After many years invested in arduous studies and steady advancement, you now find yourself stuck in a job wondering how it all happened. I’ve been there too and I’m a change advocate because I understand the profound resistance to change in most people around their careers.
Yet moving on is not always the right answer. When the grass looks greener on the other side of the fence, it may be that they take better care of it there.
Yes, you might be getting more satisfaction from repeatedly rearranging your desk, staring blankly at the screen and creating inspirational Pinterest boards in preparation for tonight’s dinner. Yes, you’re disengaged and you’re not alone. Right now this is happening to over half the working population. This is a real problem.
Here are suggestions for you to change what you can in your current work before looking elsewhere.
Get the basics right first
It's not just important but essential that your basic needs are met: work-life balance, length of commute, eating patterns and fitness regimes, for example. Such factors are the foundations for your career happiness - do not simply throw them on the back-burner.
Maurice had learnt the hard way. During four months of non-stop client delivery for a fast-growth company, his immune system and energy levels began to deplete. As his concentration waned so did his judgment and his confidence. So what did he do? Tried to work even harder to compensate.
His life outside work was narrowing: his socialising was confined to drinks after work with the same colleagues, his relationship was plummeting and his fitness had taken a nosedive.
He was heading for burnout, fast. Something had to change. Time and time again, the most important realities of life are the ones that we neglect.
So when Maurice got in contact we created the space for him to think about what he really wanted to achieve.
He had to work less. So he took advantage of a quiet period at work and created artificial limitations on the hours he worked. He would go to a meeting room with his laptop without a charger giving him only two hours to finish pieces of work. He scheduled fitness sessions and socials with friends at 6.30pm to focus his attention on getting out. As a result, his work rarely ran over. Things became more manageable quickly.
Next, he was determined to start enjoying the day-to-day again.
TAKE ACTION: Build your foundations to find the right fit between your work and your life and have a grounded sense of well-being.
Many of these tensions are present because there is not enough time in the day. So the easiest way to resolve this might some easy wins about creating more time for yourself. Here are the top two books that I'd recommend by Mike Gardner and Clare Evans.
Using your favourite skills and strengths
If you’re unable to find an element of excitement in your day to day, then what is the point in it all? Some tasks will reduce you to tears. Others will get you fully in the zone where time flies by where you’re immersed in something fun - what psychologists call flow experiences. It’s your mission to find the latter.
When Maurice reviewed his personality and skills profiles from psychometric tests, he could focus on those things that most excited him in the past that he enjoyed and he flourished in.
Maurice found what energised and felt authentic to him - his negotiation skills. Colleagues often told him he listened well and articulated their needs, then used his judgment to find the right words and actions between people to find solutions in an impartial way. It was something he did naturally across multiple contexts of his life inside and outside of work.
Flow doesn’t just happen randomly, it’s something you create.
TAKE ACTION: Look back over your CV, keep an energy diary to find your flow like below and/or brainstorm what activities give you most energy.
Adapted from Designing Your Life, Build a Life that Works for You. Bill Burnett, Dave Evans
Get connected with the right people
Sitting alone at lunch tossing quinoa around your plate isn’t going to help you connect with colleagues.
I really can’t stress how important it is to identify with colleagues, especially when you spend as much time with them as your own family.
Ask yourself fundamental questions.
Do the people I work with have a personal interest in me? Am I interested in them? Would I actually feel a sense of loss if one of us was transferred and we could no longer collaborate?
Then try to get connected and be real with the people around you. And have real conversations.
Be brutally honest and evaluate your current team - fish out those who complement your skills and interests best and find ways to collaborate with them.
Maurice took the first opportunities to connect with the right colleagues. He started to eat lunch with them, explore opportunities to collaborate and chose face-to-face work where possible. It resulted in the opportunity to lead on developing a new part of his company’s product, which he could shape because he knew what the client wanted and used his ability to negotiate between the needs of the technology and business teams effectively.
TAKE ACTION: dedicate more time to connecting with colleagues.
Anxiety is hard-wired into all humans - it’s much easier to get bogged down with the negative. “I’m rubbish, we’re rubbish, everything is rubbish”. But you know it doesn’t serve you. So go from complaining to action.
Define success, take control and rediscover your mojo from today. You are at cause and can take control back. Maurice found the opportunity to engage with meaningful projects over busy work. Who knows? You might have the fortitude like Maurice when you focus on what you’re great at and connect with colleagues.
As a strong believer in the career design thinking model, Martin draws on his successful career change to be Head of HR and Recruitment where he doubled the team and learnt what it takes to get hired. Qualified in psychometric testing and career coaching, and Career Consultant to a top university, he has helped 1000s of people with their career.