I’m not talking about a bad day – or a bad patch.
I’m talking about that feeling when work routinely leaves you about as pumped-up as a goldfish, or when a trivial disagreement with your colleague becomes an existential question about if it’s all worth it.
When you wax far more poetic about leaving your job than staying in it, you’re probably in a rut.
Sure, people don’t always love their livelihoods, but there’s generally a legitimate argument for keeping your job – and being good at it. At any rate, most of us wouldn’t have accepted the offer if we thought we were walking into a career low-point, would we?
So ruts are incremental, but completely curable. Regardless of what/whom it’s rooted in, it is often the mentality – not the office – that needs rebooting. I feel these 4 mind-shifts in tandem might gradually airbrush you back into Day 1 enthusiasm, barring extreme cases:
Outcomes, not processes. It’s very easy to fall into a pattern of focusing on trees and losing sight of the forest. Not only does it get dead-dull, you tend to blur your vision of what you were hired for: deliverables. An accomplishment mindset allows for more creativity and varies your day-to-day experience. Where they aren’t clear, create milestones in your job that tie-up to company objectives. People who stick to specific goals have less time to wallow in it.
Raise your personal profile. Don’t slouch into obscurity. Your promotion or next job is likely to be decided by someone other than yourself. Who you know helps, but it’s really about who knows you – and for what. You don’t have to be a jerk to become an authority. Cameron Craig wrote a brilliant article on using LinkedIn publishing to get noticed, for example. Fact is: throughout your professional life, you’re constantly going to have to prove your expertise – otherwise you can’t gripe about being sidelined. You do it by (non-threateningly) making your case. If you feel strongly enough about what you do and your successes, someone will pick up on it – and you. If it doesn’t resonate with anyone at all, check yourself. You might just be a freak.
Who’s your mentor? I used to think the concept of having a mentor or mentors was hogwash, frankly. But after one or two missteps, it made sense to acknowledge that I can’t instinctively figure it out every time. That there are people who have gained vastly more experience than I, and tapping into their knowledge and clarity makes me smarter, not dafter. You can call them whatever you want, but even the most powerful man in the world has a flock of advisers. He clearly needs them. So do I. So do we all.
Avoid making anyone look bad. Not if you can help it. There’s a hubristic tendency in all of us to cast ourselves as the solo star in our narratives, regardless of who gets dimmed. Nowhere is this more potentially combustible than in our workplace. Take or leave, our implicit obligation is to make our sphere (and bosses, particularly) look good. To ignore this is, more often than not, to place oneself at unnecessary risk. Some may have made an art out of self-promotion at the expense of others, and it may seem to be working. But look again. The ones who travel furthest – and smoothest– are usually those who learn to sometimes lose ground tactically for the aggregate win, and build a reputation for carrying people along, giving them credit.
Look at it this way: if you try all these and still find yourself feeling bitterly stuck at your dead-end, you’d be much closer to landing your next job anyway.