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How To Find Happiness In A Job You Hate

You have a soul-sucking boss, awful co-workers, and a desk with no privacy. But you can still be happy! Here’s how.

[Image: Flickr user Bruce Fingerhood]

Here’s a depressing statistic: A September 2013 report from research leader Gallup found that 70% of people are unengaged from or actually hate their jobs. What’s even more depressing is that career coach Jessica Simko is surprised the number isn’t higher. Founder of Cincinnati, Ohio’s Conscious Career Intelligence, she speaks to people every day who hate their jobs. But finding that elusive "dream job" often lies in changing their own beliefs, she says.

Simko’s "you’re responsible for your own happiness" tone is unconventional, but also empowering. In her forthcoming book, Why Can’t I Be Me? Understanding and Rising Above the Fake It ‘Til You Make It Work Culture advises people to drop the "fake it ‘til you make it" mentality and get real about what’s making them unhappy. She says you can find happiness, even in a job you hate, here's how:

Get to the bottom of the problem.

How you react to people and situations is within your control, Simko says. You have to figure out why you get so upset about your boss asking you to stay late or your snippy co-worker’s tone of voice. After all, you could just put in the extra hour or ignore her rudeness. Is there something deeper that these annoyances convey to you?

That’s the stuff that’s usually at the heart of being unhappy, Simko says. She acknowledges that, in some cases, people can be abusive and company cultures can be poisonous. However, that doesn’t negate the fact that you choose how much they affect you. Until you change your perceptions and reactions to your circumstances, you’re going to find the same issues no matter where you go, she adds.

"Once it’s not personal to you everything changes. That’s where you have to get in your mind so that way you're above all the games," she says.

Find things to be happy about.

Spend more time and energy focusing on the high points in your day and less on the drama and troublesome co-workers. If there truly aren’t aspects of your job that make you happy, create them, Simko says. Weave in some of your own interests or create something to look forward to, such as starting a series of brown bag lunch meetings for your co-workers with speakers who interest you or a company-wide charitable effort that leaves you feeling good about yourself. If that’s not your thing, ask your boss if you can be part of that exciting new company project. Or simply grab coffee with a co-worker whose company you enjoy. Find a daily highlight, she says.

Learn effective communication and confrontation skills.

Sometimes, people make us angry or do things that aren’t fair. That’s when the ability to discuss issues calmly and rationally can be invaluable, Simko says. Often the people around you might not even realize that they’ve done something to upset you. Being able to calmly express yourself can make you feel better and can help co-workers understand you. Simko says, for many people, that kind of direct communication is hard, especially when it runs the risk of making others angry. But, the more you practice speaking your mind, it’s possible to get comfortable with it over time and be able to speak your mind more freely.

Take back control.

Simko says people often hate their jobs because they feel stuck. The key to getting "unstuck" is to feel like you have a choice, she says. The minute you say to yourself, ‘I can’t’ in response to a situation that makes you unhappy, you need to begin questioning whether it’s really true. Sure, you need a paycheck and health insurance. But that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to stay in this job forever. You may choose to take a night course to train for the job you really want or begin updating your resume. What is it that is making you feel stuck? Find the answer and begin taking action to restore your choices, she says.