Dying of career boredom? Try these 4 things before quitting your job

PHOTO: The Straits Times

The most mind-crushing boredom I've ever experienced was as a student in primary and secondary school. That desperate feeling of being trapped at a desk as you helplessly tried to block out the sound of the teacher droning on and on was something I rarely feel as an adult. These days, no matter how bored you are in the short-term, there's always your smartphone or Facebook to retreat to.

But more adults are afflicted with a long-term boredom that creeps up on them over the months and years. And often, this sense of listlessness and stagnation happens at work. Everything you do seems pointless, and you wonder why you're plodding on and on.

If you've been suffering from work-induced boredom, this isn't your year, due to the soft job market. Instead of quitting and hoping your dream job will fall into your lap thanks to some Fairy Godmother, try these four things first.

Read also: 2017's most and least stressful jobs

8 questions to ask before quitting your job

  • While the prospect of a career move can feel exciting, motivating and refreshing, an impulsive or emotion-led decision to quit can spell disaster.
  • It's okay to consider quitting and moving on if there's an increasing number of cost-cutting measures and indications that your company is not doing well.
  • If you feel that you're not learning enough or taking on enough work responsibilities, speak to your boss about the possibility of handling more complex tasks.
  • If you've done that, and still feel there's no change, start looking for other options.
  • While we're not expecting you to be BFFs with your superior, you do need to have a good working relationship.
  • If you're not learning from them, it's an indication to move on before you become complacent or bitter.
  • If your actual job scope differs vastly from what you were led to expect, it might be best to quit before you get sucked into a position that will not make you happy.
  • Accepting a new job could mean an attractive pay rise, but you may be neglecting other factors like your career goals, which are equally important.
  • If money's the only reason you're thinking of switching things up, consider speaking to your boss about a possible salary adjustment before accepting a new job.
  • There's no such thing as a perfect job, so there are bound to be ups and downs. Whether it's a complicated project or an annoying colleague, consider if the issue can be resolved, and if you can turn the challenge into a learning opportunity.
  • Make sure your dissatisfaction is not just an emotional or reactive one.
  • Workplace friendships can make you a lot happier and more productive.
  • In truth, a diverse working environment can also broaden your horizons.
  • Ask where you'd like to be in one year's time in your current organisation. Are you on the verge of that big promotion? If so, don't let short-term gripes tempt you into making a quick getaway.

Ask your boss to send you for training or courses

Boredom at work often sets in when you reach the point where you're no longer learning. Your daily tasks start to feel awfully mundane, and you're pretty much on auto-pilot till it's time to knock off.

While a lack of learning opportunities is actually a good reason to change jobs, don't do that before making sure you've maxed out everything your company has to offer. For a start, ask your boss if you can be sent "on course". This can help you pick up skills that can make your job less boring, or at least be used in a new role when you move on.

You have the best chances of being sent on all sorts of courses if you're working for an MNC. I know people working for European banks who've successfully gotten their companies to pay for anything from French lessons to social media marketing classes, even though these had at best a very tenuous link to the actual work they were doing.

What all these people had in common was that they researched the courses themselves and then took the initiative to ask their bosses if they could be sponsored.

Ask to work on a project a colleague is doing

We often get stuck in a rut at work because we've done a decent job at completing a certain task, and that results in our getting stuck doing that task all the damn time. It's easier for an animal trainer to train ten monkeys to do one task each, than to train all ten to do ten different tasks.

You can get yourself out of that rut by looking at the projects your colleagues are working on, and then asking if you can help out. Over time, you'll hopefully learn some new skills so you're not stuck doing the same thing all the time.

This works better in SMEs where roles are more fluid. Those working for bigger companies where there's a whole bunch of people all performing the same role can try to request for a rotation or a change of department.

Firms help employees strike work-life balance

  • Every Friday at 3.30pm - a time many cubicle rats are still working off the post-lunch food coma - staff at Singapore architectural and design firm Ministry Of Design are calling it a day.
  • Released from work, some people such as architectural designer Angie Ng, 30, use the time to run errands before the bank closes for the weekend.
  • Other employees such as senior architectural designer Darren Yio, 36, visit museums, bookshops and cinemas before the crowds descend in the evening.
  • Companies are catching on to the importance of work-life balance as a way of keeping employees happy and productive.
  • Social media company Facebook, for example, has allowed its full-time working fathers at its global offices - including those here - up to four months of paid paternity leave since January.
  • In Singapore, workers covered under Part IV of the Employment Act are entitled to between seven and 14 days of paid annual leave if they have worked for at least three months. But many companies provide more types of special leave days.
  • OCBC Bank allows its staff to leave work an hour early every Friday.
  • On that day, for example, vice-president for consumer financial services Evon Lee, who is in her 30s, leaves work at 5.30pm instead of the usual 6.30pm. She says: "I like that I can spend more time with my family over a good dinner on Fridays."
  • OCBC also allows parents them carry forward 15 days of annual leave to the following year if their child is sitting the PSLE that next year. The bank's head of customer insights, Mr Ken Wong, 42, carried forward nine days of leave from 2014, to spend with his son, Keane, for his PSLE last year.
  • Office hours at DBS main offices end at 5pm on Fridays instead of 6.30pm, and the lights are automatically switched off at that time.
  • Ministry Of Design allows an employee to take the whole day off if it is his birthday, while DBS gives half a day which can be taken any time during the birthday month. DBS assistant vice-president Jeanette Kwek, 30, spent her half-day birthday leave at home with her family last year.
  • Property group Lendlease, lets its employees take 3 days of well-being leave every year, on top of the regular 22 days of annual leave. This new leave, introduced last year, can be used to attend a yoga class, go on holiday or pursue personal interests.
  • Singtel also gives its staff five days of flexi-family leave a year, seven days of study and examination leave for those pursuing approved courses of study and a day of voluntary service leave to do community work.
  • At Nanyang Polytechnic, for example, about 19 per cent of its 1,500 staff work staggered hours and 33 per cent telecommute. Since 2013, the polytechnic has also let all staff take a day off each year to do community service.

