Don’t complain to Laurie Ruettimann about your work life unless you are willing to do something about it. Ruettimann knows firsthand about what it’s like to have a lousy job, even one that comes with a six-figure salary and a platinum American Express card. That’s because her job was once the same as that of George Clooney’s character in Up in the Air — a human resources executive who flies from city to city firing people in the name of the company’s bottom line.
… Ruettimann’s book, Betting on You: How to Put Yourself First and (Finally) Take Control of Your Career, is part manifesto and part manual for anyone who is willing to put their own health and happiness ahead of a miserable job.
… Here are Ruettimann’s tips for a happier relationship with your work:
• Get back your balance — “It’s hard to get fired in America.” said Ruettimann. “Trust me, I worked in HR. Do this for 30 days: Schedule your working hours and time off, and stick to it. When you work, demonstrate the best work ethic ever. When you’re off, be off. See how you feel after a month.”
• Predict failure — “We waste time and energy on conversations, meetings and projects that end up going nowhere. Before you do anything, whether it’s hopping on a video chat with your boss or meeting with a vendor to discuss contracts, ask yourself, ‘How will this go wrong?’ Make a list. Then proactively try to fix those things before they go wrong. Be proactive about beating failure, and you’ll fix your job.”
• Expand your mind — “Unhappy employees are bored. If you’re not learning, you’re not growing. We live in the golden age of learning — from free online courses to digital libraries, there’s no excuse. Take 15 minutes a day and learn something new.”
• Befriend HR — “When your job is overwhelming or even toxic, there’s one person who can give you the inside scoop on whether or not it will ever get better: your HR representative. Lucky for you, HR people have no real friends outside of HR. Be kind, get to know your human resources manager, and you’ll be rewarded with hot gossip and a better understanding of how work works.”
• Be aware that the grass is not necessarily greener — “All workers are overwhelmed. There’s no company that has nailed work-life balance. If you’re interested in another job, ask around. Are any of your friends truly happy with their careers? The answer to what ails you is most likely inside, not at another company.”
• Make a note of why you work — “Some people go to work to earn money to pay off student loans. Others go to work to pursue their passions, which gets them closer to a more fulfilling career. You can’t improve your life until you understand why you do what you do. Write down your why on a sheet of paper. Put it on your desk. Look at it often, especially when your days are taxing.”