Making Your Job Work for You – Avoid the 3 B’s: Boredom, Blahs and Burnout
Sometimes, it’s just not in the cards to change jobs right away. People have very real reasons for needing to stay put and I’ve heard them all. One client has a son with asthma and working close to his school is essential for her peace of mind. Another has an incredible benefits package and an ill husband. The reality is, there are people who are not in a position to “follow their bliss” as Joseph Campbell recommended. But don’t despair, it doesn’t have to feel like a trap.
In an ideal situation, every person would have time with a career counselor or adviser before making career decisions. They would learn what their values are, what are their motivations and which environments tend to be the most stimulating. That’s not possible for a lot of folks. Clients sometimes talk about finding themselves in a job they never really enjoyed. If you’ve have landed in a job that’s just “ok” or you feel your wheels are spinning, STOP. The worst thing you can do is wake up and spend 8 hours going to a job you feel trapped in. Here are some concrete strategies for you:
- Work /Life Balance:
Make sure your tank is full outside of work. This can be difficult to put in to practice, but try to save yourself some time every week to do something you enjoy. If you’re exhausted after a long day, it can actually energize you to sign up for a class that interests you, take the dog to the park, meet up with colleagues or friends. Giving yourself things to look forward to is essential for a good life.
- Grow Your Skills:
Suppose you know you’ve got to stay at this job at least another 5 years and you don’t like the industry at all, or there is zero room for growth. That’s ok. You can begin to stockpile some new skills. An online course, a training program at the library or purchasing a new software to teach yourself – all great ways to keep your skills fresh when your circumstances change.
- Create a New Task:
In my former role as Assistant Director of Disability Services at a New York City University, activity came in huge spikes. Providing academic accommodations happens at the beginning of every semester and it’s a huge task. Once that dust had settled there was a bit of downtime; more than I was comfortable with. I had an idea for a newsletter, ran it by my supervisor and it was a go. It became my passion project and I enjoyed writing useful articles, collecting submissions from students who were served by my office and it creating a campus-wide presence. This, in turn, brought more students to my office who may not have considered seeking services. What is something you can do that excites you during downtime at work? Is there a project or role you can request to tap in to the skills that you enjoy using?
- Revitalize Your Job:
Sometimes it comes down to communication. When was the last time you spoke to your supervisor and expressed a genuine desire to have your skills more fully utilized by the company? How would it feel to say something like, “[Name of Supervisor], I am very dedicated to this company and to my job. I envision a future here. In the spirit of trying to keep my skills sharp, I’ve taken a course on ____ and I’m eager to apply some of what I’ve learned here. Can we talk about a way that I can modify my position to keep myself challenged?”
Here’s the bottom line: When you spend a significant amount of time not feeling engaged in what you’re doing, you owe it to yourself to make a change. If you can’t change your job, you can change how you respond to it. Don’t take a passive role. Whatever the reason is for you to feel that you must stay, is a benefit to you – not a trap. If there really is no conceivable way to make your work day better, than you need to look to the rest of your life and see where you can make improvements. Sometimes, work is just work. But you can leave the office and grab your superhero cape to go make waves in the world.
Visit the Careerfolk website to set up a free 15-minute consultation to see how we can help you.
About the Author:
Tava Auslan, MSEd, ACRW
Senior Coach, Certified Resume Writer
Tava Auslan is a career counselor, certified resume writer and dancer. She received her BA in Psychology from SUNY Purchase and a Counseling Masters from Fordham University. Since 2002 she has partnered with her clients to give them clarity, confidence and concrete strategies for job search. Tava is known for her ability to help people assess their challenges, determine where they are stuck and offer tangible solutions to get them back on track. An astute writer, Tava earned her ACRW credential from Resume Writing Academy and crafts resumes that tell a compelling story for job seekers of all ages and stages. Tava has worked with a broad array of clients ranging from entrepreneurs, project managers, recent grads and engineers.
