This spring I had the pleasure of working with a client we’ll call ‘Mindy’. When we met, she was looking for an exit strategy from her position as a program manager within the academic sector. Together we clarified what was working well in her job, and what was not. We examined her motivations, her values, her interests, and together designed an action plan that brought clarity to her current situation. Her tremendous efforts this summer inspired this post, and I am grateful she has allowed me to share her story with you. May it help you no matter what stage of your career you may be.
When work is good – life is good.
Not everyone loves their job. And when people don’t enjoy what they do, they tend to look around for problems that don’t exist. If you’re one of the unlucky people out there who doesn’t like what you do, here are a few ideas to help you get through the day-to-day until you’re ready to move on.
- Strengthen your boundaries
Set firmer rules for yourself about your working hours; what you’re willing to accept and what you are not. You’ll want to ease into this slowly, making only minor adjustments to your schedule before sharing these changes with the people you work with/for. You don’t need to be anyone’s doormat.
- Lower your expectations
It is not your employer’s job to set your goals, make you happy, deal with unnecessary conflict in the work place, etc. Yes, the employer must provide basic human rights and provide things like a safe work environment, but your employer is not to be exploited. If you spend more time at work trying to glean every last nickel and dime from your employer than actually doing your job, you’re a bad employee. Like it or not – now you know.
- Be realistic
There are things at your place of employment you can change, and things you cannot. Have the wisdom to know the difference. You’re probably not going to get the corner office if you’ve just started. At the same time, if you work hard, have a plan in place, and give yourself time to do the work, you will have that corner office eventually.
- Take a break
Schedule your vacation, take a long weekend, whatever you need to do to escape what is happening at the office. Take some time to gain perspective about your work situation. Having the time to reflect and plan will do your career all kinds of good. So go ahead, get out of there for a few days.
- Start doing more of what you love
Identify and pursue things that interest you. These may be hobbies, or volunteer work or something else altogether. The point is to bring ‘joy’ into your life in a way that is not directly tied to your work life. Once you find something, continue to build on its momentum adding more joy as you find time. You’re looking to re-ignite your sense of intrinsic reward.
- Join groups
Start small; then once you feel you’re ready to take on more, set goals to meet new people, connect with others who share your interests. Maybe you’ll join your professional association, a networking group, or a speaking group. Perhaps there is a alumni group you’ve been meaning to reconnect with, or a travel group that looks interesting. Whatever it is, take one step towards making it happen this week.
- Be receptive
People bring their own unique perspective to a situation. Remember that your experience is ‘yours’ and you are not to expect everyone to respond to circumstances the way you would respond. There is more than one way to do things and yours may not be the way (this time). Accept this as a universal truth.
- Define a long-term strategy
To get to where you want to be, you must first know where you want to be. A general or vague answer will not do (richer, more successful, promoted from here to there), you need to get much more specific. (Within five years, I will be a professional writer with six e-books, three blogs, and one New York Times Best Seller, I will make $X/year, work 4 days a week, and vacation in the south of France).
- Use short-term goals as stepping stones
Now that you specifically know what you want, you’ll look for opportunities to pursue each of these separately. For example, you might start taking writing classes. You might begin researching areas in the south of France. You might uncover an opportunity to meet a well-established publisher who might offer to publish your book (don’t hold your breath on this happening out-of the blue, by the way…You’ve got to work to make it happen).
- Identify companies
Before you start Google-searching companies in your area, heed this warning: ONLY look for companies who are hiring people for the skills you most enjoy using. What’s the sense in offering an employer skills you don’t enjoy using? Yes, we can all clean a toilet. In fact, some of us are very good toilet cleaners, some of us even enjoy cleaning toilets, but it doesn’t mean we want to make a career out of it. Remember steps 8 and 9: Define a long-term strategy and use short-term goals as stepping stones? How is toilet cleaning going to get you closer to becoming a New York Times Best Selling author? You’re looking for ways to enhance those writing skills, learn more about southern France, get to know publishers, and authors, so the companies you want to target will help you do that.
These steps aren’t always easy to implement, nor are they a direct link to your dream job. They are, however, tips and strategies that may alleviate stress in your work place and focus you in a more positive direction towards career success.
Related Categories: Career Clarity, Job Search
About The Author
Maureen McCann is an award-winning career coach, master resume writer, and master certified interview, employment, and career strategist whose clients include C-level executives, managers, and professionals in all industries including the Canadian banking, oil and gas, healthcare, IT, and government sectors.