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I’m frequently interviewed about how to make a SHIFT out of a miserable job and into one that brings meaning and happiness.

I gladly offer firsthand advice based on over 30 years in corporate roles, including the past 13 helping professionals find what they are meant to do and assisting company’s in designing cultures that keep their employees engaged and on board.

I often include real life stories of people who have made significant shifts in their careers, from my newest book, From Drift to SHIFT: How Change Can Bring True Meaning and Happiness to Your Work and Life.

As the discussion continues, I am asked…

“But what if someone can’t shift out of their job? How can they find happiness right where they are, even if they are miserable?”

I love this question, because life is not always in our control. There are many extrinsic factors in play that we have to deal with, and it’s not much fun.

So, if you are one of those people who hates their job because it’s not what you really want to do, yet can’t make a change, how do you make work more enjoyable? Dare I say, fun?

It’s not as hard as you think. In fact, that’s the first point.

· Don’t be so hard on yourself. Stop trying so hard to fix it. You can’t fix it if you aren’t in control of it. So, let it go and go with the flow once in a while.

What are some other reasons why you may feel stuck in your job?

· You have stretched beyond your means and are tied to your paycheck.

· You fear being fired and will have nowhere else to go.
· You think you are too old to do anything else.
· You are embarrassed and compare yourself to others (whom you perceive as more successful), but you don’t have the confidence to go outside your comfort zone.

What else can you do to find happiness right where you are?


I have a friend who used to be a dishwasher in a restaurant. When people ask him what he did for a living, he said, I am a ceramic engineer, or, I am a Hobart technician. He would laugh, but it was always received well. An engineer? A specialist technician? Impressive. What started out as an embarrassing, minimum wage job, became kind of fun for him.

I know an executive who is a Tax Bond Lawyer. Sounds exciting, right? When he is on a plane and meets the person next to him, he dreads the inevitable question, what do you do? As soon as he tells the stranger, they turn their back and the flight is completed in silence. He got so tired of it that he came up with a new story. I help finance the building of bridges, museums and schools. Every plane ride has been fun ever since, he tells me.

So, if you are in a job that is embarrassing to talk about, be like my friends and tell a different story. Here are a few examples:

· Cashier — Financial Exchange Manager

· Retail Clothing Salesperson — Fashion Sales and Marketing Associate

· Food Preparer — Nutrition and Wellness Provider

Now, don’t you feel a little better about your job? Have some fun coming up with another way of explaining what you do and try it out. You will generate a laugh and a new reaction from others that leans toward admiration for your creativity and ability to craft a more interesting story.


Another way you can bring a little more happiness into your current job is to think about what problems or challenges you are helping to solve with your job. Find a way to see what good you are bringing to the world.

Let’s say you work in a laser hair removal business. You sit in a room all day zapping follicles off of people’s bodies. You have a great job! Why? You are bringing beauty to the masses. You are improving people’s lives. You are making them more beautiful and, after receiving your service, they feel better about themselves. You probably have interesting conversations during the procedures as well. Just think of all the riveting people you have met and you can look forward to meeting? You never know where those conversations may lead. You can share your dreams and goals, you can learn how they got into the work they do, you can learn and share and take pride in what you do. Who knows, it could lead to your next position.

Whatever job you hold, think of how you are bringing joy, happiness and value to your customers or internal growth of your company. Whatever you do now, there is value. Find it and take pride in it. You will feel happier in the process.

According to the American Psychological Association, when people feel that their job has purpose, or a higher calling, they are happier.


OK. You’ve told a new story about your job and you’ve found how you bring value. But what if you are still leaning toward unhappy? What if you feel like a slave because all you can think about it the next paycheck in order to pay off the mountain of commitments you have accumulated? And no, you can’t eliminate them right now.

OK, I get it. Here’s a strategy you can use to bring a little more happiness into your day.

Over deliver. When you start to over deliver in your job, you will be noticed faster. Do it with gusto, a smile and a positive attitude. Soon, the extrinsics in your company (the ones above you who you can’t control), will start to notice. The good ones will promote you, give you a raise or even suggest placing you in a job you haven’t even thought of yet.

Be positive, go the distance—go above and beyond, and watch the money, appreciation and promotions flow. Soon your happiness will rise and your options expand. Tied to a paycheck? You’ll have more than you need and life will seem pretty darn good.


If you are part of the Baby Boomer Generation and are always looking over your shoulder thinking that you can be replaced by a younger, more tech-savvy worker. Stop it. You have so much value to add from your years of experience, that you need to start giving back.

Seek out a younger member of your team or a complementary division and collaborate on a project together. Bring the generations together to create a project that takes your team, division, the company to a new level. Stretch your vision. Get outside your comfort zone. Combine the best of both of you and watch your opportunities, value and security rise. Your happiness will naturally increase too because you will be doing something that is valuable. You will be connecting with others, making friends and sharing your knowledge. You may become a mentor, which is a great feeling.


A study published in the Science Journal, and based on research by Social Psychologist, Liz Dunn, discovered after surveying over 600 Americans, that giving provided more happiness than receiving.

Try giving more of your…

· Knowledge
· Time
· Training
· Guidance
· Encouragement

And watch your happiness rise.

You may find that you are happier and life is just fine. The idea of making a shift may even move to the back burner.

Career and Life Coach Jody B. Miller is author of the new book “From DRIFT to SHIFT: How Change Can Bring True Meaning and Happiness to Your Work and Life.” Jody is known as the “The Work Happiness Expert.” As CEO of C2C Executive Search & Strategic Management, Jody has helped thousands of people find true meaning in their work and in their lives and has helped companies create engaging corporate cultures. She speaks, writes and teaches about work happiness throughout the world.

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