Now in its third year, COVID has launched us into a new era of work. While some people are going back to their jobs in their pre-COVID offices, others face a different reality: they have permanently adjusted to working from home, pivoted to a new position during the Great Resignation, or taken up entrepreneurship.
Regardless of the circumstances that may have transpired, some people may feel stuck in unfulfilling work or are biding their time until the next best opportunity comes around.
If this sounds like you, I’ve got you. Having felt stuck in my fair share of unfulfilling jobs, I’d like to share with you some practical advice on how to manage your mind, emotions, and actions, so you can make the best out of a bad situation.
1. Cultivate gratitude
Sure, things may not be the best at the moment, but you can probably pick out some things worth celebrating. For instance, are you regularly paid? That’s something to celebrate. Do you receive benefits like health insurance or a 401(k) match? Likewise, those are also things to appreciate.
Take some time to journal all of the little things that your work gives you for two reasons. Firstly, the little things ARE the big things in life (our brains just tend to tell us the opposite. Secondly, you can’t expect to experience more abundance if your mindset is stuck in resentment or lack. Cultivating gratitude is the key to feeling happy, attracting new opportunities, and experiencing the best that life can offer.
2. Develop a growth mindset
Discomfort can actually be wonderful (and yes, you read that correctly). Although nobody likes it in the moment, discomfort usually points to something that needs to be developed. Are you dealing with an angry co-worker? Is the volume of work just too much? Or, do you feel like the stresses at home with your partner are interfering with your focus at work?
You may want to take a moment to identify what’s bothering you (because half of solving the problem is identifying it), and see if there isn’t a way to change your perspective and adapt accordingly. Doing those things may mean challenging yourself to ask your co-worker what’s really going on, creating more boundaries at work, and checking in with your partner to see what’s really going on.
An often-quoted self-development adage is “what resists persists,” so addressing the issues and building new interpersonal skills are key here.
3. Focus on service more than self
Remember that your work is not just about you; it’s about the value you bring to people’s lives and how you help solve their problems. Are there specific moments you can recall when your product or service benefitted the lives of your customers or clients? How did that make you feel?
If you work in a job in which you don’t experience the end-users’ reactions, can you think of moments in which you helped co-workers or even vendors? Our basic human tendency is to focus on ourselves; however, we tend to be happiest when we contribute to others’ lives. Remembering the good, especially when times are tough, can be vital in pressing on.
4. Don’t forget to dream
If your work isn’t ideal at the moment, you may want to take some time to figure out what would make it ideal. What would you like to be doing? How would that feel? Carving out your ideal vision can save you from ending up in a similar situation when it comes time to make your next career move. Think big here. You may want to talk to a career counselor or a coach.
5. Create a skills inventory
Before you spiff up that resume, it may be beneficial to create an inventory of the skills you’ve acquired and sharpened in this position and in previous ones. What skills do you like working on? What skills would you like to be working on? What skills do you need to work on in order to make the leap to your next position? While you’re in your current position, identify those need-to-develop skills and see if you can take on new responsibilities to sharpen them.
6. Explore, explore, explore
Now’s the best time to talk to people who are in your ideal position. The good news about the world in 2022 is that it’s never been easier to connect with people via Facebook or LinkedIn groups, Instagram DM’s and the like. If you feel timid about asking questions, never forget that most people love to talk about themselves and their work (especially if they enjoy it). Put any timidity aside, and get into a curious state.
7. Never forget the big picture
Life is bigger than work. If any of the above strategies don’t suit you, and you know you’re going to be in this position for a while, try to expand the scope of your life. Take up a hobby or interest that helps you find enjoyment in things outside of work. Starting a new goal or focusing on something else can really take the stress of work and put more joy back into your life.
And isn’t cultivating joy what life is all about?