• Eve Arnold

Six Signs That You Are Pretending to Like Your Job

Are you pretending to like your job? What is the normal amount of work enjoyment?

Photo by Eternal Seconds on Unsplash

The thing about our jobs is that it’s part of our everyday life. It’s not like a new pair of trainers whereby you make the decision to buy them, wear them for 4 months, decide you’ve need a nicer pair and buy them too.

Our careers aren’t that fickle. However, you might be pretending to like your job.

To change career requires a whole load of thinking. That includes mathematical equations to understand the financial implications of your choice, it also includes a lot of introspection and thinking about what you really like to do. And that’s hard.

Choosing the career for us is a hard decision. It feels plagued with unforeseen downsides and the fear that the phrase “the grass isn’t always greener” might actually be true haunts you.

Enabler or Personal?

So how do you know? How do you know if you are pretending to like your job and should move careers or actually this is just work and this is what it’s like. Apart of the answer to that question, I think, lies in what work means to you. For some people and I’ve chatted to them, they really don’t mind what work they do. They like the consistency of a job 9–5 even if they don’t really like it, for them, work is something that enables them to do whatever they want outside of work.

For those people, work is an enabler.

Other people, work is really personal. There is a need to feel connected to what we do because it’s a reflection of who we are. It’s why it feels so painful when you’re not quite in the right role because it feels like you are not being yourself. That sense of inauthenticity feels like you are faking life. Which is not a pleasant feeling.

For these people, work is personal. If you are this type of person and you are pretending to like your job, you feel like a fraud. For you, pretending to like your job makes you uncomfortable and uneasy. It’s the thing that keeps you up at night.

First you need to figure out which one sounds more like you. If for you work is an enabler, that’s cool, you can stop reading now. This is for those people who think of work as personal, that they want to create and develop to find their passion and make their place in the world. This is for the person that is agonising about what career will give them the most fulfilment.

The Jump

The jump into the world of work is a lesson in life more than anything else. The thought that you’ve jumped and you’ve landed in the wrong spot so you now need to take a jump again, into the unknown, well that feels scary. It’s probably why pretending to like our job feels like the easy way out. We feel tied by the chains of societies expectations. You might have worked your way up to a good salary and therefore feel like you are taking a backwards step if you leave this job. And that’s where you get stuck. Feeling like you don’t fit but bowing into societies expectations is a fairly pressuring force.

So you sit in between being okay with not being totally happy with your job. You always wonder ‘what if I made a change’ but you never do because where you are right now pays 40% more than the cut you’d have to take and you might not like it anyway.

You cycle between googling the best jobs for someone like you, writing out the pros and cons to moving or staying put, finding some motivational speaker on YouTube to get you psyched up about leaving, you write down some quotes from the speech and change your phone background to the words: “We only have one life, live it”. Only to wake up the next morning, realise you were being completely irrational, you get 28 days holiday in this job and you give yourself a telling off for wasting your Netflix hours on day-dreaming.

To repeat in a months time.

So what are the signs that you should consider moving jobs? Here are a few.

1. You Won’t Give Yourself Permission – Are You Pretending to Like Your Job?

One clear sign you are pretending to like your job is that you feel like you need to give yourself permission. You need to give yourself permission to think that this job might not actually be for you. You overthink around the subject and conclude that ‘it pays well, so you’ll continue’. If you find yourself battling with even the notion that you don’t like work that’s a red flag.

If you start to think about it then shake it off because ‘you are lucky to have this job’ and ‘it sustains your lifestyle’ then maybe you need to take a closer look at why you’re telling yourself not to think about it.

We will be working for the best part of 50 years. That means, you perhaps want to find something you enjoy otherwise you might find that the majority of your life is pretty miserable. You are allowed to want to change jobs. You are allowed to try and find something that will fulfil you. If that’s something that pays less initially that’s okay… that’s allowed too.

Think of a career change as an investment:

If you spend 5 years figuring out what you want to do with your life you will learn a lot along the way and you can spend the rest of your time honing your skills in that field. It won’t take you very long to get brilliant in a field that you are genuinely interested in.

Spend your early years in work testing.

2. It’s Not Sustainable

Can you see yourself doing this job for the next 3 years? What about the next 5 years? To get good at anything, you need to be in it a while. To be in something a while you need to like it enough to stick around. If you feel yourself becoming overwhelmed with the sense that this isn’t what you want to do with your life, you might want to think about why.

If this is part of a plan to earn lots of money and then buy a B&B in ten years time then that’s cool if you’re happy with that. However, if it’s not part of a plan and your just doing it because it’s easy but you feel unhappy then you need to grab life by the balls and consider changing.

By the way, this isn’t me saying if you’ve identified that you don’t like your job you need to quit tomorrow and find something else. This is me saying that if you’ve identified parts of your job you don’t like you need to figure out how you can start doing more of the stuff you do like.

