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Psychologist | Speaker | Media Expert | Workplace Consultant | Researcher

I landed my dream job – but I'm still miserable. Help!

The question:

I’ve started a new position, one that I called my dream job six months ago. Now that I’m here, I’m not feeling fulfilled and I get quite anxious every time I come into the office. My family and friends expect me to be excited, but I hate it. Can I just quit already?


The answer:


One of my favourite quotes is from the renowned Dr. Sigmund Freud: “love and work are the cornerstones of our humanness”. For many of us, our livelihood is an integral part of our overall sense of happiness and well-being.


Work – when it is going well – provides us with a sense of purpose and meaning. Our job can help us feel confident and competent, intrinsically rewarding. It also serves as an important source of social connection. When our work is not going well, however, it can be a source of significant distress and unhappiness.


You describe your position as being your “dream job” six months ago. What has changed for you? It certainly could be that your work/career goals have shifted over the past half year. It may be that you had an unrealistic or over-idealized view of what the position would entail, and that you are now seeing that it wasn’t all you thought it would be.


Maybe you didn’t have enough information on what the position would entail and that your perceptions were skewed based on that. All of these can certainly be factors that would contribute to a mismatch between your expectations and the reality of the position you are now finding yourself in.


Also, I wonder if there are other factors that may be contributing to you not feeling fulfilled or anxious. Are there other things happening in your life that may be contributing and increasing your overall stress levels?


Are there certain elements of the position (including co-worker/supervisor relationships) that are exacerbating issues for you and making you feel anxious about going to work? Are you struggling with learning the ropes at the new position? If any of these are the case, it may be that problem-solving some of the workplace issues may help you to feel more at ease and better enjoy your job.


One of the things that can be very helpful is to make a list of your essential work “needs” (i.e., the absolute ‘must-have’s’ for you – which may include things like geographical location, benefits packages, salary, etc.) and your work “wants” (i.e., the ‘icing-on-the-cake’ that would make a good job great, but aren’t necessary for you to feel fulfilled).


Take a look at this list and see how many of these needs and wants are being met in your current position. If you find there is a big mismatch, consider looking for another position that is a better fit to your list.


At the end of the day, you need to make a decision that is best for you – irrespective of the expectations of family and friends (as they are not walking in your shoes).


Excerpted from Dr. Joti Samra’s “Ask the Psychologist” weekly column in The Globe and Mail.

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