It’s Friday and you have been looking forward to it! Who doesn’t but well, there is more to it. Every time you get off your bed on a Monday morning, you find yourself yawning, “Ah, work again! 5 more days to the weekend!”. You get back from work feeling exhausted with no energy left to enjoy time with your loved ones. You feel that you are alive to work, not work to be alive; work just feels like getting a pay check with the first love evaporated into the air. You can do the job but you do not like to do it any more. You no longer hear the excitement within yourself talking about what you do to your family and friends. You want to do something else/more, but you are not sure what that something is.
If you can relate to any of this, then you are not alone, at least from my experience as a Human Resources professional conducting and analyzing Happiness Surveys and interviews to thousands of employees at multinational companies and as a career coach partnering with many of my clients. The great news is there are a few practical and well-used strategies to make you happier at work. In the long run, you spend one third or even half of your life doing work, so is it worthwhile uplifting it to make everyday feel beautiful? Yes, as you deserve it and if you choose to!
First, let’s start with a perspective before we dive into the action. Here is a fact that is not really well-known, or it may have been lingered in your mind but not yet articulated, or it is in the form of a doubt: There are hardly any ideal jobs, and even the most amazing job in this world has its ugly tail. Many a time, best fit job is the one that aligns with the majority of people’s interests, gives them an opportunity to use all or almost all of their talents, plus, still, a chance (or well, a must, contextually) to take on the other elements that are not of their passion or natural strengths. What is truer is even people working for noble organizations eradicating world poverty or improving international peace may find their jobs less and less exciting over time. So if you truly want to reignite that fire in you if you have been in the job for a good while (over 3 years in one same single job with the same responsibilities may require another set of actions though unless you choose to be there), here are the three well used strategies.
1. It does not start with the Job. It starts with You: PURPOSE.
In Maslow hierarchy of needs, self-actualization is at the top. It occurs when one realizes his or her full potential and possibilities, and how it occurs mostly is through both continuous learning/growth and making an impact on the world around one self. So if you are bored, it most likely lies in the feeling of lack of purpose or a purpose you do not associate with. Then the first sensible action to take is to revisit the mission of the organization you work for. Any should have one and that must have been among the factors drawing you to join them.
You need to articulate it in your own way then link it up with what you do daily in support of such bigger purpose. The trick is to write it down and read it out loud so you truly feel it. A better way is to have that statement in a nice piece of paper and stick it onto your desk or wherever you can see it most at work. The questions you could ask yourself to make one purpose statement of your work are:
- What is my organization’s purpose? / What does my organization do that helps make a difference to the world? Is it “make everyday life better for the many people” like IKEA’s, or “bring humanity back to the skies” like jetBlue’s, or “to help bring creative projects to life” of KickStarter, etc.? Be clear.
- What do I do and who do I serve in my job? Is it “make employees happy”, “handle customers’ feedback”, “communicate about our products to the markets”, or “improve national public health system”, etc.? Be broad and clear.
- How does the purpose of my job link with that of my organization?
- How do I feel when I could achieve that? Too often, we bury our feelings, which mean we bury ourselves. So bring it up, label that good feeling and it will actualize or fuel further good feelings.
- What is the statement connecting all of the above? Could it be “I am so proud of myself because by making our employees happy, I enable them to provide greater services to our customers, making everyday better for the many people.”? Could it be “I feel wonderful serving my customers so they can bring their creative projects to life”?
Again, once you feel that the statement gives you life, make it visible!
2. Now is the Job: GROWTH.
It’s important to understand what you want or what interests you in the first place and then move onto seeing which of those you do not have in your job before outlining what to do about it. Questions you could ask yourself are:
- What skills am I so good at already?
- What skills do I want to learn in the next 6 months to one year if I have the opportunity? If I have obtained them, how would I feel? Do I feel happy, accomplished, etc.?
- Are there any areas in my job tapping on those desirable skills that I can expand?
- Where and how can I get the identified skills further? On the how, the typical corporate model would tell you that you grow from being on the job (70%), being mentored (20%), and learning (10%). So find or create and propose a new project, or innovate what you have been doing, get a mentor or a few mentors in the areas you are interested in, or take a course. On the first point, typically, you may want to speak with your manager first about your aspiration so they could assign you to a project of your interest or keep an eye out on different teams’ work-streams for you (with the assumption that you are doing what you do really well and taking on additional work does not compromise your main job’s quality and timely delivery). Do not wait until the career conversations. In addition, speak with people in the departments you care about. People love to help. Also, there is always a big need for help and no one would refuse someone who has a big thirst for growth, is sincere and committed to well completing the work. Indeed, too often, there are calls for help so just stay alert and well connected with people.
- When will I take these actions above? Have a plan, put it in the calendar, and get it moving!
3. Now is Something bigger than the Job: MEANING.
Too often, no jobs could fulfill all of our interests that make us feel we are living a meaningful life. You may be a consultant that loves dancing. You may be a lawyer who loves painting. You may be an entrepreneur who loves writing. So fill your life with these passions. Make time for them. The joy of doing so will have domino effect onto your work as your life is composed of interconnected compartments. And who knows you will be an amateur dancer, painter or writer some day.
If you are passionate about a cause like human rights or education, etc., watch out for company’s CSR events or go, connect, and speak with people from the organizations you admire sharing about your interest. You can do it in your own time or some companies have the policies giving employees a certain number of hours a year for community volunteering. If you let your aspiration landing a hand discoverable, you will be discovered.
If you are not sure what you like to do to give your life a meaning outside of work, you can ask yourself these questions:
- What did I use to love when I was a child? If you don’t remember, ask your parents, siblings, cousins, etc.
- What did I always dream to be growing up during my childhood?
- What issues in the world that makes me so uncomfortable that I want to take action right away?
- What do I believe I am born for? To teach, to inspire, to help, etc.?
If you have tried these few strategies but are still like a fish out of water, then it may be a time for a medium to big career or life change, either it be moving to another team or department, getting a new job, living in another city, or having your own business, etc. If you have been in the job for less than a year and don’t think you have made tangible contribution, then you may need to try harder at the first and second strategies given other factors are under control (you have a sensible and supportive boss and open colleagues, the company is doing well hence there is much work to get done, etc.). The reason is you need to build your brand for the next whatever move.