How To Help A Partner Who Hates Their Job

You see your partner’s potential, but you’re locked in a conversation that can leave you both feeling trapped.

Photo by wocintechat/flickr.

Coming home to a partner complaining about their horrible job, day in and day out is exhausting. You have the same conversation: you both know that their job isn’t the right fit, you listen, try to figure how to nudge them but often you just get stuck supporting the bad habit that has become their job.

We know our partners have more in them. You see their potential and yet we are locked in a conversation that can leave you both feeling trapped.

What can you do?

The following exercises are designed to set you and your partner down a path that will transform how you think about your careers. These are designed to get you, and your partner unstuck and help you build the momentum you both need to take the next step in your careers. Regardless of whether you love your job already, or feel as stuck as your partner, these practices will give you both agency in your careers so neither one of your will have to deal with a partner who hates their job.

These exercises shouldn’t be presented to your partner as a quick fix. They are for both of you to do. The first step changing the pattern-based expected conversation begins with changing yourself. Together you can help move your loved one out of the job that they hate, into a job where they thrive.

Make a to-learn list together.

This is a powerful exercise to do with your partner at any stage in your career. Begin by finding a moment that feels filled with possibility and is conducive to future-forward thinking (i.e. not after a long day of work). Now create a list of everything that you want to learn.

These lists should include items that go beyond your careers.

Ask yourself the following questions to help fill out the list:

  • What do you want to know?
  • What philosophical questions do you want to answer?
  • Are there any hobbies that you have always dreamed of picking up?

Consider soft and hard skills sets that could help you either transition into something new, or get better at what you are now.

  • Who do you admire?
  • What could you learn that would make you more like them?

Add all the answers to these questions to your to-learn list.

Be expansive and free yourself of any expectations. Your lists should feel exciting.

What would life be like if you actually knew all of these things already? Who would you be? How would it feel?

Answering these questions is the foundation for thinking about our careers in a new way. Armed with a to-learn list, we can ask a whole suite of new questions related to our careers, opening us up to companies, job titles, or industries that we would have never considered as the next logical step, but may just be the perfect next job.

Even in the most boring jobs, if we ask the right questions, frame things in a new light, we can gain massive insights..

Explore the Emotions of Transition Together

Our conversations about work are most often habitual. We cover the basics like what we hate, what we want to change, and the resulting conversation follows suit. Exploring the emotions of transition with your partner will help you both look back at your career paths and spot patterns that could inform your next move.

Begin by each making a list of six previous jobs. educational experiences, internships, co-op placements, or any other type of experience that involved a major transition.

With this list and a different color pen, write what you were feeling and doing before you got each job, and what you were feeling and doing before you transitioned out of it.

Share the results of your transitional emotion map with your partner.

Pay special attention and make note of any patterns that you may see.

The patterns that show up may reveal a pattern of feelings that have always been a sign that it was time to move on to new work. Notice the duration of these periods of transition and the negative emotions as well. Calculate how long it took you in the past to deal with motivation, and take note about what ended up helping you move through your career transitions.

By becoming aware of our career pattern and communicating them to our partners, we gain control over them, and can begin a conversation about where we are now and what will serve us next, rather than how much we hate where we are.

Listen people into their wisdom

This isn’t an exercise per se, but rather it is a reminder and practice. It is especially meant for those of us who feel the urge to constantly help, explain, and are driven to act on behalf of our partner. It can be easy to fall into this pattern. If this resonates with you — or this is you — your practice is to set a new intention: listen your partner into their wisdom.

We traditionally underestimate just how much power and control a listener has in a conversation. You are the one that gives people permission to share truth, you are the one that asks questions, shows interest, and guides the person towards insight.

Next time you find yourself being drawn into wanting to fix, help, or do — try this practice. Sit quietly for longer than expected, ask a good question and simply challenge yourself to listen without trying to do.

With a bit of effort and commitment to helping each other, and with the reminder to really listen, you and your partner can escape your tired old work conversations. The simple act of finding new questions to ask — and finding ways to frame and understand ourselves and our career desires — can create momentum and help us change even the most stagnant career.

Julian Meehan

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