All is Fair in Love and Work?

It’s Valentine’s Day, the holiday in which lover’s express their love for each other (according to Wikipedia), typically with flowers, chocolate and romantic dinners at fancy restaurants, not always in that order of course.

But for those who aren’t in a couple, Valentine’s Day can have entirely different meanings or purposes. One can express their love for their children, parents, friends and neighbors, and perhaps declare their love for their jobs. But what if we don’t love what we do as much as we did in the beginning?

Lately I have been experiencing a bit of a burnout at work, and let’s face it, the day doesn’t begin on the right note when I dread going to the office each morning.

Working as an Audiology Assistant is very rewarding. Aside from the financial security my job provides, I love working because I enjoy helping others.

Knowing that I can help the hearing impaired to hear the sounds of their loved ones’ voices again fills me with a sense of purpose. When patients come in for their follow-up appointments, they often wear a bright smile and describe the feelings of joy they experience when they realize they can hear the faucet drip, the clock tick, the refrigerator hum and birds sing. The happiness overflows from their hearts into mine.

Even though I enjoy helping others, other aspects of my job drive me insane. Office politics often come into play, managers and employees occasionally butt heads, and sometimes co-workers can be really flippin’ annoying. How does one cope?

In my younger, more naive years, if I didn’t like my job I’d quit and get a new one. The concept of sticking it out and resolving differences didn’t seem important at age 22, especially when I knew I didn’t want to be a waitress in that crappy restaurant forever.

But when I finally "grew up" and discovered the importance of a career versus a job, I realized that overcoming obstacles is more important than scouring the want ads every three months.

Even when the going gets tough, and it feels like the situation will never get better I believe it’s important to take a deep breath and find solutions to the problem. As a mother, when I get frustrated, I can’t just throw in the towel and quit being a parent. It just doesn’t work that way. Why should my career obstacles be treated any differently?

I’ve been in my current position just over a year and I know the honeymoon phase can’t last forever. I’m comfortable with my job and I have a thorough understanding of my responsibilities and what my employer expects of me. I know that no job is perfect and there are challenges to conquer. I’m very aware of the fact that my career is what I make of it. But when will I learn the difference between satisfactory (settling for the job "as is") and satisfaction (feeling content with my job)?

Last January, the University of Phoenix conducted a survey and discovered that 58% of U.S. workers have changed their careers, and more than half have done so more than once. Gone are the days when an employee, like my grandfather, held a job for 40 years and retired promptly at age 65.

Career counselors and employment agencies say it’s normal to have six or eight jobs or careers in a lifetime, and that often we seek the excitement our jobs can bring us and when that feeling ends, the job does, too.

Patricia Fripp, an award winning speaker and sales trainer offers advice to help us learn to love our jobs again. At her website, Fripp.com, she writes about how a job is like a new love affair in the beginning:

"In many ways, a new job is like a love affair. The first stage is excitement. It can last from an hour to many years. The novelty of the job keeps your energy high. You are happy because you are so productive, and you’re more productive because you are so happy. Then the second stage, reality, sets in. You still enjoy the work you do, but you begin to notice some of the irritants and difficulties. It bothers you that all the phones are ringing when you walk in the door. Deadlines seem endless and impossible. It becomes harder to arrive early or stay late. The novelty starts to wear off. And, like love, your job has a third stage too disillusion. The pendulum swings past reality, and you find yourself focusing on the negative things. That’s when the ‘maybe’s’ begin. ‘Maybe I could make better money at Company X, and not have to work so hard.’ ‘Maybe I’d be happier with more responsibility at Corporation Y.’ ‘Maybe Company Z would let me come in a little later in the mornings or go home earlier at night.’

In jobs, as in love, it’s very important for the pendulum to swing back. You need to work to regain the exhilaration of the first stage. Such excitement is essential to a fulfilling life."

On Valentine’s Day, my husband and I try to rekindle our romance. It sounds cheesy, but the demands of work and a very energetic 3-year-old often put out that romantic flame the other 364 days of the year. Just as my love life needs a kick in the pants once in awhile, so does my career.

So, how do we learn to love our jobs again? Fripp offers suggestions, such as listing the reasons you took the job, begin the day with a smile, anticipate having a productive, stimulation day, have a good breakfast to fuel the day, dress for success, and start each day with a positive attitude.

But my favorite piece of advice is this: "Ultimately, your happiness depends on how good you feel about yourself at work, in love, and just living every day. Try doing something nice for your job and yourself."

I wonder if this includes a pedicure over the lunch hour. A nice pink or red polish could definitely spark some loving feelings. (At work and at home. It’s Valentine’s Day after all!)