So you are looking for a job, maybe considering a career change or just starting your working life after school, college or university. Do you consider your mental health before you even apply for a job?
Just like there are many ways for getting into work (apprenticeships, work placements, Fast Track schemes, etc), there are also many motivational factors for people who are looking for employment opportunities. The popular misconception is “money always wins” because financial rewards are often the most complex aspect of attracting new talent.
Other factors include:
Seeking a new challenge or a positive change;
Seeking improved working conditions;
Seeking security (job, financial, even physical);
Seeking more or different benefits (such as flexible working).
Mental health does not often stand out as the top reason for choosing a particular job, organisation or career. Yet many of the reasons above are associated with a state of happiness and our happiness in work can impact on our mental health. Below we explore four common reasons why people experience work-related issues with mental health:
“I don’t even want to work, I’m just waiting on a lottery win”
Unless you are lucky enough to win big, the reality is that you will spend most of your life (up to 50 years or so) as an employable adult. That’s a long time to wait for six numbers!
The biggest challenge is finding the right job and sometimes if you can not see what that is, the most tempting alternative is to do nothing. Many people follow parents, friends or family members into work for “convenience” even if that profession is not suitable for their mental health needs. There are many helpful career advice services and online career mapping tools to help you find the type of work that not only occupies you but makes you happy.
“I don’t get on with my current boss/colleagues/customers”
Personal relationships are important for many jobs especially where you are working within a team. Breakdowns in those relationships can make every working day difficult, even unbearable but it may not be any one person’s fault.
The dynamic of teams is something that has been studied for years in various management theories (such as Belbin’s Team Roles) and it can make a fundamental impact on mental health. If you have a group of dynamic, disciplined Completer/Finishers doing relevant work such as statistical analysis and there is one creative, unorthodox Plant struggling to fit in, this could result in poor communications, tense interactions, even conflict. The simple solution is to find the right work for unhappy team members, which can improve the mental health of all parties (even the leader dealing with these issues).
“I hate the work, it’s boring”
Different people find different types of work stimulating and fulfilling. Artists do not always make the best accountants, not because they cannot do the work but because the work does not excite or motivate them.
Using Myers Briggs Type Indicators [MBTI] as a reference, you can see how motivating factors lead to poor mental health. From my own assessment, I know I am motivated by creative work, helping others and making a real difference in people’s lives (part of my desire to be a Mental Health Champion) yet for years I worked mundane, process-driven, administrative roles that made me unhappy (to the point of high blood pressure and prescribed anti-depressants). Now I work in Human Resources and a people focused job is much better for my own mental health.
“It’s impossible to get a raise or promotion”
Every employer is different but there are always opportunities for progression and development. Sometimes we have to look wider or explore different avenues but those opportunities do exist.
However it can be demoralising to see no obvious means of getting ahead, or even worse, getting knocked back time and time again when you do try. This can lead to a spiral of low morale and even depression which will only get worse if not addressed. The best solution is to talk to managers, coaches, mentors and other people in your organisation. They can help you find the best way forward for your career even if that means looking at different ladders to climb than the one in front of you.
Having the right job or career is important to your mental health. Businesses rue the cost of work-related illness - especially those associated with mental health - but individuals struggling to fit into the wrong job suffer even more. There is already a battle against stigma and discrimination relating to mental health in the workplace yet in some cases, the simplest solutions are the best.
Find a job that makes you happy and the rewards will include improved mental health as well as job satisfaction.