business

5 Ways to Change Your Work Life for the Better

If you're less than satisfied at work, do something about it.

Editor's Note: Kip Tips columnist Cameron Huddleston is on maternity leave. We have invited some of our favorite personal-finance bloggers to contribute guest columns in her absence.

By Matt Breed, MoneyCrashers.com

You have a lot of options if you want to change your career path -- or the path of your life overall. You just need to take stock of why you work and what you hope to accomplish.

As you take the time for some self-analysis, consider these five suggestions:

1. Stop complaining. Seriously, this works. If you improve your attitude while taking steps to change your work situation, then you're bound to feel better almost immediately. You'll be taking control, and, although that won't undo all the agony of your current situation, it can help alleviate the disappointment and disillusionment you're feeling.

You can go the idealist route, for instance, and try to take on more responsibility at work in hopes that a raise or promotion may come your way. Alternatively, if you're really just trying to find your way out the door, you can focus on the little things. You still need to go to work each day, so pick out one or two of the smaller benefits of your workspace, like free coffee, and embrace these simple pleasures. A small boost to your mood in the morning will help you get through the day.

Plus, you never know whose help you may need in your job search, so don't push people away by wallowing in a foul mood. You can make a concerted effort to help others at your workplace or just share a smile. This may earn you more respect and can easily make work a much more tolerable place.

2. Look for a new job. I'm fortunate to be pleased with what I'm doing right now, but far too many people simply hate their jobs. Take a moment to think about what aspects of a job make you feel fulfilled. Personally, my job satisfaction comes down to four factors: a set schedule, great benefits, a small but cohesive team and ample compensation.

If you don't like the job you have now, do you know which elements you'd like to change or improve? Which elements do you want to maintain in a new gig? Consider these things as you search for a new job. Additionally, think about concerns and fears that might be stalling your job search. Some people dread the application process, while others have trouble dealing with rejection. You might hate interviews, or you might be intimidated by salary negotiation. Be aware of what may be holding you back from looking for a new job.

3. Find a new career path. Perhaps you're ready to leave your field entirely. Changing your path isn't as challenging as you may think, but don't make the mistake of thinking that it's just like any other job search. If you're starting from scratch, make a timeline to keep your progress on track. Create a plan to research industries, take classes if necessary, and talk with your contacts about the pros and cons about your desired career path.

However, understand that changing careers may take years of education, training or ladder-climbing. Identify your goals, and think about what it takes to achieve them before you start. If you want to make a change, go for it. But you don't want to spend thousands of dollars on education without being 100% committed to it.

4. Start a side business. You don't have to completely abandon your current job. Instead, consider some freelance work or start a side business while working another job. Your own business doesn't have to be a full-time commitment. Instead, it can be a chance to explore consulting work before officially striking out on your own. You can use this opportunity to explore a new field. You can rekindle a long-lost passion, make some extra money and find a new source of fulfillment without giving up the security of your current paycheck and benefits.

5. Plan for early retirement. If you think it's too late to make that shift to a new job or career, consider a different out: early retirement. Start pumping more money into your retirement account, and you might be able to leave the daily grind sooner than you thought. Remember, early retirement planning doesn't necessarily mean a complete abandonment of work. Many retirees continue to work part-time to keep themselves busy and use their retirement funds to supplement the lost income. If part-time work can provide the income you need without the stress of your current role, this might be your best move.

A strong budget is the key to successfully pursuing this plan. If you cannot live comfortably on a fixed income, think twice before you decide to bow out of the workforce early. If you can manage your limited funds, early retirement will likely strengthen relationships with family and friends even as it helps you out of a bad job. Who wouldn't want more time with loved ones?

Did you recently switch jobs or careers? What motivated you to make the change, and what was the transition like?

Matt Breed writes about personal finance issues like career and education, managing money, and saving for retirement on Money Crashers.

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