I read about "Expectation Hangovers®" in your book and I feel like I am having one because of my job. I enjoy the work and environment less and less every day, which is disappointing because I thought I'd really love working in this field. I have totally lost my motivation. I don't know whether I can get over this or if I should start looking for another job.
-- Hungover at Work, 24, Arizona
Dear Hungover at Work,
Have you been watching the news or reading the paper lately? If you haven't, I will fill you in as bluntly as possible: the job market sucks right now. So you have what I call an upscale problem. People are being laid off by the thousands and having trouble finding another job. Although it is true you may not love your job, at least you have one, and I advise you to be grateful for that. Getting to gratitude is one of the most critical and effective ways to treat an Expectation Hangover®.
Our country is currently going through a lot of changes, and many people are feeling a bit down or unmotivated as we all are susceptible to feeling the stressful energy that is present. Part of your lack of motivation may just be coming from the anxiety that many Americans are feeling regarding work and the economy. So make sure you are doing enough outside of the office that is uplifting and gets your mind off work. Creating a fulfilling life for yourself outside the office walls is key.
So what do you do when you're at work and feeling hungover? Just suck it up and be thankful is one solution but from your question, it sounds like you need some additional clarity. I define an Expectation Hangover® as the "group of undesirable feelings that arise when a desired result isn't met." Simply put, things don't turn out the way you planned and you are experiencing symptoms similar to a hangover from drinking (lethargy, depression, regret, and so on). From what you're describing, it sounds like you definitely are having an Expectation Hangover® -- but that doesn't necessarily mean the job you are in is wrong for you.
First, you have to determine if your expectations are too high. If you expect to be jumping out of bed everyday to head to work, the corner office and glamorous responsibilities, a significant increase in salary or promotion before you've "paid your dues," etc.; then your expectations may be too high.
One the other hand, reasonable red-flags may include: being at a company for two years with no advancement and/or salary increase, being treated poorly (yelled at, discriminated, supervisors pushing boundaries like asking you to do too many personal errands, etc), or not respecting the company's values, ethics, or work environment. If you believe these red flags are there, then start formatting your resume and begin to look for another job. But be ready to face the reality of an incredibly challenging job market. You may need to consider switching to a different industry or possibly even moving to a different city.
Every career path comes with some lulls so before you convince yourself this job is not the best fit for you, do your best to make it work. What can you do everyday to make it more enjoyable? Are there additional responsibilities you could take on? Could you seek out some additional training and/or mentorship? Are you investing time in networking and building your professional relationships? You are lucky you are not a victim of the recent employment cutbacks so do whatever you can not to be a victim at work. Now is the time to be proactive, not reactive.
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