Remember all those years ago when you first started down your career path, making steady progress or landing a job you were sure you would want forever? Or maybe you just accepted a job that seemed promising, or that you felt was the best you could do, and one thing led to another – leaving you stuck without even a honeymoon period to look back fondly on?
It happens a lot. We wake up and don’t want the job that we’ve got. It pays decently, or more-than-decently, and/or provides some other Holy Grail-type perks, such as flex time or, the Grail of all Grails, good group health insurance. And yet, we keep humming the old Peggy Lee song, “Is That All There Is?” as we toil away at our desks. Honestly, it feels like someone else’s job sometimes, even while we’re doing it.
But there are ways to reconnect with your career, to find the right path and course-correct, no matter what phase of your career you are in. Here are four exercises that will help you clarify what’s missing, so you know whether what you need is a little tweak or a complete reboot.
1. Take Inventory
Really break down what is and isn’t working for you in your current position. You feel comfortable in the environment, for instance, but the actual work you are doing is a dull grind. Get specific and create two lists: “Like” and “Don’t Like.”
2. Retrace Your Steps
Go to previous jobs and break down what worked and didn’t work for you in each one. Was there a job you had in the past that you loved? What was it that loved? Were you working in a field you were passionate about? Being challenged by big projects on tight deadlines? Again, get specific and break it down into “Liked” and “Didn’t Like.” Yes, even in a job you loved, there was something about it that you didn’t love. Don’t gloss over that. The pay was low, the hours were crazy, or the boss was a tyrant? Include it in your breakdown.
3. Go Back To Class
Don’t despair if you’ve never had a job you loved, if you feel you got off on the wrong foot right out of school. Think back to your student days. What classes did you love? Was the Advanced Marketing class your favorite? Why? Was it the group projects, the psychology behind getting people to buy, the amazing mentorship by the professor? These are clues to help you discover what you are currently missing, and what could be the key to career satisfaction.
4. Indulge In Envy
You know when you get together with your friends and one friend is always talking about her job? It sounds like she is complaining, but you know she is really bragging because it’s an AWESOME job that you would KILL for. You wish you had a job like hers.
Again, start making a list. What is it about your friend’s job that you envy? What would you not want from her job? You love the idea of giving presentations to rooms full of people, but not of flying to Timbuktu to do it. Once you’ve broken down that friend’s job, think about other people whose jobs you envy? Get specific. There is gold in that envy.
Once you have done these four exercises, you should have a better idea of what you are not getting from your current job and maybe more importantly, what you are getting. There may be a way to somehow change your current job to make it more of a fit (make a lateral move into a more dynamic department or with a boss who has less micromanagement tendencies, for instance).
Or, it may be that, as you suspected, the job is just the wrong fit in so many basic ways that you have to get out. Use the results of these exercises as a guide so when you make your plan, you have a more complete picture of where your career happiness lies.
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