For example, if you are in a role and you hate 40% of the role, that 40% is data crunching and you hate data crunching, you need to figure out if you can find a way to not do 40% of your day working with data.

Asking yourself — what is it about this that I don’t like is the first step in figuring out how to make things better. It’s likely that you don’t need to quit tomorrow, you just need to figure out how to make tomorrow 1% bettter.

3. You’re Constantly Frustrated

Waking up and feeling pissed off at the world isn’t normal and a sign you’re pretending to like your job.. Well, it’s probably normal a couple of times a month but not every day and not consistently, year after year. Work is a huge part of our lives, understandable we want to feel like we are doing something that fulfils us and we feel passionate about… why wouldn’t we?

Feeling frustrated about your work is a sign that something isn’t quite the right fit. If you get wound up at work by the same things over and over, then it might be time for a change. The way something works, especially in a big corporate is unlikely to change. They’ve been doing things the same way for years so if it’s the fundamentals of that company that you don’t like, don’t try and mould yourself to them because it’s unlikely and you’ll struggle.

Ask yourself the following:

  1. Is it something situational I need to change? I.e. the people I work with, the hours I work, my boss, place of work. Situational circumstances are subject to change, which means you have the power to influence them. You might need to change team within the same company or a different company doing the same job. You might need to ask about changing your working hours, think about whether you can work from home a day a week.


2. Is it something fundamental that I don’t like? i.e. the work you’re doing, if you’re a Data Scientist and you hate data, it’s likely that moving company won’t help solve your problems.

Once you’ve identified which one it is you can take the necessary steps.

4. You’re Doing It Because It Looks Good – it might be obvious you are pretending to like your job

You’ve got a fancy title and it’s well paid but you might be pretending to like your job. People then know you are the person with the fancy title and the well paying job. People think you are successful and you like that, even if you don’t particularly like what you’re doing. It’s interesting that anyone would really stay in a career that we’re not particularly interested in because other people think it’s good. Moreover, other people that we don’t even know / like.

Us humans are odd beings at times.

You’ll know if that’s the case because if you look deep enough that will be your answer. If you put the bare facts in front of you, you will see that that probably is the thing holding you back. The likelihood is that you could make the finances work, you could figure out how to earn a bit of extra cash if you need it. The real thing that is holding you back is the judgement of other people.

Questions you might want to ask yourself to find out if you are doing it for other people:

  1. What would I do if no one was watching?

  2. If changing my career was seen as a successful thing to do, the norm, would I do it?

  3. If you moved to another place where no one knew you, would you do it?

  4. With all the money in the world, would you move jobs?

The reality is, no one cares. I mean that in the nicest way possible but no one is thinking about your career and your career health. People might say they are interested, they might show you they care but in the main, no one cares because they are too busy thinking about themselves. It’s human nature. How many times are you sitting and wondering about other people’s career happiness?

Probably not very often.

5. You look forward to the weekend way too much, a sign of pretending to like your job

I hate when radio stations proceed with the sentence “only 2 more days till the weekend.” How we’ve become accustomed to this idea that life is to be lived Saturday — Sunday but definitely not Monday — Friday is pretty grim. We’re giving up the majority of our lives to enjoy the minority? Something about that seems acutely wrong.

I’m not saying everyday you should go jumping and skipping to work. Your mood and overall happiness plays a part in how much you enjoy work too. However, what I am saying is that you shouldn’t wake up on Monday and immediately look forward to Friday. When your week hasn’t even started yet. You shouldn’t want to rattle through the week as quick as possible in order to get to the end and feel like you can finally breathe. That’s not much of a life for anyone.

We all dread certain things and I do think in work you’ll have to do things you’re not particularly fond of. Annoying meetings and frustrating people exist in every job. That’s just life. However, feeling like pretty much everything is pointless and you’re not sure why you are there is a sign maybe you should look to do something else. If there is no part of your job you enjoy, nothing you look forward to and you can’t remember the last time you came home and thought “I’ve had a really good day” that’s a problem. That isn’t just normal levels of frustration and annoyance, that is far below average.

6. You’re Clinging On To Your Identity

You keep telling yourself this is who you are although you know deep down it’s not. That’s a definite sign you are pretending to like your job. You tell yourself you like the consistency of the office life although you know really you despise it. If you look back on the jobs you’ve had in the past, the best ones are nothing like what you are doing now. In fact, this is perhaps the polar opposite.

For example it could be that the best job you ever had was incredibly active and on your feet all day. You loved that about your jobs in the past, you felt tired at the end of each day, you felt purposeful like you were getting stuff done. Now you sit behind a desk all day and answer emails.

Some things to help you understand if this is really your identity or if you are playing tricks on yourself:

  1. Do you want your boss’s job?

  2. What is your ‘why’ for doing this job?

  3. In ten years, at this job, will you be living the life you want?

It can be really difficult to figure out whether this job you are currently in is really for you or if you are just pretending to like your job because it’s easy. Hopefully these 6 things provide a little bit of clarity.

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