Monday, August 13, 2012

Ten Tips to Help You Like Your Job Again

If you’ve got a boring, frustrating or extremely stressful job you may entertain fantasies of walking out the door for good.

But you know it’s not a good idea to quit your job without having another one confirmed and waiting for you. Even if your boss is a micromanaging dictator, you never are appreciated for the boring work you do, and there are no growth opportunities, having a job in these volatile times is something to cherish.

However some people’s jobs have extremely negative effects on them and their loved ones. After weighing the mental and physical consequences of remaining in your job, the stress of working may seem worse than the stress of not working. You may want to jump ship without having another boat to board. Before you do, however, try the following tips that will not only help you get a little more enjoyment out of your present situation but will also help ready you for that next opportunity.

And if you are happy with your job, these tips can only make it better.

First take a good look at your present work.

1. Focus on the parts you like. Yes, there are some; even the worst jobs have good parts. Make a list of all the things you like about your job. Look at that list every day and make an effort to do more of those things you enjoy or expose yourself to those situations that you like. For example, do you enjoy working with a particular person? Ask them if they need help on a project, or make a point to take a break with them. Volunteer for more tasks that involve doing the things you like to do. Be sure and tell your boss and colleagues about the tasks you enjoy – let your enthusiasm and interest show. And keep adding to the list as you discover more of what you enjoy. If you can spend more of your workday on things that you like to do, work will naturally be more satisfying.

2. Avoid, or try new approaches, with the parts you don’t like. No doubt you already know well the tasks and situations that you hate about your job. Maybe they are unavoidable, but if not, it makes sense to try and avoid those people, those meetings, those tasks and situations that cause you the most grief and stress. If they are totally unavoidable, take a look at how you are approaching them. Are there other ways to interact with that office curmudgeon that will elicit a more positive response? Try them out. Are there other ways to get that task done that may not be so distasteful? Observe others’ approaches and consult those you trust about what you might do differently.

3. Identify some mentors. More than one is better, and they don’t have to be formal “mentors” by any means. But if there are others at work that you respect and would like to spend more time with, certainly make an effort to get to know them better. Find mutual areas of interest, whether work-related or not. Drop in for just five minutes a few times a week to ask how their projects are doing, share your experiences, ask for advice, or see if they will have time to spend lunch with you. Check outside your company for likely mentors too. Take the time to build friendly, professional relationships. If your work team is more hostile than not, or you feel like you are not well-utilized where you currently are, then these folks can be allies and perhaps even conduits of new opportunities for you.

4. Come up with an idea for a project or task that excites you. Write out a short proposal that outlines what you’ll do, the benefits and results of it, what resources you need, and how long it will take. Tell your boss you have an idea that will provide XX benefits to the team/company and want to get her advice and input on it. It’s crucial that you have some (ideally quantifiable) benefits that you can illustrate, and that you ask for your boss’s input as well. Get them involved and show your excitement. Sure, they can shoot you down, but at least you tried. Find out if there are tweaks you could make, other areas you could focus on or if it is just the timing that makes it non-feasible. Don’t let your boss’s negativity dampen your own enthusiasm.

5. Get outside your team. Look for areas within your company that make sense for you to cross-train in. Ask to shadow an executive for a day or two. Ask to be involved in a project or committee that involves others from across the company. You’ll be exposed to other types of jobs, departments, and people and maybe you’ll find a spot better suited for you. At the least, you will learn more about another area and that can help broaden your perspective and deepen your experience. Which are never bad things.

6. Change your physical surroundings. Sometimes, creating a little personal retreat in your cubicle can go a little ways toward making you feel in control as well as making you feel more relaxed at work. Feeling like you have more control and are more relaxed will definitely positively influence your attitude toward work and your life in general. So cover those gray cubicle walls with a tapestry, new posters or photographs. I’ll never forget the Mexican brown-eyed Elvis tapestry draped over someone’s cubicle wall. Add your own personal marks: plants, books, music, cushion, bumper stickers, anything that makes it feel more like a home office than an office office.

Besides your job, take a good look at yourself. Your work may be boring but you don’t have to be. What can you do to spark yourself up a bit?

7. Make external changes. First take a look at the easy stuff: your outside. Get a new haircut and invest in some classy new shoes or other accessories. Sharpen up your outer image and have fun while you’re doing it. If you’re female, consider stopping by one of those department store cosmetic counters and have them give you a new professional look. Learn a couple new make-up tips. I still remember the time that I changed my makeup and got comments like ”You look so great today!” People didn’t know what I had done (until I told them) but they certainly could tell there was a positive difference. A fresh change on the outside can temporarily boost your internal confidence and the positive feedback you may get will certainly help too.

8. Learn something new. Next take a look at your professional skill levels. Could they use some sharpening too? Talk to your boss about where you’d like to get some extra training and see if they agree that it would be beneficial. Ideally, your company will pay for some classes for you that may help you get certified or reconsidered for another position – one that may be more satisfying. Certainly adding certifications and other skills will make you a more desirable professional just about anywhere and lets people know that you aren’t lackadaisical about keeping up your professional development.

9. Make internal changes. You’ve also got to take a look at your overall attitude. Do you hate coming to work? Do you find yourself complaining about work every day? Do you often take mental health days? Do you cut corners when you can, come to meetings and work late, keep from interacting whenever you can with others on your team? You may think you are justified in behaving that way because the job itself is awful, and/or the company and your boss are too. But you can’t change them. You can only change yourself. So work on changing your attitude. Besides looking at the list in #1 every day, make a promise to yourself that you are not going to waste your precious mental time on spewing negative energy within and around you. Don’t fool yourself that you keep it to yourself. Your boss and co-workers can tell if you are engaged and interested or not.

One exercise that can help you pivot that attitude is to set some easy, daily challenges for yourself. Plan them a week at a time and write them out, one each day, in your calendar. These small work-related goals will provide daily personal successes. At least some of them should focus on others. All of them should engage your interest. For example:

--Today I am going to send a complimentary email to someone.
--Today I am going to set a personal record on getting my most hated task done in record time.
--Today I am going to make Mr. Curmudgeon smile.
--Today I am going to come up with one new idea.
--Today I am going to ask my boss what one thing they wish they could delegate.

These are your own secret work goals that have nothing to do with the expectations of others at work. No one else needs to know about them. But if you accomplish one small challenge for yourself every day, they will add up and I guarantee that you will feel better about how you are spending your time. And if at least half of your daily successes involve doing positive things for others, then you will see some eventual and unexpected rewards come from that too.

10. Get involved with outside associations and organizations. Make sure your personal life is rich, and that you are not too exhausted from your job that you neglect it. One of the best ways you can spend your off time is to join your professional association and get involved. When you are a regular volunteer, others get to know you and your work. You make contacts that can lead to new jobs. I do this at my local chapter of the American Society of Training and Development. Other regular volunteers and I have gotten interviews, new jobs, new clients, and more opportunities opening up simply because we are better connected than those who show up for a meeting once in a while. Check to see if your company will pay for your membership but even if they won’t, join on your own. Then find a committee or project to work on, or get on the board. You won’t regret it. You may find yourself receiving some recognition from others in your company if you do.

No matter what your work situation is (even if you are happy there!), you can expand your career potential by trying out these ten tips. I guarantee that by initiating your own “personal professional improvement campaign” that you will increase your level of enjoyment at work and eventually your career opportunities. Don’t allow yourself to become a victim of the workplace. Take control of your own attitude and actions and watch things change for the better.

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