Speak with your boss about a promotion or transfer

It might sound weird and a little shameless, but especially at big organisations, it is normal to tell your boss you wish to be considered for a promotion up to a year before the fact. The idea is that your boss can then assess you over the months and give you plum projects. Those who keep quiet, no matter how good they might be, are often overlooked if they don't have this chat with their boss.

Even if your company doesn't work that way, it's still a good idea to communicate with your boss about where you see yourself a year from now. Don't like what you do? Getting an internal transfer to another department is usually easier than finding a new job, since your colleagues hopefully already know and like you. Think you're overqualified for your role? Discuss how you can be groomed to take on more responsibilities and eventually promoted.

If you say nothing, there's a good chance your boss will think you're perfectly happy to stay where you are.

5 reasons why Singaporeans quit their jobs

  • Attendance and face-time rules: Most Singaporean employees work copious amounts of overtime. In fact, the number of people who regularly OT has been estimated at a shocking 90 per cent. Singaporeans have also been reported to work the longest hours in the world.
  • Attendance and face-time rules: Given all of the above, employers who are particular about attendance and face-time are less likely to instill loyalty in their staff.
  • Disrespectful treatment: Shouting, screaming, making offensive personal remarks and demanding unpaid overtime are common occurrences at some offices.
  • Disrespectful treatment: The Singaporean workplace is often toxic to the point where workers are suffering from depression and burnout. It's a well-known saying that employees don't leave their companies, they leave their bosses.
  • Low salary and increment: Annual increments tend to be on the low side in many industries and at times can't keep pace with inflation.
  • Low salary and increment: In fact, most recruitment agents don't recommend staying in a job for more than three years because low annual increments might cause an employee's purchasing power to fall with time.
  • Poor career growth prospects: People need upward mobility in order to survive rising costs, so even those who are happy in their current positions are constantly looking for an upgrade. And many SMEs aren't in a position to offer the kind of career prospects employees crave.
  • Poor career growth prospects: 40 per cent of employees in a recent survey cited lack of career growth as a key reason they were planning to quit their jobs. Employers who pay well but aren't helping their employees advance in their careers might want to take note of that.
  • Poor work-life balance: An increasing number of people are quitting their jobs due to poor work-life balance, signalling a sea change in local attitudes towards careers.
  • Poor work-life balance: According to one survey, 57 per cent of Singaporeans said they would pick work-life balance over higher pay. And Singaporeans are getting increasingly unhappy with work-life balance here.

Take up a new hobby and make some new friends

There are many people who complain incessantly about their jobs, when really, it's their lives they're unhappy about.

Take an honest look at your life and ask yourself how fulfilled you feel outside of work. If you have no social life to speak of, your only hobby is watching TV and you haven't picked up any new skills or hobbies since you were forced to join a CCA in secondary school, try to work on your life outside of work and see if it changes how you feel on the job.

You might be surprised to find that when you're feeling good about your life in general, you're less likely to want to murder your colleagues and more likely to feel motivated to do a decent job.

Read also: Tech industry hot for jobs

Jobs that suffer from a high turnover rate

  • Lawyers

    Right now, the legal profession is facing a glut of fresh grads all vying for limited training contract spots. But five years down the road, most of these rookies will have moved on and left the legal world behind.

  • Lawyers

    Despite some of Singapore's highest starting salaries, high job security and the fact that having a kid in law school is a bragging point for many parents, lawyers just keep quitting.

  • Lawyers

    It seems to boil down to two very simple points. The first is that lawyers often have awful work-life balance. The second reason is because law is one of the "default" choices of high scorers, who soon find that doing a job you're not that interested in is very difficult.

  • Teachers

    Some teachers enter the profession because they feel genuinely invested in the future of the youths of Singapore. Some enrol in NIE because teaching is supposedly an iron rice bowl, the pay's not bad and you get school holidays.

  • Teachers

    Unfortunately, teachers from both camps end up burning out. A recent news report shed light on the plight of teachers who leave the profession because of the stress, long hours, lack of work-life balance and, most notably, the piles and piles of admin work.

  • Teachers

    Anyone who's got a teacher in their lives knows that most continue to work at home, doing admin, marking scripts and planning lessons till late into the night when they should be spending time with their own friends and family.

  • Real estate agents

    Newspapers often shine the spotlight on real estate agents who've made it big, like the girl who made her first million last year.

  • Real estate agents

    Despite the chance of fat commissions, real estate is not an easy industry to break into, especially given the fact that the market has been in the doldrums ever since the property cooling measures were put in places years ago.

  • Real estate agents

    More Singaporean property owners and buyers now also prefer to bypass agents altogether thanks to the internet, and it's easy to see why agents are fighting for an ever-shrinking pie.

The article first appeared on MoneySmart

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