How to fall back in love with your job
Lost that loving feeling? Here are some tips for recapturing the joys of your role
Caitlin Mackesy Davies
The holiday season is the peak time for relationship breakdowns. And career relationships can also suffer from a midwinter malaise and thoroughly undermine your personal development plan. Even more so when a weak economy seems to point to poor prospects elsewhere, and it is easier to keep your head down and stick it out than to confront your workplace worries head-on.
But when you decide to stay in an unsatisfying role, says John Lees, author of How to Get a Job You’ll Love, you are “accepting a psychological contract, which is: ‘My work will now be dull and I’m going to be stuck in a rut.’ This doesn’t need to be the case. There are active strategies you can use to review, refresh and to initiate change.”
So, here are Lees’ tips on how to tackle the most common career relationship complaints:
“I’m bored” You should review your role every six or 12 months, whatever your happiness in it, says Lees. “You need to see how your job has changed and what have you added to it.” He suggests asking yourself “What have I learned?”, “What’s new?” and “Where are things going?”
“The spark is gone” Every job is a learning curve, and once you reach the top of that curve you will be de-energised because things start to repeat themselves. That is when you have to look at what you can add to the role. You may be able to adjust your workload, renegotiate the focus of your work, or attach yourself to a new team. In HR-speak this is called “job sculpting”.
“I don’t feel appreciated” If this is your issue, you are probably not getting feedback and don’t know if you are doing things that are valued. Find a mentor (ideally someone two or three rungs above you), coach or work buddy to give you two important bits of feedback: what are you doing well that is important to the organisation, and how does the organisation see you?
“We don’t want the same things any more” One common reason for work disturbance is a role mismatch, when people might say: “This isn’t what I expected to be doing.” This is an important career conversation – what were your expectations of this job or this organisation when you started? How far have they been fulfilled? Think of work as a compromise between what you want from life and what your employer wants from you, and review what you do. If the employer is getting the better part of the deal, it’s time to renegotiate.
“I’m just not happy” A very general complaint, cautions Lees, uses language that doesn’t mean anything to employers. It’s much better to say: “Here’s something that will help me to develop the organisation.” If you want to change your role, using win-win language is vital. It may not work first time, but employers value the positive impulse behind it and eventually run out of reasons not to let you act on your ideas.
“It’s over” If it really is time to make a break, advises Lees, “stock your lifeboat before you jump”. This means having a reasonably clear idea of what you are good at and what you are looking for. If you are aware of what your skill mix is and what makes you a distinctive worker you can go to the market with a good story, which makes you attractive to prospective employers.
But beware, says Lees, of accepting novelty as an alternative – otherwise known as the rebound. This can mean you enter a new organisation, but encounter the same problems. The attraction of the new should always be more important than the repulsion of the old. Every move should build something new into your career.