If you’re like most people, you’re probably considering a few resolutions to help motivate you into becoming a better version of yourself in the year to come. The end of a year lends itself to reflection; a look inward or a hope for more tangible progress. But resolutions need to be the right size and scope in order to be effective. People often start out with a bang and then settle back in to their routines before Spring. But don’t despair, there are some simple thought adjustments, strategies and resources to keep going. You just have to be a bit proactive.
Since this is blog deals with issues related to job search, career advancement and getting people in touch with what makes them tick, the resolutions we’ll focus on will continue in these themes. No weight loss tips here! The blog will share some tidbits about how to set realistic career-related resolutions and hold yourself accountable to them. I’ll draw some from client experiences and a few from personal experience.
- Re-Branding the New Year’s Resolution
Don’t call it a New Year’s Resolution. Your resolutions need to be re-branded so they don’t come with the popular connotations that they were made to be broken. Keep in mind, this isn’t a mindset you should only adopt in January when you want to turn the page for a fresh start. From this point forward, you are committed to the lifelong process of setting and achieving goals – no matter how small. It’s not an annual shot of motivation. Perhaps your re-branding can be called, “Kimberly’s 9-month path to becoming certified in Advanced Excel.” The more specific you are, the better (more on that later). Give it a name, a time frame and don’t buy in to the New Year’s piece of it because that’s only relevant for a short stint of time.
- Be Specific AND Realistic
Some things are out of your control. For instance, it would be a shame to set a goal of receiving a promotion within the year when you cannot determine this for yourself. If your long-term goal is a promotion, ask yourself why. Is it 1. A desire for recognition of your hard work? 2. Is it that you’re growing tired of your current role? 3. Is it primarily a need for a salary boost? Then you have to do some research. Is there a job description available for your target role? Does your company tend to promote from within? Is there a real opportunity for growth? This needs to be un-packed a bit to determine how feasible it is and what you’re really seeking. From there, you can set a specific goal such as earning a certification or strategically expanding your network with people in your target area. Vague resolutions are easy to ignore.
- Boost Your Accountability
One strategy that I’ve done is to write reminders to myself on my calendar. I once wrote, “Hello March, I’m writing this in January to make sure you’ve taken at least one concrete step towards your goal of _____.” Keep it playful and encouraging. But it’s a fun exercise to write to yourself and be your own cheerleader. One client got her family to mail her letters on the first of the month. They all wrote a few words of encouragement because her goal was particularly challenging to achieve. But, she did it.
- Don’t Go It Alone
No matter your goal, if it’s something you can do with a friend, family member or even a career coach, it will increase your chances of success. Here’s an example: Molly and Danielle are both introverts. They work together and confided in each other about their frustrations in the office. They often feel their hard work goes unnoticed in favor of the more outgoing types who are better at advocating for themselves. Their goal was to be more of a presence in the office and get to know their colleagues. They hatched a plan to try and have weekly lunches with their co-workers. Sometimes they miss a week but getting to know their colleagues outside of work has improved their day-to-day experience. They no longer feel invisible, they are more invested in their jobs and Danielle wrote a blog about the impact of her weekly lunches, which made its’ way to their boss (with a favorable outcome).
- Resolutions are Best in Bite-Size Pieces
Let’s use the example of setting a resolution for better Work-Life balance. You don’t want to give the impression that you’re less committed to your job, but you need to recharge your batteries so you don’t burn out. It’s not likely that you’ll suddenly find time to go to Yoga 4x a week and do a 15-minute meditation every day. Start small and celebrate your victories along the way. The key is to reward your progress – not just the end goal. Perhaps you closed your laptop 10 minutes early and went for a walk. Maybe that walk becomes a regular thing; and over time, you wake up 30 minutes earlier and go for a brisk walk 5 days a week. After you see some progress, treat yourself to something small. It doesn’t have to be a “thing,” it can be an experience.
- There’s No Shame in Needing Help
There’s a reason Career Coaches exist. We are here to help our clients gain clarity about what their goals are now, in 6 months, in 5 years, etc… Sometimes there’s no substitute for an objective 3rd party to come in and say the things that need to be said, to offer the type of motivation which can vacillate between encouragement and “tough love” and to share the hard skills about resumes and job search that it’s our business to know. If you want to give yourself (or someone else) the gift of career coaching to get your resolutions off the ground and help them take flight, contact us today.
