3 Ways to Love Your Career Again

—Keith R. Sbiral

You’ve probably heard some version of the adage “Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.” I think many of us would roll our eyes, at least internally, at that.  But it is, in some respect, true.  Even if you are planning to change employers or make a career transition, falling back in love with your current position can help you be more successful both in your career, but less obviously, with a job or career change.  This week we’re going to present three strategies to fall back in love with your career.     

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First, think about what, in particular, caused you to fall out of love with your career.  Did you get promoted out of an external-facing position, and now spend your entire day managing employees without any training or clue how to manage?  Did you get a new supervisor, and go from the golden child to feeling like a kicked dog? Did you just reach your limit of TPS reports?  Usually it isn’t just one thing, and it isn’t always the first thing that comes to mind. (“I hate my new boss,” for example, sometimes turns out to mean “I hate that I didn’t apply for the promotion” or “I hate that I wasn’t selected for the promotion.”)  Coaching can be helpful with this, but the key is to keep asking yourself questions to dig into the issues.  What do you hate about your new boss?  If the answer is she micromanages, why does that bother you?  What might be the reason for her micromanaging?

As you dig into the causes for your dissatisfaction, then you can start to see what you can do to address them.  Maybe that’s hiring a coach to improve your management skills, maybe it’s as simple as buying a comfortable pair of headphones to drown out the coworker who eats all day – loudly – at his desk and leaves you in a bad mood, having a conversation with the gossiping coworker about boundaries, or some other practical step based on what you perceive as the underlying issues.  It is possible to renegotiate your work relationships, and take other situation-specific actions, and we are always glad to help with those.  Below are three steps that can help you – regardless of the specifics – fall back in love with your career. 

The first way to fall back in love with your career is, maybe ironically, to focus on your time outside work.  We often find that the annoyances of work – the micromanaging boss, the obnoxious coworker, the ridiculous demands – can cause frustration that is magnified when work is our main or only significant endeavor.  Having other interests in your life that you enjoy and look forward to can allow you to view work frustrations from a different perspective.  For me, I started earning my coaching certification long before I planned to leave my career as a city manager.  I quickly realized that getting frustrated about a work situation would keep me from accomplishing what I needed to outside work and that my coach training helped me view work situations differently.  In addition, while my municipal government career was fulfilling in some ways, adding on my coaching practice made it far more fulfilling until I could completely transition into coaching and consulting.  For you, maybe joining an intramural softball league will force you to walk away from the office at a set time a few nights each week. Or maybe you’ve always been interested in photography and decide to start taking a class.  Maybe you and your daughter will sign up for a tae kwon do class together.  It’s hard to ruminate about a frustrating work situation when a softball is flying at your body, when you’re trying to remember what aperture and shutter speed to use, or trying to keep up with the energy of an 8 year old.  Allowing yourself to turn off the part of your brain that is focusing on work and concentrate entirely on something that you actually enjoy can be very helpful and give you different perspective on those situations when you do think about them.  Finally, finding something you enjoy outside work can help you be happier overall.

Second, you can go the opposite direction, by getting involved in a new project or area that you haven’t worked in previously.  If you are a real estate agent who loves party planning, you could organize a holiday movie for your clients or just decide to raise your hand the next time your boss asks for volunteers for a new initiative.  Working with different coworkers, learning new skills, or just doing something different with part of your day can help you feel reinvigorated and allow you to shine, which can build confidence and therefore help you feel more positively toward work.  (And, if you end up leaving, these new skills and showing your flexibility and engagement can only help in the job search.)

A third way to fall back in love with your career is to focus on self-care.  When we say that, images of bubble baths and expensive spas can come to mind, but it can be as simple as being kind to yourself and not having unreasonable expectations.  Just as we know that transitions and change are not easy, recommitting to a situation that has been difficult is not easy.  Take time to understand how your unhappiness has affected you, your family members, and your friends and colleagues.  Even if you have resigned yourself to thinking that your own happiness isn’t worth expending any energy to improve, the realization that your unhappiness has been affecting those around you can be the impetus you need to make a change.  Understand you do not necessarily simply flip a switch one day and have a new outlook and love for your career, and the work that you put into it.  Like any process, this takes time.

Meditation and mindfulness can come into play when you think about self-care.  I have seen many clients who have been assisted by meditation, whether that means doing a 5 minute meditation from the Calm app before they pull out of the garage each morning, or taking an 8 week Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction course, or some other formal program.  (Many hospitals, churches, and community centers offer these classes, and you can also do them online from anywhere.)  The key thing is having some intentional space to turn off what's going on in the day and focus on something you can control, which is creating a few minutes to just breathe.  (There are loads of statistics on why this is helpful – it reduces blood pressure, improves attitudes, even helps chronic pain sufferers, but the key takeaway for our purposes today is that it can help even the most disengaged and angry person find a way back to reengaging and becoming less reactive.)

One more consideration as you think about how you can fall back in love with your career: I don't think it can be emphasized enough that you do need to have buy-in and support from your family members. This isn't a requirement for everyone, but certainly if you do have a family and you have folks who are important to you, you do need to involve them in the process, as they are your support network, and can help you succeed.  That might be by asking your significant other to cut you off if you vent more than 10 minutes each night about your job.  Or if you need help seeing situations from the perspective of a person who you want to have better interactions with, maybe you ask your significant other to start asking “How do you think your boss is talking to her spouse about your interaction?”

We spend far too much of our life on work and career to write it off as a place we aren’t happy, and it is possible to change that.  It took time to get to the point where you find yourself frustrated and not enjoying your job or career.  In falling back in love with your position, you are actually re-inventing yourself and the way you are approaching work, so this is not an overnight fix.  But your happiness is worth it, and developing activities you enjoy outside work, trying something new at work, and taking time for self-care can all help you fall back in love with your career.