Do you love your job? If not, frankly, you have a lot of company. A tremendously large percentage of employees are disengaged, discouraged, demotivated, and generally frustrated with their work.
One of my core beliefs, one on which I’ve focused my business, is that you can love your job. Work (yes, even corporate jobs!) can be meaningful, enjoyable, and rewarding. And you don’t even have to be “living your passion” to feel this way.
Let’s look at some of the reasons people love their jobs, and how you can use them to rekindle your affection for that place you spend so much time every day. Because people who enjoy what they do report that their work is…
Most human beings abhor being bored. But as any mother will tell you, there is an element of choice to being bored. Tell a bored kid to find something to do, and after a few minutes of griping, they’re off somewhere, making a fort, drawing a picture, reading a book, chasing the dog, or playing happily with a stick in the backyard.
When your work is challenging and interesting, it is easy to stay engaged with it. But what if it’s not? Remember what your parents did when you were bored as a child, and challenge yourself to find something interesting about it. Can you research a new way to do something? Teach yourself the history of your industry? Become an expert in some aspect of your work? Create a game to improve your skills or abilities?
Making a Difference
People who feel like the work they do makes a difference in some way tend to feel more satisfied with their careers. But there is a wide range of “making a difference” from solving world hunger to making your boss or colleague’s lives and jobs easier by focusing on the quality of your work. Sometimes people are happy simply being a part of a company or organization they feel is doing good work and making the world a better place. And others may just need to see tangible results in their own tasks, an objective measure that something has improved via their efforts.
Think about the ways in which your organization provides value to its customers, the industry, or the community. Then think about how your department makes a difference to others within the organization. Finally, consider all the ways that your job touches others, makes their life or work easier, better, or more enjoyable. Can you focus your attention on those things? Can you celebrate the part you play in a larger picture of making a difference?
Using Inherent Talents
Do you constantly feel you’re paddling upstream, working hard to do well despite the fact that it is not easy for you? Consider whether your job has you doing things that you might be very capable of doing, but that aren’t taking advantage of your natural, inherent talents and strengths.
Make an inventory of your strengths, skills, and inherent talents (the things you’ve always been good at, known for, or things that come easily to you). How many of these are you using in your job? Look for ways to use more of those inherent strengths, or to use them more fully. You may find that by doing so, it starts to feel like the current is moving with you instead of against you.
Providing a Sense of Achievement
When we were in grade school, we got test results and report cards on a regular basis. We moved up a grade every year (hopefully!). It was clear and easy to see how we were doing, and where we stood in our progression through school. Then we meet the workplace. We might get a performance review once a year. We might get a raise. Sometimes we know whether one led to the other, and sometimes we don’t.
If your job doesn’t provide specific, tangible goals and feedback on whether you’re achieving them, it can feel like you’re spinning your wheels. Identify what constitutes an accomplishment or achievement in your work world. Is it meeting a target? Maintaining a certain level of quality? Getting a report out on time? If your goals are long term, look for the interim steps that need to be accomplished. The real world requires us to monitor our progress and celebrate our achievements, even if others are too busy to notice.
Allowing Growth and Progress
A sense of stagnation is not a pleasant feeling. An truly enjoyable job will provide you ways to learn, grow, expand your knowledge and capabilities. Some employers provide career progression plans, competency matrices, and training and development to help you along the way. And others don’t have this level of organization.
But you can do much of this yourself. Look at where you are and where you want to be. What skills will be required to get there? What relationships can help you get there, or mentor you along the way? Identify your own growth plan and come up with ideas to move along that development path by gaining certifications, volunteering for projects, taking courses, asking for additional responsibilities, etc. Take your growth and development into your own hands.
We all like to be recognized, praised, awarded with honors. However, sometimes our hard work seems to go unnoticed and unappreciated. Look at how you like to be shown that you are valued — do you like to be financially compensated for your work? Get public recognition? Simply be thanked?
Once you figure out what is meaningful to you and makes you feel valued, look closely for ways that you’re already getting those things. Perhaps your company pays well compared to its competitors and that is the company’s way to show you your work is valued. Did you get mentioned in an email praising the team for a job well done? It may not be a large gesture, but look for and appreciate those that you do get. Then let your manager know (in a professional and appropriate way) what actions keep you motivated.
Perhaps your current role is not the career love of your life, or maybe you’ve fallen out of love with it. But by looking for those aspects of work that make it more loveable rather than focusing on the deficiencies, you will at least open up the possibility that you might fall in love with your job again. Even if you can’t get the spark back, you’ll at least have done your part to repair your relationship with your work.