And lastly, Happy Holidays from the Careerfolk team. We hope 2017 brings you every success you desire. Thanks for 11 years of support from clients like you!
About the Author
Tava Auslan, MSEd, ACRW
Senior Coach, Certified Resume Writer
Tava Auslan is a career counselor, certified resume writer and dancer. Since 2002 she has partnered with her clients to give them clarity, confidence and concrete strategies for job search. After earning her BA in Psychology from SUNY Purchase and an MSEd in Counseling from Fordham University, she worked with Donna at The New School Career Services Center in 2002. There she served students and graduates pursuing a variety of careers from academia to international affairs. She later went on to serve as the Assistant Director of Disability Services. A skilled counselor, she is compassionate, insightful and delivers the right amount of “push” to motivate her clients. An astute writer, Tava earned her ACRW credential from Resume Writing Academy and crafts resumes that tell a compelling story for job seekers of all ages and stages. Tava has worked with a broad array of clients ranging from entrepreneurs, scientists, project managers, recent grads and engineers.
Step into your boldness.
I recently had to take my own advice that I regularly give to clients. “ Step into your boldness.” Careerfolk turned 11 years old and we were sitting with an antiquated website that desperately needed a revamp. I reached out to professionals a while back, but got distracted with a lot of work that continuously streamed in so the pressure to make the badly needed changes didn’t feel urgent. Creating a new website also required a huge amount of work, and I just wasn’t as motivated as I needed to be.
Time passed. Months. Almost a whole year passed and the pressure to get a new website up was building in my mind. I needed to refresh our brand. But when it came to reaching back out to the web designer, I was anxious. I would need to commit to the work. That was hard.
The parallels with my clients were undeniable as my resistance was palpable. Not only did putting together a new website and brand require a lot of work, but it also required stepping out with a bold new look that was going to take a major psychological shift. Having been self-employed for the last 11 years, I’m used to putting myself out there, but after a while, I took more of a back seat, became complacent, and was content with the work that flowed in the door.
This was not unlike my clients who became complacent in unfulfilling jobs, but were too comfortable to make the change. Receiving a nice paycheck, or being too scared to do the work required keeps many people stuck. Career reinvention requires looking deep within oneself and the answers don’t come easily or quickly for many. It takes patience. It requires you to get the support you need from any number of people. Eventually, I rallied with the support of my colleague Tava, other professionals and my friends, and was able to push through and embrace the shift.
I’m now thrilled to report that we have a bold and fresh new website. It’s clean and not clunky like the old, oh so 2005, website.
We all need to refresh our careers or rebrand ourselves at some point. For some this may happen just once, for others every couple of years. Whether it’s a simple as changing the 10 year old Linkeidn profile photo, or a complete career change. You have to step into the boldness, just don’t forget to breath.
We all need a village to support us through professional growth, and as a small business owner, I must express deep gratitude to these phenomenal professionals who supported me through this process A loud shout out to Randallhoyt.com, LaurenRhodes.com and Carlos Barrios.
Take a peak at our bold new look and if you are ready to press refresh on your brand, give us a shout.
Focus on Career Trends: Bridging the Skills Gap without Breaking the Bank
If you’re like many job seekers, you read through the list of requirements for an open position and compare it against your existing skill set. Sure, soft skills are an easy enough sell. You can certainly describe yourself as a highly driven team player with excellent communication skills without anyone sounding alarms, but what about something like advanced Excel? How are your VLookups, Pivot Tables? Can you say that you have advanced Excel skills if you don’t? Even if you’ve earned an MBA, chances are there are skills that employers are looking for that you didn’t cover in school.
What can you do?
