was a smart guy who rotated into my department without practical experience in advertising and with zero people management skills. It had gotten so much like a real-life version of Office Space I was going insane.

So I quit. I spent 6 months enjoying my break. Another 3 trying to land another job. And now I'm gainfully employed again. It isn't the perfect job I fantasized about while on my break, but it is a better environment where I'm respected and have a good management team. I like what I'm doing, who I am working with, the company's culture and products and actually look forward to working each day.
posted by birdherder at 9:42 AM on January 7, 2005

Long Long Ago In A Shitty Life Far Far Away.

I managed to sleep my way out of college and took a summer job stacking tires in a warehouse. Approximately 6.5 years later I realized that it was not, in fact, a "Summer Job" anymore and If I didn't get out I would be stuck there forever. I had a great boss and coworkers that I genuinely liked and cared for. I could have continued to make a living there, and eventually might have gotten to the point of making some pretty good money, but it was remarkably unfulfilling work. So I walked in and gave three weeks notice. I had no job to go to, no savings, and a raft of bills. It had to be done though, and it was without a doubt the best decision I ever made.

My Life has done nothing but improve since.
posted by ad hoc at 9:47 AM on January 7, 2005 [1 favorite]

resigned. found something with better people, similar work, better hours, twice the salary.
posted by andrew cooke at 9:52 AM on January 7, 2005

Have to go with the current consensus. When I was truly unhappy with my job, I quit. I'd tried talking to the boss, but he was, how should I put this, a little set in his ways. Anyway, I gave in my notice and started searching for a company that I felt I would enjoy working for. Turned out to be one of the best decisions I ever made.
posted by MrMustard at 9:56 AM on January 7, 2005

Quitting works.
posted by rushmc at 10:02 AM on January 7, 2005

I changed departments, and worked for two of the best people I have ever known, much less worked for. The company structure changed, and when my new department was consolidated back with my old department the Manager Who Hated Me had gone the way of the Do-Do, and I'm still happy, with more experience, and a really good chance at promotion.

Oh, and I distracted myself during the Dark Times by taking advantage of free educational opportunities my company offered. Better yourself on their dime!
posted by Medieval Maven at 10:18 AM on January 7, 2005

If you have the kind of job where you can work from home, do it as often as possible . As MMavin said: take advantage of every opportunity they afford you for as long as you can deal - education, vacation time, healthcare, etc.

My only bit of personal advice: don't let your job define who you are. Let it provide you the opportunity to define yourself in other ways - hobbies, travel, whatever.

posted by bikergirl at 10:32 AM on January 7, 2005

I was in grad school and realized I hated what I was specializing in, I wanted to become a Disney Animator (way back before 3d was dominating the scene).

I had taken many art classes as a teen as well as many at college. I figured getting to be an animator at Disney was a shoe-in. Boy was I surprised. Since I dropped grad school, I had to get a job...but no matter, I was going to be animating in no time, just as soon as they discovered me.

8 years later I'd gone from working as a bill collector, customer service rep, telemarketer and a dog trainer (which was fun, just crappy pay) I got fired from most of the jobs because I basically used their computers to teach myself Flash, Dreamweaver, Adobe Illustrator and other things. I even took a class under Warner Bros Animation at night. All this time I tried over and over to get in an animation job and no one would have me.

The last job, where I worked on cell phones, my boss didn't mind me playing on the computer to my hearts content as long as I fixed the phones (this is also where I ran into metafilter). We were never busy, so I basically refined my illustration skills and gave up hope on becoming an animator (and god knows why you would want to be one now...most of them are on the street, homeless).

I hated working on cell phones but was terrified to leave something secure (pay every 2 weeks, insurance, getting a broom shoved up me...yeah, it was all good). My wife finally said "are you just going to be miserable all your life or do something you want to do." So I took the plunge and tried to freelance illustrate. For six months it was sheer hell as I had no clients and I was running out of money.

But I never stopped calling Art Directors and Agents and finally it paid off. Now I stay constantly busy and am turning down jobs.

So follow your dreams...but make sure you have a plan and a goal for that dream.
posted by Hands of Manos at 10:43 AM on January 7, 2005

The last time I was having trouble, I spent some time gently convincing the owners that my manager should not be managing. They promoted her into a different position and I got a manager I was happy working with. This time the problem is different, the work I'm doing is both boring and stressful (one of the classic "high responsibility, low decision-making power" jobs that lead to burn out). After almost four years of trying to shift my thinking and make it work I finally gave up two days ago. My last day is the 28th.
posted by cali at 10:43 AM on January 7, 2005

When I was working at the Giant Corporation of Doom and Misery, my old boss left & my new boss was evil. I did just a good enough job and was eventaully laid off. That kicked ass. I got severance and unemployment. I then spent a year half-freelancing, half–donating skills to get more experience. Eventually, one of the places I was donating work to decided to add another staff member, and I was first in line. I now work in a six-person company where I have respect, interesting work, and the power to run my work in a way that suits me. I don't have healthcare (though we are scheduled to get some this year), I make a lot less money, and I work a lot harder, but I don't spend my life dreading work--in fact, I do stuff I'd do for free.

For me the key was getting laid off and taking the severance to get a cheaper apartment--a loft where we did a lot of the work ourselves. My rent is less than half of what it was, so I am actually a lot richer than I was when I had a "well-paying" job I hated.

