Thursday 15 November 2018

Make up, don't break up with work

Almost two-thirds of Irish workers are unhappy with their roles, but for many of us, quitting isn't an option. But it's possible to boost your career without jumping ship, writes Celina Murphy

Making moves: Roisin O'Sullivan worked to upskill at her current jobDream job: Martha Stewart would tell you to forge your own path; Roisin O'Sullivan spent time in Rome for work

I understood the best option was to find the kernels of excitement and possibility in my current jobI wanted a job that I would work overtime for. That was the definition of a good job for me

Follow your dreams: Harrison Ford endorses quitting the day job

A path endorsed by everyone from Harrison Ford to Martha Stewart, the idea of quitting your day job to pursue the career of your dreams always looks good on paper, but it's a fantasy that doesn't always align with reality.

Unfortunately for the daydreamers and romantics among us, reality means having to pay the bills, provide for a family and plan for the future. It's necessities like these that stop us from handing in our notice when we feel bored, jaded or uninspired.

Of course, you don't need this article to tell you that a large proportion of the population might find themselves in precisely this situation. A recent study put the number of dissatisfied employees at 62pc, but really, the evidence is everywhere.

At the time of writing, a Twitter search shows that 148 people included the words "hate my job" in their status in the past hour, which, when you reason that this number only represents English-speaking Twitter users, is an awful lot. And unless you socialise with the Kardashians or the Middletons, a survey of your close friends will almost certainly reveal a similar result.

Still, of the 62pc of Irish people unhappy at work, only 24pc are currently looking for alternative employment. As a nation, were miserable, but financial worries have stopped many of us from doing anything about it.

But what if you could stay right where you are, and still give your career a much-needed tune-up?

Career coach Ben Fanning did it, and now makes a living out of helping others do the same.

"When I first burned out in my career, all I wanted to to do was escape and hit the eject button from the corporate jet," he tells me from his office in Charleston, South Carolina. "Then I realised that no matter what job I took or new career I explored, there was always a common element. . . me."

Urged on by this Eureka! moment, Fanning set about reigniting his career from the same desk he'd been sitting at for years.

"I understood that the best option was to begin finding the kernels of excitement and possibility within my current job and start to evolve my position into that direction."

Branding himself "the Burnout Specialist", Fanning became a full-time career coach in 2011, and now spends his days inspiring others via his website,

"You don't have to quit," he tells stressed clients and curious visitors alike. "In fact, often the best thing you can do is stay put."

Journalist Roisin O'Sullivan (25) was chasing just that when she stumbled upon an ad for a part-time job at Dark Rome Tours, a fast-growing travel company based in Dublin. The responsibilities, writing a blog for and looking after the organisation's social network accounts, didn't add up to the role of her dreams, and, at five four-hour shifts a week, it was hardly stable, but a love of travel piqued her interest. She went for it and got it, but it was still just a decent, part-time job. And she wanted a terrific, full-time job.

"When I started at Dark Rome, the people that I worked with didn't know who I was," she remembers. "They called me Facebook Girl for a long time. No one even knew what my actual job was!"

Six months later, Facebook Girl's days were numbered, and Roisin was doing everything to make her voice heard around the office.

"For a month, I worked full-time, putting together a guide to Rome that we could put on our Facebook page to attract people to like us.

"I sent a survey around to all the tour guides, collected data that way, and worked really hard on it. I drew up a social media strategy and sent it to the CEO, and just kept finding reasons for him to notice me, because he hadn't before. I was also constantly trying to get over to Rome, telling my manager, 'I can shoot a video', 'I can take pictures of this tour', 'We need photos of this, let me do it!'"

The company was expanding quickly, adding tours to The Vatican, Florence, Milan, Venice and Paris, and day trips from Rome to Tivoli, Pompeii and Tuscany to its arsenal. All the while, Roisin was spotting gaps in the workload.

"Around that time, I signed up for, which is a website that does online training courses. In my own time I was doing courses on video editing and search engine optimisation, just trying to train and train."

The world of marketing was new to Roisin, who'd been working in print media since college, but she wasn't about to let her inexperience hold her back.

"I hadn't really thought about marketing before as a career option," she says, "but the more I was there, the more I realised that it suited my skill set, so it was just a matter of trying to figure out things that I could do that could add value to the company, that would make them think I was worth hiring.

"There wasn't an if to it. It wasn't 'If a job comes up, you should hire me'. It was, 'You should create a job for me now, because I have skills that you need!' So I kept coming up with bigger projects and kept throwing ideas until they stuck."

Roisin's vehemence soon paid off; when the company hired a new director, one of his first acts of duty was to employ her full-time. Before she knew it, she was in Rome, more in love with her job than ever.

"We were shooting video in the Vatican, Pompeii, Tuscany and Florence," she beams. "It was back to back and so much fun. I think I worked about 18 hours a day, slept about four, and didn't really have time to eat. When something goes wrong on a day like that, you have to say 'Well, I'm in the Colosseum and I'm being paid to be here!' It was also the first time that I got into the Sistine Chapel after it was closed, that was incredible. To be able to lie on a bench and look up at 'The Creation Of Adam', and there's no one else in there, was just awesome."

Roisin's story proves that a little self-motivation can go a long way, but it's comforting to know that she hasn't always been the office overachiever.

"I never enjoyed a job before," she explains. "I would go in and be brain-dead, probably only give 50pc, spend far too much time on social media and procrastinating. I always wanted a job that I was willing to work overtime for. That was the definition of a good job for me, and that's where I am now. When it hits 6pm, I'm perfectly happy to stay there if I need to get things done, or to power through the day without checking my emails."

Now boasting the title of marketing co-ordinator, Roisin believes that anyone can turn a boring job into an exciting one, by gradually filling it with tasks they're passionate about.

"It doesn't even have to be something innovative," she notes. "Taking something that's already there and improving it is almost as good as coming up with a whole new idea."

Ben Fanning, too, advises his clients that career burnout is best tackled in baby steps.

"There is a common belief that work has to be difficult, tedious, and most of all. . . not fun," he reasons. "You've got to challenge this belief and give yourself permission to love the job you have. It can feel overwhelming at first.

"But the key is to break it into small, manageable increments and actually start the journey. The small steps build momentum, and often you won't be clear on the best steps down the line until you take the first few.

"By getting started, the path to igniting your career becomes clearer."

For tips on beating job burnout and to get the free eBook, The Burnout Manifesto, visit

Irish Independent

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