The economy has been steadily recovering since the 2008 recession, but we aren’t out of the woods yet. With employment opportunities still limited, the competition in the job market is fierce. Getting a paying job is not a sure thing. Knowing this, the focus of many professionals has shifted away from finding a career you love to taking the job you can get.
However, that does not mean you have to give up the hope of building a highly fulfilling and enjoyable career you love. More than anything, this economy stresses the importance of making job decisions that help you find your career path instead of landing you directly to the highly lucrative and exciting destination. How do you set yourself up for success while still showing up at a job that does not exactly light you up? Here are five ideas to try.
1. Focus on what’s right in your Job
How do you do that when a day at the office looks like an endless stretch of drudgery? By going back to why you accepted this job in the first place. Perhaps it was the pay, the easy commute, the opportunity to work with people you enjoy, or the chance to get some experience in your professional field. Regardless of what your personal reasons were, revisit them and find a way to remind yourself of them daily.
Challenge yourself to actively look for things at work that make you smile, get you excited, or bring you joy. A weekly sushi lunch out with your co-worker? Excellent coffee in the office? A sense of accomplishment when a report is done? Set a goal of finding at least three things for which you are grateful at work every day; perhaps try writing them down to keep yourself accountable. This exercise may look simply, but it can do wonders for turning your attitude around.
2. Fix what can be fixed
A proactive focus on what’s right does not mean you must pretend that everything at work is rosy. Be honest with yourself about what’s not working for you. Do you have a hard time concentrating in a noisy cubicle? Does the repetitive nature of your tasks make you want to climb the walls? Does your boss seem unappreciative or unreasonable?
Make a list of things, people, and tasks that you don’t enjoy, then look at each item to determine whether something can be done about it. Is there a way to create templates, automate, or somehow optimize the tasks that are boring and repetitive? Could you ask to be relocated to another cubicle away from noisy neighbors or sell your manager on the idea of working remotely for a portion of the week? Are there professionals who have a good relationship with your boss? If so, what are they doing differently from you?
If a pain point does not seem to have an immediate solution within your reach, acknowledge it and work on ways to minimize its impact on your day. Stay away from negative co-workers, find a great soundtrack to make stuffing envelopes go quicker, and create bright spots in the day that you can look forward to like chocolate cookies after a particularly painful meeting or a nice plant for your desk.
3. Clarify your Career Path
Just because you have this job today does not mean you are stuck here for the rest of your working life. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a typical professional, changes an average of 11 or more jobs over the course of their career, so learn to view any position as a step along your path. This gets easier if you know where you want to go.
Begin with getting some clarity around your career goals, and then determine what you are willing to give up in exchange for what you want. For example, some professionals may consciously choose to grit their teeth through a high-intensity or high-pressure job so that they can have more options or boost their earning potential with two to three years of highly valuable experience under their belts.
4. Actively seek out job opportunities
Having goals is helpful, but moving up and finding a career that you love takes knocking on many doors and being ready for job opportunities when they arise. The more proactive you are in networking with other professionals, volunteering, taking on different responsibilities, and trying new things, the greater your chances of landing a job that you love.
5. Keep a clear head
The most difficult thing about holding down a job you don’t love is not sabotaging yourself in the process — the temptation to slack off, mutter a snarky comment, or just throw in a towel can be strong. Be clear on your personal “do not cross” lines, avoid situations that turn abusive or unethical, and know what it would take for you to leave. Short of those boundaries, keep your eye on the ball and remember that this job is just a stepping stone.
Sometimes difficult jobs offer the best learning opportunities. After all, you are getting something out of having this position! A paycheck can allow you to have financial independence, buy things that bring you joy, or build up a financial reserve that will serve as a bridge to your next job opportunity. Plus, a job with boring and repetitive tasks might teach you how much you value the ability to be creative and the opportunity to solve a tough puzzle. A job you don’t love may also prove to be a powerful motivator and catalyst for change.
No matter what your job situation is, find ways to be thankful for what it gives you. You’ll find that this attitude allows you to use any job to create your own perfect outcome.
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