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Over half of women have changed jobs in the last five years and 51% would not seek the same kind of career if they lost their job tomorrow, according to new research from global management consultancy Lee Hecht Harrison Penna.
The research, based on a survey of 2,000 UK workers, also shows that 70% of women would rate their day-to-day work stress a level five out of 10 or higher while 52% say they work at least one hour on top of their contracted hours a day.
Mel Barclay, Head of Career Transition at Lee Hecht Harrison Penna, offers a few “do’s and don’ts” for women who are unhappy at work or considering changing careers:
DO take initiative if you feel strained or unhappy
Women at work often feel pressure to simply ‘get on with it’, but if your gut tells you something is simply not right, trust it – and do something about it. Take advantage of a mentoring scheme, ask someone you trust for their advice, or simply look critically at your day-to-day schedule to see where your stress comes from, so you can find a solution. You may find a few small schedule tweaks will make more time for things that you enjoy and boost your energy, or you may find that something like a mindfulness course, for example, will help with a high-pressure work environment.
DO think carefully when considering a career change
Finding a new career, especially one very different from your previous work, may make you feel like a fish out of water, but you should know that statistically you are not alone: 51% of women would not seek the same kind of work if they lost their job tomorrow. So feel encouraged, and take the opportunity to think about what kind of new skills and contacts you will need and how you will acquire them. This is also the time to consider in depth what specifically did not suit your strengths in your previous job, so you can start thinking about what would. By reflecting carefully, you may find a move to an organisation with a different workplace culture, rather than a complete break from your field, could be the solution you are looking for.
DON’T neglect your health
It might be tempting to think of your health as a form of self-care indulgence, rather than a career necessity. Indeed, 23% of working women don’t exercise at all. Even moderate exercise, however, is important to your ability to do your job, helping you think clearly and sleep better, for example. Our research shows that 20% of women take work home with them either in the evenings or weekends – no wonder they don’t have time to exercise! Small steps for your health can make a big difference at your job. Rather than working longer hours, making better use of your free time will help you get more out of your 9-5.
DON’T fall victim to ‘presenteeism’
It is quite telling that 65% of women work overtime compared to 54% of men, yet women are more likely to feel undervalued at work. It may seem like being a constant presence at work will earn you more respect – perhaps the reason women eat meals at their desks or stay late. But being chained to your desk can make you less productive, because you are not focusing intensely and are more likely to be fighting fatigue. Being present just for the sake of it will ultimately backfire because it is not a long-term strategy. Women may be tempted to appear constantly present at work, but in the long run is much wiser to focus on quality, not quantity, at the office.