Remember how eager and engaged you were when you first started out in your career? Just getting to your desk in the morning and thinking about the day ahead could give you a thrill. Meetings were exciting places to exchange ideas and make new contacts, and every new project came with a sense of opportunity.
By now, however, you may not be quite as enthusiastic about your work as you once were, even if you still love your career and know it’s the right one for you. Most jobs are pretty predictable after a while, and it’s simply human nature to get bored with a regular routine. What’s more, you might be experiencing the same setbacks and irritations on a daily or weekly basis. If you feel like your career doesn’t hold the same appeal it used to, you’re not alone.
Still, you don’t have to surrender to the idea that your enthusiasm for your work is a thing of the past. There are people who manage to remain consistently happy and engaged in their careers, and they’re usually the ones who stay at the top of their professional game. They motivate themselves to meet each challenge and approach every project with a high level of integrity, enthusiasm and professionalism. Their positive attitude and resilience distinguishes them as top performers in their companies.
Are you looking for ways to stay motivated and engaged in your career? Here are some suggestions for maintaining – or regaining – your professional zeal:
Whenever possible, focus on what you love. There are probably parts of your job that you like better than others. One easy way to revitalise your enthusiasm is to approach your manager with a number of ways you could spend more time on those activities that interest and challenge you and, alternately, find methods to minimise the frustration and boredom you associate with the less appealing ones. He or she may be willing to accommodate you.
For example, maybe you find yourself really engaged at work when you’re updating the policies and procedures handbook or writing memos and emails for your manager. If that’s the case, look for opportunities to add more editing and writing duties to your daily routine, and talk to your supervisor about taking on more of those types of projects.
Some changes you can make on your own without the need for your manager’s approval. Perhaps you’re less excited when you’re making travel arrangements for executives in your department, for example. Experiment with ways to make the task more manageable: Work on it in short bursts of 15 or 20 minutes at a time, perhaps, or give yourself a reward for completing the project, like a short walk outside or a coffee break. And by all means, if the opportunity arises to shift the task to someone else, take it.
Take responsibility for your own advancement. If you want to be satisfied with your work, you need to continuously improve your skill set and grow in different directions. It’s the only way you’ll really feel challenged over the long term. But don’t wait for your manager to come up with professional development opportunities for you. Remember, it’s your job to guide your career into new territory.
That means always keeping an eye out for ways to expand your knowledge and skills, especially in areas that will enhance your long-term career prospects, and then approaching your boss about any learning opportunities you want to engage in.
For example, let’s say your company is planning to adopt a new operating system. You might try to find a class that teaches that technology, and then ask your manager if you can attend it before the new system is rolled out. Explain that with the training under your belt, you’ll be able to help instruct your colleagues about how to use the technology, and you might even be able to troubleshoot any issues that come up with the rollout in your department. Not only will you challenge yourself by learning the new system, you’ll also be able to hone other skills, such as teaching and problem solving, all of which will inject new energy into your daily routine.
Get outside of your comfort zone. It’s easy to get in a rut at work, completing the same tasks over and over again. It may feel safe, but eventually, it’s going to get dull. Don’t let a sense of apprehension hold you back from trying something new and daring at work. If you start to fear failure, remember that taking risks – such as making a presentation, leading a high-profile project or finding a more efficient way for your department to operate – can often help advance your career, if you’re successful.
Maintain work/life control. Peak performers tend to be steady and centred. They can be passionate without being control freaks, on top of things without seeming obsessive. They typically have one thing in common: a healthy balance between their personal and professional life.
In other words, it’s important to commit to your career goals, but you shouldn’t get so wrapped up in them that you lose sight of your personal needs and priorities. Make sure you’re participating in activities outside of the office that make you happy, whether that means a book club or cycling group, and take time off when you can. If you spend every daylight hour, plus weekends, on your work, you’ll be certain to burn out and lose any excitement you once had for your job.
Make friends. The happiest professionals tend to have good relationships with their colleagues. You don’t have to be best friends with everyone, but being able to chat with colleagues about shared interests such as music, films or sports can make the work environment more pleasant and welcoming. What’s more, when you make a personal connection at work, you’ll have someone to support you when times are tough or when you’re struggling with a project and need a brainstorming partner.
Go above and beyond. Perhaps the most straightforward way to stay engaged in your job is to aim for excellence in everything you do. This means going beyond the minimum requirements of your job description and striving in every way to exceed expectations.
It’s hard work, but if you perform every task to the best of your ability, you’ll be constantly challenged, so that even the most mundane-sounding duties, like managing employees’ annual leave schedules, can seem like a puzzle that, when solved correctly, makes all of your coworkers’ lives easier and more pleasant.
To put this principle to practical use, think of everyone with whom you work – clients, colleagues and supervisors – as customers, and try to provide the utmost in service to each one. With so many people to satisfy, you won’t have time to sink into career complacency.
When you push yourself professionally, you can gain greater satisfaction with your work. Some aspects of your career will always be outside of your sphere of influence. But by taking specific steps to enhance your day-to-day work experience, you can keep your professional enthusiasm alive and your career moving forward.