We all go through phases with our career. No matter how much you love your job, there are times when a certain ennui sets in. Perhaps it's the grind of the daily commute, or the notorious "death by meeting" syndrome... for all of us, there are days when those career sparks seem a thing of distant memory.
My own career is so much more to me than a job I clock into every day. It's not just a source of income, but one of personal identity and pride. Even so, it's not without its challenges. Like all relationships, your relationship with your job will have highs and lows. But how do you rekindle the fire when you've gone through some career lows? Here are some of my tips:
(1) Pace yourself
I see this all the time: People are so hungry when they first take on a new role or embark upon their career. But when the gratification, promotion, or success is not overnight, they jump ship. Our culture is definitely one of instant gratification, and patience is a rare trait. But managing a career is more like a marathon than a sprint. It's important to commit to the long course and to pace yourself to go the distance.
When you're first embarking on your career, it's important to absorb as much as you can from the people around you, to challenge yourself to higher and higher standards. As a manager, I really notice those people who create their own passion and sparks, rather than those who expect it to be given to them. But even if you're proactive, it all takes time... so, unless you want to burn out, make sure to pace yourself!
(2) Keep a life
Yes, you should pour your heart and soul into your career, make it a thing of passion. But it shouldn't be the ONLY object of passion in your life. We all know how important both giving and receiving love is -- and your job can be a place of love, (love for your job and for the people you work with). But also, leave plenty of room in your life for other people and for hobbies that fill you with passion and energy. For example, Bunmi in our office loves to sing and is recording a CD -- which is amazing for her, but also something the entire office shares in the excitement of!
I really believe your life should be integrated, (not in competition), with your work. So, if fitness is important to you, set your days up so that you can workout without feeling like you're performing a high-wire balancing act. If you're always trading off the things you love doing or people you love being with, because of your job, you'll start to resent your workplace -- which isn't good for you or your employer.
Arriving at an objective understanding of your role so that you can set priorities and identify areas that can be streamlined or eliminated is one way of making sure you keep your work-life in check. Sometimes we get sucked into doing way more than is necessary, adhering to procedures that are no longer valuable or efficient. Staying streamlined and open to help from others will help you keep everything balanced. Simply put, if you keep your career in a healthy and balanced place, you'll feel passionate about it for a lot longer.
(3) Find your role
No matter what industry or position you work in, you have a set of skills that are your real core strengths. Perhaps you're an excellent communicator, or maybe you're a mentor who loves to take new staff under your wing. Maybe you're a soloist who likes nothing more than to own a project completely and work independently.
Without judging yourself harshly, acknowledge the kind of role you really thrive in and try to create opportunities to put yourself in a position to do more work in that vein. If you're a communicator, maybe ask if you can contribute to the company website or blog. If you're a mentor, see if there's an internship or work placement program you can get involved in. We all feel deeper satisfaction when we're doing that thing we're really good at. Sometimes, it's not even a matter of changing roles, but of manoeuvring yourself into a position where you can play to your own key strengths.
(4) Give yourself butterflies again
This one really applies to those of us who have been doing the same job for a long time. When we look back on those early days of our careers, many of us can remember the excitement of learning the job. Much of this excitement was wrapped up in nervous and excited energy -- every meeting was nerve-wracking, every new project a challenge.
The more experienced you become the less you feel that early nervousness. In some cases, people start to coast once they've figured out how to do a job well. In more extreme cases, people become resistant to change. So, if you want to keep the sparks alive, be sure to challenge yourself. Whether it's through adopting new technology, challenging yourself to come up with new ideas, or doing something an entirely different way... you'll reignite that early nervous excitement again and you'll see it's really good to give yourself butterflies.
There are definitely times when, for personal and professional reasons, you may decide that a change of workplace, or even industry, is the thing you need to keep the spark alive. Obviously, we all need to follow our own heart and path when this happens and sometimes that kind of change can be one of those landmark transformations in a person's life.
On the other hand, it's always easy to assume the grass is greener on the other side. If you're contemplating change, make sure you're considering it from a grounded perspective. Perhaps there are opportunities in your current workplace that you might want to consider? It's worth exploring whether you can grow and develop WITH a company rather than jumping every time you get itchy feet.
Work should be exciting and challenging, a source of pride and joy. And each person's definition of "success" is subjective. When you're staying true to yourself and following that course, your passion will stay alive.