Whether it's your first post-military job or you're in the middle of a career and took a position that feels wrong, hating your job can have a huge, detrimental effect on other areas of your life.
According to counterterrorism expert-turned-career coach Ashley Stahl, hating your job can lead to weight gain, illness and increased estrangement from loved ones, among other things.
For newly separated veterans, job dissatisfaction can be an indicator of underemployment, when an employee's skills aren't being fully utilized in their job or an employee doesn't feel challenged in their work. Older employees might feel as if they've made a significant mistake in their career path, potentially at a critical time. No one likes to feel bored or useless at work or at home.
It's a big deal, so what can veterans do about it? Here are a few key things.
1. Sharpen some skills while expanding others.
According to a 2016 Pew Research study, at least two factors can lead to increased job satisfaction among American workers: making more money and having more responsibility. The study says those who made more than $75,000 per year reported significantly higher levels of happiness in the workplace. Those in management positions also reported higher satisfaction.
Maybe there's a degree you've been considering, a certification exam you have to take or an upskilling program that interests you. Any of these things could make you more valuable to your employer (or a different employer). Taking human resources training might be the bump you need to get into management. The certification you've been putting off might get you an extra $10,000 every year. If you feel stuck, maybe it's time to advance.
2. Be patient.
An estimated 50% of newly separated veterans will leave their first post-military job within the first year, according to a 2014 study from VetAdvisor and the Institute for Veterans and Military Families. The issue is so prevalent that veterans are getting a reputation for bailing on jobs too soon.
If you find yourself at a job that isn't fully using your potential or isn't challenging work, don't make the mistake of taking any other job -- that might land you in the same position. Now that you aren't facing a date of separation, you have time to look carefully at companies, roles and even upskilling training that will set you up for success in the future.
3. Make it work for you.
While you look for a better position that suits your skills, you can still make the most of the job you currently have. Since this will likely be the only other item on your resume (along with your military experience), you will want it to reflect your work ethic and civilian job potential. You will certainly want to be able to use this employer as a reference, if necessary.
If your day-to-day tasks aren't challenging, find ways to take the initiative. Ask your colleagues whether you can be of service to them in some way, add value to your work center by joining other projects or ask your supervisor if there are other ways you could be useful. The extra initiative might even elevate you to a more challenging position in the same company.
4. Find another source of income.
It might sound absurd to talk about developing a second income while you're struggling with your primary job, but side hustles are not only common, they can quickly become your primary source of income. Side gigs also allow people to pursue their passions and learn a lot of other skills, ones that could be useful in the future.
If you've ever thought about learning how to trade stocks, turn a creative hobby into a business or maybe use your military career training to start a civilian business, this could be the time to get started.
5. Reconsider your career goals.
At Military.com, we've talked to hundreds of veteran entrepreneurs, executives and creatives. When we ask them for their best advice for separating veterans, their first recommendation is always to stop and consider what you really want -- not what is going to get you a paycheck.
Think about your career goals, your personal goals and what you have to do to achieve those things. Then, prioritize them. If your goal is job satisfaction, for example, you will have to discover what you need to be satisfied with your work. If that means you need more money, it might be time to go back to school. If you want to be in management, you may have to find out how companies hire managers.
Finding yourself bored or dissatisfied with your current job doesn't mean you should just roll into another one. It's actually the perfect opportunity to decide what you want the rest of your career to look like.
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