Happiness on the job is one way to gauge whether you are in the right role. It is reasonable to expect that you enjoy what you do for so many of your waking hours. However, when you’re new to a job, be careful about reading too much into any initial unhappiness you feel. Being new often comes with some level of discomfort.
That said, you can’t help how you feel, and your feelings might have identified something important earlier than your head can rationalize it. Therefore, don’t dismiss unhappiness at a new job. Acknowledge you are unhappy, and try one or more of these seven ways to quickly improve your situation:
1 - Postpone further introspection
If you suspect that the unhappiness may be related to being new, then set a reminder on your calendar to revisit in one month, or two weeks if you’re antsy. Indecision is a big time and energy drain. By setting a specific reminder, you still acknowledge how you’re feeling, but you also make a decision (to postpone but still a decision) and move on from there.
2 - Set longer deadlines for as much of your work as you can
You are always less efficient on the job when you are new, so everything you are doing now will be harder and will take longer than similar tasks down the road. Make sure you factor this inefficiency into the promises you make to colleagues and especially your manager. Otherwise, you may overpromise, underwhelm or even disappoint others, and then be unhappy for a reason. Set longer deadlines than you think you need, and put less stress on yourself .
3 - Prioritize a comfortable workspace
A new, unfamiliar environment is also stressful, which can lead to unhappiness. Invest the time to customize your workspace – bring a back pillow, display pictures, select a motivational screensaver. Being comfortable can increase your focus and productivity, and if nothing else, lead to more personal enjoyment during the workday.
4 - Make an office friend
Much has been written about the value of office friendships. When you’re new, these relationships have not yet developed, which may contribute to your malaise. Help new friendships bloom by prioritizing socializing with others. Ask people to lunch. Walk around and chat with people . Join employee resource groupsor other company structured programs, such as sports teams or volunteer committees.
5 - Ask an outside mentor for help
When you’re too new to have office friendships, you probably don’t have an office mentor either. However, even an outside adviser can provide some helpful perspective. If you don’t have a specific mentor, find an experienced professional whom you respect and who has navigated different office environments. They may have tips for your own transition or at least encouragement to stay the course.
6 - Keep a gratitude list specifically about your job
When you’re down, it’s easy for the negativity to snowball. To counter this, proactively look for positive aspects of your job. I once coached a client to write a love letter to her job – i.e., to write a detailed account of why she took the job, what excited her about the prospect of working there, and what excites her now. She had taken a bigger role, and it was stressful, causing her second-guess whether she made the right choice. This exercise helped reignite her interest and commitment.
7 - Ask your manager for help
If you have identified a specific cause for your unhappiness – you need more guidance on a project, you need training on a skill, you were expecting your role to include client work but so far you haven’t had any interactions – then check with your manager on how to move forward. They might not know you are struggling. Come to your manager with ideas for how they can help, not just a list of complaints.
Notice how none of my suggestions are about quitting or even looking for another job. Except for egregious conflicts – e.g., you learn the company is being investigated by the industry regulatory body and they ask you to shred files – assume that unhappiness early on the job is fleeting and solvable. This keeps you focused on solutions, not a quick way out.