When it’s going well, work can be a source of great joy and fulfillment. There’s nothing like achieving a goal, closing a deal, publishing a book – whatever relates to your field – for making life feel exciting and worthwhile. Considering it takes up so many waking hours, it is important to be engaged with your job.
And yet when things go wrong at work, it can feel like the end of the world. Work-related stress is one of the most common reasons people come to me for help, which is why I’m devoting a series of blogs to the issue. I’ll be covering finding a new job, dealing with a difficult colleague, asking for a promotion or pay rise and other work-related dilemmas. Please get in touch if you’re experiencing a particular problem with your career and I’ll do my best to cover it here.
I’m going to start with the issue of making the most out of your existing role. Because although there are plenty of well-meaning people out there who will tell you that unhappiness in your current job means you need to make a radical change, sometimes it’s not that easy. Maybe you are the sole earner and can’t just take time out to retrain in your ideal career. Or your children are settled at school and you don’t want to uproot them, but jobs in your area are few and far between. Maybe a few months or years down the line, you’ll be ready to change. But right now, you just want to feel happier where you are – more fulfilled, more excited about getting up each day. Here are some tips to revitalise your working life – and make you more marketable for another job should it just happen to come along!
- Find the purpose. What is it about what you do that makes a difference? Sure, you might not be working for a charity or NGO, but it’s possible to find a sense of purpose in any job. Why do you think you were hired in the first place? Was it for your creativity? Your enthusiasm? Your technical knowledge? Is there a way you can enhance this? Can you be more inspiring to your colleagues? Be aware of the difference you make when you arrive each day.
- Stay present. When you’ve decided you’re unhappy in your job, it can be tempting to spend half the day wishing you were somewhere else. Maybe you’re checking Twitter on your phone every five minutes or covertly doing your Christmas shopping when no one can see your computer screen. There’s nothing wrong with taking breaks and shifting focus from time to time, but be careful you’re not avoiding the actual work in hand. When you are actually immersed in a task (rather than telling yourself how much you hate it) you’d be surprised how much you enjoy it. Time flies much quicker this way too!
- Take a leaf out of the Alcoholics’ Anonymous book. Their Serenity Prayer asks God to: “grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference”. Try applying this to your current work situation. What is beyond your control? And what could you influence if you tried? Try and write down the areas you’d like to change and how you might be able to work on them. Be a little creative. Imagine you are a consultant hired to work at your business. What could you do to change things for the better?
- Consider the big plan. Very few jobs are “for life” these days, and it’s likely that you won’t stay where you are forever. Giving yourself some long-term goals can help put your current circumstances into perspective. Where would you like to be in five or ten years’ time? See your current job as an essential stepping-stone on the way. A friend of mine was dreading taking a full-time job because she had always worked for herself, but needed the regular money to get a mortgage deal on her house. As soon as she saw it as “just another long-term contract”, the new role seemed less of a prison.
- Deal with any conflicts with colleagues or bosses to the best of your ability. I’ll be devoting a separate blog to this issue, but the reality is that difficult people crop up throughout our working lives, and even if you landed your dream job tomorrow, you could end up with a new nightmare boss a couple of weeks later. Learning to deal with problem colleagues is a skill that will serve you well wherever you go, so try to separate interpersonal issues from “the work” itself.
- Try and find a way to create a better job in your existing company. Are there any projects that you could volunteer to lead on, or opportunities to shadow colleagues from another part of the organisation? How about learning and development opportunities? Any skills you feel you’re missing that would enhance what you do? Most companies, however small, have some kind of training budget, so make the most of these and steer your job in a direction that feels more inspiring or motivating.
- Finally – write down all the good things about your job – the ways in which you are effective, the challenges you’ve overcome, deadlines you’ve met, and keep adding to it. Not only will focusing on the good stuff make everyday work more enjoyable, but it’s great evidence for those “why I deserve a pay rise” conversations, or for use in interview for another job.
Let me know how you get on and let us know if there’s a subject you want us to tackle?