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Jewish World Review March 19, 2001 / 24 Adar, 5761

Tahree Lane

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Consumer Reports

Fix your job
without quitting -- HO-HUM. Another day, another dollar. You trudge off to work, giving yourself the usual pep talk. You ponder getting a new job where you'll be more challenged, appreciated, and, of course, paid more. You make a mental note to buy lottery tickets. And as you approach the front door of your paycheck, a subconscious mantra kicks in: "This is what I do so I can do what I want to do outside of work."

For the millions of people who feel stuck in their jobs, Diana Pace offers encouragement. "You can like your job," says Pace, a psychologist. "My point is, you don't have to change your job to fix your job."

She has written a 154-page paperback book, "The Career Fix-It Book : How to Make Your Job Work Better for You." It has straightforward suggestions and exercises aimed at improving life at the place many of us spend a good portion of our waking hours.

"If you can change 10-to-20 percent of what you don't like into something you like, you're going to be much happier. It doesn't take a huge change to make significant results," she said.

Pace, 59, is director of career planning and counseling at Grand Valley State University in Allendale, Mich.

"Most people don't think it's OK to ask for something different, such as a different starting time, to have some responsibility shifted, have their desk moved, ask for a heater," she said in a telephone interview. "People don't think they can make small changes. If you can do more of what you like and less of what you don't like, you're going to be happier. And happy employees are good employees."

Like the popular "What Color is Your Parachute," which takes readers through a series of exercises to help them figure out what work they want to do, "The Career Fix-It Book" includes 13 sets of exercises and charts to help readers understand why they're unhappy at work.

Being able to pinpoint problems and figure out some solutions is the first step to change, Pace says.

For instance, what did you want to be when you were a child, and why did that interest you? Who encouraged you and why? Another series of questions helps readers assess how important a career is to them.

Pace suggests making a list of the work activities you most enjoy and least enjoy. Write up a plan that would ease you out of your least-liked task and into the most-liked task.

Then, rather than telling your boss what you don't like about your job and expecting her to come up with a solution, Pace advises building a plan that's feasible from the standpoint of other employees.

"Most employers are very open to gradual, minor shifts, but become more suspicious of major requests," she writes. Broaching it informally is often the best way.

Find it hard to get along with your boss? Don't sit and seethe. Ask when would be a good time to talk. "As a boss, I love it when a staff person comes to me with a suggestion for positive change," she said.

Bugged by a coworker? Arrange to be around them as little as possible. "It becomes necessary to give up your ego, let your causes go, and focus on the parts of your job you enjoy," she writes.

Other suggestions include getting more training and figuring out ways to improve morale, such as bringing more humor into the workplace.

For those considering a geographic move, she advises caution. An exercise asks readers to take stock in how invested you are in your community. List your closest friends and family members, and organizations and activities in which you are involved.

Years ago, seeking adventure and a fresh start, Pace moved to the Seattle area with her young daughter. She got a good job and an island home with a view of Mt. Rainier. But she sorely missed the Midwest.

"For some reason, in our culture the emotional impact of career moves has not been considered; relocating is, in fact, taken for granted as part of what one does to advance professionally. However, being uprooted can result in years of feelings of disconnectedness and loss of personal history," she writes.

Volunteering outside of work is a way to find satisfaction and stimulation. And as people age, it's essential to keep up with trends, especially with technology. People who are getting closer to retirement are in a position, formally or informally, to impart advice and teach others.

But if you've tried several strategies and are still unhappy over a period of time, she says, then it's probably time to seek new employment.

Tahree Lane is a writer for the Toledo Blde. Comment by clicking here.


© 2001, SHNS