This is where micro-credentialing gains its’ appeal. But Micro-credentialing, also now known “nano-degrees” or micro-degrees are a growing trend due to its’ self-paced nature and affordability (when compared to traditional degrees). Fill in your skills gap, increase the amount of precious keywords on your resume and LinkedIn profiles, and do it all without breaking the bank. Micro-degrees are a set of online courses and a hands-on capstone project designed in partnership with universities and high-tech firms, according to Brookings Institute’s Techtank. Individuals can select to take just one course, 100% free, or work towards a complete certificate and receive an “official” credential at the end of the course which does come with a small price tag. Infinitely cheaper than and more accessible and flexible than what might be available at your local college or university.
Whether taking just one course, or an entire certificate, or “micro-degree” this effort can expand or deepen a skill set, or possibly legitimize it, and help you gain more credibility in your field. As with one of our clients, Rob, who is now pursuing official certification in project and construction management. A former trader in the financial industry, he landed up by default helping a friend manage his growing commercial construction business. After six years of working in the business, learning on the job, he’s now looking to work in a bigger company but needs to demonstrate some formal education to be seen as credible. An online course, or micro-degree could be a great first step.
At Careerfolk, we currently have clients who are taking courses in human resources, accounting, various software and fashion. These are clients who are looking to either advance their careers or make a change to a new industry. They realize that transferrable skills can only take them so far without some genuine industry specific knowledge. There are a number of resources available to you and the earlier you start, the better.
This is not only relevant for active job seekers but also highly valuable for people who have been with a company for a long time and let their skills atrophy. Why wait until times of uncertainty to expand your knowledge. Working professionals need to remain relevant. Recent college graduates need a broader skill set to be competitive.
So, fill in the gaps, stay current and don’t wait until there is a need. Check out these resources below:
Moocs, or Massive Open Online Courses, are the internet’s best kept secret! You can register with the site to receive emails whenever a course is offered that relates to your area of interest. Coursera and Udacity are two of the most widely known MOOC providers These are free courses offered around the world, from some of the best universities. The courses cover just about every topic imaginable from genetics to cake decorating. Laurie Pickard figured out the art of these online course and created her own Masters program wihile working for the Peace Corps in Rwanda. She’s also taken her experience a step further and created her own online business. She obviously learned a thing or two from that MBA.
- Online training marketplace
Two popular websites to access training for almost any course are Udemy and Lynda.com. Lynda.com is a great resource for learning software, business skills or even song-writing tips. There is a monthly fee, but they have free trials and if you sign up for LinkedIn Premium, you will gain access to Lynda for a period of time. This is a fantastic way to fill your cart with hard skills from the comfort of, well, anywhere you have access to wifi. (Signing up with LinkedIn Premimum is a double win, especially if you are in job search mode. If you haven’t used it before, you can get LinkedIn Premuium for 1 month free, and it’s a worthy investment of $30 to expand your networking and job search prospects).
Udemy is another online marketplace where anyone can share a class. Not only can you find a broad range of classes for a nominal fee, but if you have a skill set you like to teach, you can market your classes on there.
- Your Public Library
Many public libraries offer free programs on various skills or software with the added benefit of in-person networking to boot. The library in my town is currently offering courses on 3D modeling software, Advanced Writing and Excel. The cost: free.
- Industry Associations
If you are a member of industry associations (and you should be), check out their resources for continuing education, which often has reduced rates for members. For example, SHRM.com has courses listed on their website for as low as $40.
There are more resources out there but these sites are a great place to start. If you’ve used a different mode of cost-effective micro-credentialing, we’d love to hear about it. Adding to your list of credentials is only beneficial so go ahead and get started!
Take a moment and think about all the people in your life that you feel some sense of responsibility for. If you were to map out a typical day, how much time would be spent doing things for yourself? Try to go beyond the nuts and bolts of adult responsibilities like bill paying and grocery shopping. I’m talking about experiencing moments where you feel fully alive. How often does this happen in your life?
Most of us spend a great deal of time in routine mode or reacting to situations as they happen. It’s not a huge surprise that people often find themselves with stalled out career mojo when such a small portion of their time is devoted to internal reflection and self-care. Continue reading “Put Yourself First (Even if You Think You Can’t)” »