Most of us will experience career dissatisfaction some time in our working life. Be it caused by an impossible manager, lack of career challenges, or just a sense of monotony, the work experience can easily become a daily grind.
It's easy to feel trapped in such situations. And when stuck in a rut with no obvious end in sight, we don't perform to the best of our ability and become resentful and unproductive.
But working life doesn't have to be this way. A 2013 survey undertaken by Statistics New Zealand revealed 85 per cent of people in work were actually "satisfied" or "very satisfied" with their primary employment.
Only 5 per cent identified as being "dissatisfied" or "very dissatisfied". But while work dissatisfaction seems to be the exception rather than the rule, it is little consolation when suffering from a case of workplace blues.
However, it's not all doom and gloom. There are ways in which to inject life into a seemingly joyless job, to make our working days challenging, rewarding and even fun.
Pat Cody is an employment specialist at Careers New Zealand. He says that by giving ourselves time and space to assess what's wrong with our jobs, we can find ways to improve them. But this needs to occur outside the work environment.
"I personally do my best thinking on a plane or when I'm running," he says. "Don't try to assess your job in the place where the problem is occurring. You won't be able to get a fresh perspective when you are in the situation."
He says finding a person who can act as a sounding board can provide you with fresh insights into the cause of your dissatisfaction. "Find a motivational person to talk to. Discuss the issues and try to work out ways in which to think of your job differently."
Cody suggests doing a "stocktake" of your job, to ask yourself a range of questions on different components of your career and to identify what is and isn't working for you.
"Start to 'mine' what is missing in the job and think of ways in which you can enrich it."
Writing down your thoughts and feelings about the job can be a very useful process. Journaling, mind maps and other forms of written expression can help externalise your feelings and allow you to reflect on what lies beneath your work dissatisfaction. And once you have allowed yourself the space for reflection, you can then think of ways to facilitate changes in your working life. Cody says it's best to start small.
"It's important to realise that small changes really can make a big difference," he says. "By thinking of ways to 'jazz up' your work you will be able to gain positive momentum."
These changes can be from changing your physical space (moving your desk, decorating your cubicle) to setting up new relationships in the workspace.
"Try to tap into some people that you don't know," Cody says. "Forming a new network of colleagues can change your perspective significantly."
He suggests that those in service industries spend time with the end-users of their product. "By understanding their needs you can reassess the way in which you relate to your customers."
The changing of workplace habits can also help to "rewire" your thinking around your job. Even changing the means by which you get to work can do wonders.
"If you don't work too far away from your workplace, try walking or cycling into work once or twice a week. Make the journey to and from work as enjoyable as possible."
While simple processes can instigate changes in your attitude to work, there are other more practical ways to affect change in your job.
Professional development can help to reinvigorate your work experience and add value to your role. Cody says there are resources that can enable workers to upskill, and employers should be happy to facilitate these learning opportunities.
"Many tertiary providers offer career development training. Careers New Zealand's website has resources to help people identify suitable training opportunities - we also have an 0800 number that people can call for advice."
ITOs (Industry Training Organisations) also offer training for those in employment.
Making practical changes to your workplace and upskilling can lead to changes in your level of work satisfaction, but Cody says there also needs to also be a shift in perspective.
"It's really important to view your career beyond organisational boundaries," he says. "All business exists in a changing landscape, and employers should always be open to opportunities for workers to grow and develop. Take advantage of any opportunities you are given."