Also, I find small companies are better, as long as you get along with your co-workers. Getting in can be hard though, especially in publishing.
posted by dame at 10:57 AM on January 7, 2005

Heh. I'm still dealing with this question. But...a bit over four years ago I was at a job where I quit. My job had been sucked up into a company-wide intranet department (from a local intranet department), and my supervisor had essentially just wanted my spot on the org chart to be under her, not apparently caring much about what I had to offer. I wasn't given much to do, wasn't getting paid super well, and in fact was actively *stopped* from doing things that I thought might be productive for the company. Realizing this was the road to nowhere, I quit, and went freelance, which worked out well for a year and a half (though nervewracking). Of course, then the .com crunch hit.... not pretty.
posted by weston at 10:58 AM on January 7, 2005

Actively seek out work that you want to do within your company, if you have the flexibility to do it. Say "no" to every project you don't want to work on if you can get away with it. You'd be surprised at what you can avoid if you find a diplomatic way to do it. (e.g. "Well this other project is in an up-and-coming field and I'd really like to get my foot in the door" rather than "That manager sucks ass! I'm not working for him!") Also, you'll probably be a better employee if you're working on projects that suit you.
posted by callmejay at 11:03 AM on January 7, 2005

I've had three distinct and successful "careers" in the past fifteen years moving from teaching/research --> educational technology --> mobile/wireless. In that time I've worked for a large public institution, a smallish public company, and two startups.

I've always placed a premium on being happy and for me "happy" means being fully engaged in work and doing stuff I think is interesting and cool and has an impact (on something). When I've found myself not being a happy camper I've forced myself to revisit what I get out of work, do a little personal audit, and then go after what I want. I can't stress enough how important it is to be clear on what you want out of a job. It's different for everyone, but for me it starts with being excited and passionate about the space, having autonomy to make decisions and mistakes, and being more than a cog in the machine. When I made my latest move I added to the list: not working weekends, not traveling every week, and being in an environment that behaved rationally and was populated by adults who took quality of life seriously.

If you are clear on what you want and what you bring to the table, you can get what you want. Almsot every job I've had is one I created for myself or, in the case of my current job, spec'd out and over several months convinced my employer that they needed to create the job and hie me to do it. Don't be shy about quitting, but I advise you not to quit until you're clear on where you want to end up and what you want to do.
posted by donovan at 11:53 AM on January 7, 2005

Well, I hope everyone's right about quitting. I finally got fed up and told my boss I was leaving. We negotiated a six week timeframe to help me find other work, but it still feels like jumping out of a plane and hoping you remembered to pack a parachute.
posted by papercake at 1:12 PM on January 7, 2005

Changed gears by switching from buying things to teaching people how to buy things. I love to talk and stand in front of a room and it beats the heck of sitting in my grey box all day.
posted by fixedgear at 1:37 PM on January 7, 2005

I've always really enjoyed my co-workers, which helped during times when the work itself was less stimulating, or the future didn't seem as bright. It's one of the reasons I never left (as many hear would have suggested), and now my job satisfaction is at an all time high. I guess it really depends on whether you can find other things within your work that brighten the job. If everything about it is a negative or near negative, then by all means, leave.
posted by jonson at 2:18 PM on January 7, 2005

I quit my fungible office-drone job at BigCorp three and a half months ago. Since then, I've been in a much healthier state of mind, and my tendonitis has subsided. I start my new, skilled position in a much smaller office next week, at higher pay.

Good luck, papercake!
posted by Faint of Butt at 3:49 PM on January 7, 2005

I went to great lengths to demonstrate my skills in a new area of focus for my company in which I had both interest and previous experience. I worked really hard, and my immediate boss, who was a classy lady, took every opportunities to thrust me in front of The People Who Make The Decisions. I had "status meetings" with various higher ups, I made sure everybody knew I had professional experience the area, I offered to work extra unpaid hours to show them what I could do, and I offered samples of my previous work. Meanwhile, I continued to work very hard at my current job, which was one that put me in contact with a huge cross section of the company and I was basically nice as hell to everybody so everybody knew my name and generally liked me.

Buuuuut none of that worked so I threatened to quit if they didn't at least pay me equitably for the work I was doing and that didn't work so I quit to go wait tables. And I shit you not: leaving a steady (if misery-inducing) job with health benefits to bust my ass as a waitress was one of the most brilliant things I've ever done because it set of a mind-boggling chain reaction of cool things that I'm still in the midst of today.

The end.
posted by jennyb at 5:17 PM on January 7, 2005

I stoped working so hard and demanded more money at the same time. That did wonders.

See, if you go to the boss and say, "HEY, I'VE BEEN WORKING EXTRA HARD AND DEMAND A RAISE" sometimes he may give it to you and sometimes he won't.

But if you just lie and say you have been working extra hard even if you haven't, you have nothing to lose.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 5:43 PM on January 7, 2005

Im glad to see the general consensus is that quiting is better in the long run, makes me feel a bit better about my situation. Im leaving my current job the same day as Cali, and dont really have anything lined up, but I reckon it will be for the best.
posted by phyle at 5:55 PM on January 7, 2005

The previous job I had, I hated, I basically spent every extra minute looking for a new job. When I got a new job, left the old one. Best thing I could have ever done.

Having said that, there's nothing quite like the experience of leaping from a solid job into nothingness. As the old timers might say ... it builds character.
posted by forforf at 9:42 PM on January 7, 2005

being not a people-person and strongly insecure, i've always had a hard time adjusting to work. my last job as a web designer was nice: great work and the people were nice but i just felt like i wasn't needed (also, i'm an average designer, nothing to brag about). this kind of destructive mindset has plaqued me my whole life and i've tried numerous remedies, only one of which i've found to give me some peace: i now work as a janitor, and i'm much happier. yeah, in one way i know i've 'given up', but inside i'm a much happier individual. it's the 'Homer' way.
posted by poopy at 10:55 PM on January 7, 2005 [1 favorite]

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