By Eve Tahmincioglu
msnbc.com contributor
updated 11/25/2007 6:19:50 PM ET 2007-11-25T23:19:50

Did you give thanks last week for your job? Natasha from Columbus, Ohio, didn’t.

“I would much rather stab myself in the foot than to go to work every day,” says Natasha, who’s been in customer service for eight years.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of people who are unhappy or feel stuck in their jobs today, because of financial issues, or they think a crummy job will someday lead to a great position, or they just don’t know what to do instead. Others feel stuck because they like their work, but hate the hours and the time away from family.

I recently did a search of my reader emails and the word “stuck” showed up 30 times in 30 different emails.

Indeed, about 47 percent of U.S. workers are satisfied with their jobs, according to business-research frim The Conference Board, which reported that job satisfaction 20 years ago was more than 60 percent.

“Although a certain amount of dissatisfaction with one’s job is to be expected, the breadth of dissatisfaction is somewhat unsettling, since it carries over from what attracts employees to a job to what keeps them motivated and productive on the job,” says Conference Board economist Lynn Franco.

So how do you find a job you’re thankful for?

It’s all about risk taking, says Annie Stevens with career coaching company ClearRock Inc., who maintains people are more risk adverse these days because of everything from political turmoil to rising gas prices. “Letting go of a bad job to go look for a new job is a high risk proposal,” she says.

“One way to get unstuck,” she adds, “is through analysis. What are you good at doing? What are your technical skills? What do you enjoy doing? What are your values?”

By understanding all these things it’s easier to take a chance and go for that perfect job. “If you’re just in it for a paycheck then you’re selling your soul,” she warns.

Here are some of your questions:

I am currently working in the corporate world as a provider relations account manager which was a significant increase in salary, but also days worked.  As a nurse I was working 3 days a week but required weekends and some holidays.  It is of interest to mention that I have a four year old and a twenty-month.  In taking this job I first thought of the money which was about $1,000 more a month and no holidays no weekends; however now I am working almost 50 hours a week when you consider travel time and it is taking away from my family. I recently got offered a position to go back to nursing, which btw I LOVE. I would be equal in pay to what I am compensated now because of the savings in childcare.  The question I struggle with is the difference between the corporate ladder and the healthcare, clinician pathway.  I realize I won't have a lot of room to grow but I would like to be there while my kids grow. 

-- Stuck in the middle

There is no way around it, if you leave the Corporate world it may be harder to get back on track in the long run. But people are a bit more understanding these days if you make changes to your career to accommodate kids, or ailing parents.

It's not like you're checking out of the workplace entirely. That could really come back to haunt you.

If you know you're going to leave this job, go to your employer and offer them a schedule you create. Propose you work three days a week, for X hours a day. You can ask for anything since you're just as happy to leave this job and go back to nursing. What do you have to lose?

Suggest you work remotely, advises Marti Barletta, founder of consultancy The TrendSight Group. “There are a lot of jobs where you don’t have to be face to face,” she says.

Then, if it's a no deal, head back to the profession you love, nursing. We need great nurses today given the shortage of people in your field.

I am a recent college graduate and former business owner having trouble starting a new career. After 13 years of running my own business, I decided to look for different challenges. I discovered all of the jobs that interested me required a degree, so, I went back to school. Now that I have graduated, I am struggling with lack of experience. My degree is in International Trade/Finance and I am interested in Economic Analysis, Business Analysis, or Financial Analysis. All of the listings on Monster.com and other sites for these jobs require 5+ years experience. At 44 I am beginning to feel I have no chance of pursuing a new career of any significance.

--Disappointed from Baton Rouge.

Individuals just fresh out of college face a challenge because they don’t have the experience; and you’re not your typical 20-something college grade. So, you’ll have more explaining to do. And there is a chance you’ll face some ageism out there as well.

Stevens with ClearRock suggests you get down to basics and start networking like a fiend.

Forget about Monster.com and other Web job boards, because in your case in particular it may be a dead-end.

Sit down and figure out your networking contacts and put them into three groups, advises Stevens.

  1. People who love you and want to help you.
  2. People you know who have a large network.
  3. People you know who are in the industry you want to get into.

Even if a person only fits into just one of these criteria you should still be contacting them. But those who fall into all three are your “diamonds in the jewelry box,” she adds.

The particular industry you have targeting presents a few challenges, she explains, because many companies are often looking for MBAs. But that doesn’t mean you’re doomed.

If you can afford it, apply for some internship positions in finance. The college where you got your degree should be able to help you with that.

And there may be lower-paying opportunities to do financial work part time for non-profits or get hooked up with a consulting firm to get your feet wet.

But Stevens warns, remember the 20-hour a week rule. “If you’re there for 20 hours or more then you’re there for 40 hours.” And that means you might get distracted from your goal.

I have no degree, just a high school diploma.  I need to be able to do something, that doesn't involve me going to a factory that will make halfway decent money. Here is what I like to do: Drawing/working with art/printing; working with computers; office work: filing, handling paychecks, human resource type things; I have become interested in detective work as of late, but I hear becoming a cop is not something I want to do.

--Rather-stab-herself-in-the-foot Natasha from Ohio

First off, Barletta says, “She should remove all sharp objects.”

Other than that, it sounds like you are the perfect candidate for temporary employment.

“It will give her a flavor of a bunch of different jobs and let her stick her toe into a host or organizations,” advises TrendSight’s Barletta.

If you find a company and job you like, there are always opportunities to get a permanent gig if they like you and your work.

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