“When everything seems to be going against you, remember that the airplane takes off against the wind, not with it.” – Henry Ford
It’s easy to get stuck in a rut.
You’ve been in your job for a while, you’ve climbed the initial learning curve and settled into your comfort zone, each week brings a relatively predictable routine. You’re now just phoning it in, being reactive to requests coming your way and you fill up a good deal of your time managing your email inbox.
Sounds familiar? It happens to many of us at some point in our career. Maybe you’ve convinced yourself that its fine, that it’s just a job and things will improve eventually. Or maybe it’s worse than that, if you’ve started to dread Monday mornings then the chances are that you also work for a manager who is uninspiring and not supportive.
What are your alternatives, should you just put up with it? No, that’s going to adversely affect your well-being and you will be on a slippery career slope to becoming irrelevant and ultimately superfluous. Far better to go on the offensive, get on the front foot and make your own opportunities to secure your future.
It’s time to take control
Should you look for another job? If you are targeting career growth which you are sure cannot be achieved in your current organization then a move elsewhere would be a sensible decision. However, jumping ship just to escape your current situation may be a short-sighted approach.
Yes, starting again at a new company with new people is exciting but there are no guarantees that your new environment or new management will be any more motivating or enjoyable than the one you left. You will need to find both the organization and role that is right for you, then sustain the commitment to make it a success and build your reputation.
So, before you dust off your resumé and get started on a job search, it is worthwhile to consider how you might be able to regenerate your enthusiasm for your existing workplace.
After all, there was probably a time when you really wanted your current job. Doubtless you did some research before joining the organization and decided it was right for you. It may not have turned out to be exactly what you expected, nothing is perfect, but it may still be a place where you can be motivated to perform and where you can grow your career.
Take a fresh look at your current job
You may not be failing in your job function, but if you can find a way to make a bigger impact you will become more engaged and motivated. At the very least, you will build your reputation which can only be positive for your future.
Try imagining that you have just been hired for your current job – think how would you approach it to make an impact quickly. One tactic is to review your job description objectively to make sure you are performing all the stated tasks and that you are contributing to the required business objectives and goals. This type of self-assessment is a positive habit to adopt on a routine basis.
If you have a performance bonus scheme, review your targets for the year and your progress towards them. You should also look to others for feedback on your performance and, if relevant, that of your team or department. Don’t limit this to a review from your direct manager, seek out informal opinions from peers and other managers in your organization.
The comments you get back might not be pretty, but your efforts to proactively improve your performance will be appreciated by your peers and management.
Don’t be isolated, make connections
If you’ve fallen into a rut, you may be feeling detached and therefore reluctant to put your head up out of the trenches to be noticed. Having a bad boss can make you seem even more isolated. Whether you stay or you leave for a new job, creating personal connections and building your professional network will be valuable and worth the effort in the long run.
Reconnect with your colleagues and reach out to make new contacts in your office, your field teams, suppliers and your customers. Making and reinforcing these personal relationships fosters teamwork and creates trust which will improve your performance and help build your reputation.
Perhaps you are feeling disengaged at work because of an uninspiring boss or perhaps as a result of a lack of communication from the executive team. To bridge this gap, you could seek out a supportive manager to act as your mentor. This doesn’t need to be formalized, you could start by just reaching out to someone who inspires you and ask for their advice.
Being curious will differentiate you
These days, with technology fueling rapid changes, it pays to be curious about your business and any wider issues affecting your industry. This curiosity will be good for your career growth and will help differentiate you in the job-seeker marketplace.
Pay attention to the focus areas and strategic vision that your management team talk about in employee forums and at customer events. Your executives and your competitors will often offer very interesting insights and perspectives on quarterly investor calls, it is usually easy to obtain transcripts online if the company is public.
This knowledge of the key issues and trends in your industry will enable you to more directly contribute to the growth strategy, while also helping you to position your career.
Social media is a valuable tool in your search for information. For example, on LinkedIn you can follow influencers and companies, and join groups where key issues relevant to your business are discussed. By contributing comments, posts and articles you are also increasing your visibility which will build your confidence and grow your profile.
You may feel you need to learn new competencies or sharpen your existing skills. Don’t wait for your organization to find the budget to put you on training courses, there are plenty of specialist training opportunities online that are free-of-charge or relatively inexpensive.
Reboot your routine
Routines area a good thing, they can keep us focused, disciplined and help us reach targets. The problem is that it’s too easy to slip into a safe, comfortable routine where the day passes us by without too many challenges. This behavior is destructive, and it is how we begin to sink into a rut.
The chances are your current weekly routine is dictated by meetings on your calendar, with the rest of the time loose for you to catch up with emails and other tasks. Changing up your routine means applying your own time-management and creating new habits that will stimulate your motivation.
A first step could be to write down your strategic goals and objectives, or review those already set by your management. Schedule periods in your weekly calendar where you will work on specific actions relevant to these targets. This doesn’t mean locking in each hour of the day into a rigid timetable, allow time for ad-hoc activities as well as periods where you can get together informally with colleagues or teams to discuss ideas or stimulate new thinking.
Allocate a certain time each day for emails and routine tasks. Get into the habit of closing down your email for at least an hour each day or half a day per week. This enables you to speak to people directly, by telephone or better still with face-to-face meetings. Also, you should experiment with taking some meetings offsite to take colleagues away from their own distractions, this will also help you to build better relationships.
Get into the habit of keeping your work-space uncluttered and organized, including the ergonomics of your chair, computer and telephone. Removing distractions will increase your productivity so get rid of all those old files, paperwork, books and magazines that you haven’t touched for months, you don’t need them.
It’s been said before; a rut is just a grave with the ends kicked out. If you’re stuck in one then you need to climb out quickly, and by putting your mind to it you can start today. Changing your mindset might be the start you need to motivate yourself at your current workplace.
Increasing your motivation and job satisfaction will translate into stronger performance which should inspire your colleagues, impress your managers and create new opportunities for you.
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