Thanks to Fisher-Price, as babies we learn a concept that we seem to forget by the time we’re adults: you can’t put a square peg in a round hole.

We do it especially with relationships and with jobs. If we don’t know what we’re looking for, we become obscured by what we’re attracted to. And then we don’t realize we’ve reverted to pounding the round orange peg into the hole on that plastic table right in front of us when it's the square blue peg that fits.

Most people will continue to force it – and with a lot of hard work, sweat, and stress – it can be made to fit, but never very well and never for very long. Eventually that peg is going to explode out of the hole into which they’re trying to mash it.

And by the time they realize it’s not fitting, they’re so far in that instead of realizing what’s happened and getting out, they try harder to make it work or else they do nothing. In both cases, not only does the fit fail to improve, it becomes more tenuous with time.

Failing to define what they want is where it begins. And unless luck intervenes, it’s not long before the new job – or new relationship – isn’t as satisfying as it initially appeared. Additionally, when they realize that what they have isn’t what they want, they wait too long to leave. And in leaving one job for another, desperation does not breed objectivity.

Avoiding the "unhappy at work" syndrome can be solved in a few simple pro-active steps especially if you don't get bogged down in the discomfort and fear of the minutae along the way.

1. Acknowledge you hate your job and want to be elsewhere - and realize it before you feel you have to leave at any cost
2. Get a solid idea of what you like, don't like, what motivates you, at what you excel, under what circumstances you produce your best work, etc, by examining your previous jobs
3. Identify exactly what you want in your next job and under what circumstances you’re willing to bend your needs
4. Actively go find it, and exclude anything that doesn't match it or come close
5. As you interview - and learn more information about each opportunity – pursue it if it fits and dump it if it doesn't

You’re looking for the company that meets your profile, and is looking for an employee like you. Every person is unique, and every company and job is unique. Job hunting isn’t that different from dating. In a bad match, both parties will be unhappy and resistant to being changed by the other. But when the bad match is your new job, you’ve gotten married a whole lot sooner so there’s a bit more involved than just breaking up and going home.

Beyond knowing what you want in your next company, you need to be aware of why you're valuable, what you have to offer, under what circumstances you can best contribute to a company, and how and why you will be an asset and a value-added employee.

Because otherwise, whether you’re tempted by the salary, blinded by the desperate need to pay bills, operating under a haze of assumptions or – having stuck your resume on a job board and waited for a miracle - finally having found something, you might soon discover it's not the Utopia you thought it would be.

So pay attention to that long-ago lesson you learned sitting on the living room floor. Know if you're a square blue peg, a red triangle peg, a green rectangle peg or whatever you are before you go looking so you’re able to spot the place you want to be. You'll find you slide into place and rest there contentedly much easier.

Author's Bio: 

Judi Perkins is known as the How-To Career Coach, and was a recruiter for 22 years when she worked with hundreds of hiring authorities helping them hire entry level through CEO, set up/followed up on over 15,000 interviews, consistently broke sales records by building relationships, and has seen over half million resumes (and climbing).

Now, many of her clients are employed within 8 – 12 weeks. She brings sequence, structure, and focus to the job search, including skills, psychology, and sales components, showing why the typical strategies so often fail. Please see her website media page for her extensive media credentials.

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