To me, success means:
- Doing challenging work that I love
- While surrounded by people I admire
- Working for a company that I respect
- Getting a fair trade between the hours I put in, and the reward
- The ability to make that tradeoff choice myself
Success doesn’t have to mean starting a company or being a freelance consultant, and indeed, for me, starting a company was never something that was important to me. I can achieve those five bullet points – or rather, as many of ’em as possible – regardless of the organizational structure I’m in.
Flipping that around, misery means:
- Doing routine work that I hate
- While surrounded by people I don’t look up to
- Working for a company doing things that I don’t respect
- Getting unfairly compensated for the work that I put in
- Being unable to choose how much work I put in, or the reward for it
It’s rare to see complete success (or complete misery) – most of the time, we’ve got jobs that meet a lot of our definitions of success, but just not all of ’em.
Sadly, the less successful you are in your current job, odds are, the less time you have to go find a better-suited one. Some of my darkest, most miserable times involved putting in 60-70 hours a week trying to hold my job together. It wasn’t that my employer wasn’t thankful – they were usually gracious and encouraging – but I was simply working too hard, doing things I didn’t love, and not able to make the choice about how many hours I wanted to work.
So ironically, when you’re miserable, you may have to work more.
You may have to bite the bullet to spend your own personal after-hours time building an online presence, marketing yourself, networking, and finding a better position.
And even worse, this is the time of your life when you need to be the most upbeat. I’ve interviewed plenty of beat-down, worn-out IT folks whose body language said, “I hate my job, I hate my life right now, and I would take any position to get out of this mess.” While I totally feel for those people, they don’t inspire confidence, and I would worry that their next job would just be a rebound one.
I wish I had some easy, valuable advice that would fix this. I don’t.
But if you find yourself only kinda miserable, the time to work on your next job isn’t later. It’s now, while you still have some spare time in your life, and you’re not completely burned out.