When Work Sucks, Get a Second Job

No place is perfect. Bad bosses, disgruntled co-workers, and lack of opportunities infiltrate many workplaces.

Most of that is not your fault. But how you deal with the situation is absolutely your responsibility.

You might want to quit. Or maybe you just want to complain. Many people like to complain.

Perhaps you are just waiting for things to change. You might spend a lot of energy wishing and hoping for something to give…

What is it, exactly, that you are waiting for?

If you I gave you a magic wand, right now, what would you do with it?

If you could change just one thing about your job, what would it be?

Would you fire your boss? Give yourself a raise? Shift to a new role where you had more responsibility?

Would that make you happy?

Surprisingly, probably not. Not in the long run, anyway.

What Makes Us Happy and Unhappy

Boss. Money. Job Titles. That’s the sort of stuff we dwell on when we are unhappy.

Not to say that a great boss, more money, and a nifty title aren’t good things. They are. It’s just that happiness at work usually comes from other things.

If you’re like many other people, two things would make you happy at work. New challenges and a sense of progress toward an important goal. That’s the essence of what we typically refer to as a satisfying work.

Think about it. When you say that your job is good because it “pays the bills,” “my boss is great,” or “I like the people I work with,” you may be skipping over the core issue.

People who really love what they do, usually just say “I love what I do.” Yeah, I know, there aren’t many of them. But that’s what you should be shooting for.

How do you get there? Look for work that involves something you are good at. Well, actually, something you want to be good at — and keep getting better at. And make sure you think that thing is worthy of your time and energy.

That won’t always be clear. So you can’t just approach this as a pure thought experiment. You have to go out and try things. And you’ve got to give it some time.

What appears to be great at the outset may change. And vice versa.

That’s where the new job comes in. Not a replacement job…a second job.

Why? Because getting a second job is faster, easier, and less risky. And you can go further afield. You can really stretch yourself by trying something totally new and different.

And the funny thing is that, once you go down this path, it could very well lead to a new overall career trajectory.

It might just unlock the path to a new full-time job in the long run. A new job that might even come with a better boss and more pay…as well as interesting and challenging work that is meaningful.

Let me explain.

Taking on a New Job

What do you do with your down time? Do you do things to challenge yourself? Do you work on new skills? Do you try new things? Do you find ways to stretch your capabilities?

What if you used some of your time away from the office to try something completely different?

What skills do you most want to develop? What strengths do you have that aren’t being used in your current job? What types of experiences would you like to have? What is it that you most want to learn?

What sorts of things are important to you? Where would you like to make greater contributions? How can you best help others?

For me, this came down to public speaking, writing, media, and business transformation. Pursuing those things outside of work led me to teaching, speaking, writing books, and more. All of which stretched my capabilities, gave me new experiences, and allowed me to bring new skills back to the office.

And it allowed me to help people, which I really love to do. I love to help people re-think and re-approach their careers. To help change their trajectory for the better. To help them to learn new things.

Just the other day I ran into a former student. She explained how much fun she had in my class and how she was using what she learned in class in her new job. She even went further, explaining that the sentiment was shared by other friends she had in the class.

Wow. I was floored. That is the sort of conversation makes all the hard effort and doubt and frustrations worthwhile.

Teaching is fun and rewarding and challenging. But it’s not necessarily easy. I do it because it stretches my abilities in many ways. That’s the point of the “second job strategy” I’m talking about in this post.

When you stretch, sometimes it hurts. But it usually makes you stronger. Or wiser. Sometimes both.

You can do it too.

How to Find Meaningful Work

Let’s not make a big deal out of this. Let’s just think about things you like to do, things you are interested in learning, and people you’d like to try and help.

What do you like to do?

What sorts of things do you do in your spare time? What activities are fun? What do you read about? What makes the time go flying by?

Jot these down in a notebook. Write them down as you think about them. The act of writing will make this exercise more concrete and real. Plus, you want to be able to refer back to these notes easily later on.

What are you interested in learning?

You know a lot of stuff. But what you don’t know adds up to a whole lot more. What are curious about? Where do you feel at a disadvantage at work now because you lack knowledge or experience?

What sort of fiction do you read? Which newspaper articles catch your eye? If you could go back to school, what classes would you like to take?

These are all clues to your interests. Jot them down in the notebook.

Who would you most like to help?

Who do you think you can help, right now? Who do you wish you could help, if only you had more training/time/access?

What is it that you most want to help them with? What problems do you want to help them solve? What new opportunities do you want to open up for them?

Why is this important to you? How will this make the world a better place?

Jot these things down too. These are clues to what is meaningful to you.

Put these all down on paper. Look them over. Reflect on them for a bit.

Then, set them aside and let your subconscious chew on them for a while. Revisit them later on and see what sort of connections you can make. Generate some potential ideas.

Time to Stretch

As you generate ideas, make sure that anything you consider is a stretch. Aim to do something completely different or to come at your area of expertise from a whole new angle.

And keep in mind that your goal is to develop new skills and experience. So this “second job” could be a volunteer position.

Maybe you are an accountant and you’d like to develop your leadership skills. If you volunteer to help run the local cub scout troop, don’t take the position as treasurer. Step up to be President or to work on communications or to teach a class on camping.

The best thing you can learn from experimenting with the “second job” strategy is that you can indeed stretch. Over time, you can find new directions to stretch in. You can take on bigger challenges. You will learn that you can increase your skills and experience in almost limitless ways.

You will also meet a lot of new people.

New Networks

As you get involved in different things, you will meet different people. Which is eye opening. Because you get to see the world from a new perspective. And you also get to learn how other people see the world in different ways. People who from different networks.

When I volunteered to be an Executive Coach at a nonprofit group years ago, it was very rewarding. But it was also very revealing.

I got to deal directly with leaders in a wholly different industry. I got to see the world from their point of view. I got to learn about different problems, different challenges, and new opportunities.

Anytime you step outside of your normal circles, you expand your network greatly. You just can’t meet many truly different people if you keep wandering around the same circles.

But you can meet amazingly different people when you jump into new circles. That’s what happens when you stretch yourself, when you work at doing something totally different.

It’s a great way to learn. And to make new contacts. To establish relationships that can be fruitful for everyone for many years to come.

New Opportunities

New skills. New experiences. New networks.

That all leads to new possibilities. You won’t be able to plot out the path. The new possibilities won’t be immediately clear. But if you take on new challenges in the way we’ve been talking about in this post, you will most definitely increase the likelihood that something new and good will come your way down the line.

And that something is very likely to be a good opportunity for you. Because you started out by thinking about the things you like to do, the things you like to learn about, and the people you like to help.

That’s the sort of stuff that can lead you to a new day job. One for which you get to answer, “I love what I do” when someone asks.

Want to get started taking more control of your life and your professional development right now? Take my free 7-Day Personal Leadership Challenge.

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