28 Sep “Is It Friday Yet?” Five Ways to Decide If Your Job Is Really a Good Fit
Every day when you get to work, you follow the same basic pattern. “Oh good, my first ten-minute break is only a few minutes away,” you say to yourself. Afterward, you count the minutes until lunch, the next break time, and clock-out time.
But what about all that work time in between? Do you enjoy it—or just endure it?
If you regularly count down the days until Friday arrives, you’re not too unusual. After all, you do have a life outside of work. Besides, not all work is fun; it’s called “work” for a good reason.
That said, if your workday is something you endure, not enjoy, you owe it to your employer as well as to yourself to find out why.
Ask the Right Questions
Author and child psychiatrist Edward Hallowell focuses his practice on helping others achieve optimal performance in school or at work. In his Dec. 2010 article for the Harvard Business Review, Dr. Hallowell suggests that many workers today suffer from mental, social, or emotional disconnection on the job.
And this disconnection appears to be on the rise.
To correct the problem, Dr. Hallowell recommends that each worker needs the right tasks, connection with co-workers, a sense of play during problem solving, solvable challenges, and acknowledgment of their accomplishments.
In a nutshell, too many people just exist at work, not thrive. If this sounds like you, it’s time to ask yourself a few critical questions:
- What do you do best?
- What tasks do you enjoy the most at work?
- What tasks don’t come easily?
- What untapped talents can you develop?
- What skills are you happiest with?
- What skills do your co-workers admire in you?
- What skills have you improved over time?
- What tasks are you consistently bad at?
- What tasks do you avoid?
- What work culture do you enjoy the most?
Most people aren’t completely surprised by the answers to these questions. Your intuition may have told you the answers already. Pay attention.
Identify Your Career Values
Although answers to the above questions can help you decide how you fit at work, they may not completely address your internal values. You know your company’s mission statement, but what about your own?
For instance, you might like your work tasks pretty well. It’s just your micromanaging administrator who gets you down. Likewise, if a colleague regularly takes credit for tasks you do, your work attitude sours quickly.
Take stock of the internal values that matter most to you. Do you value achievement? Recognition? Or do relationships and working conditions matter more?
Write down a list of values that help you feel happy in the workplace. If your company values don’t align with your own, reframe those values in words that resonate in your core.
By contrast, if the company’s values don’t align with yours no matter how hard you try to reframe them, get the message—and start updating your resume.
Play to Your Strengths
Even the best HR director or interviewer can’t know you as well as you know yourself. If you feel like a misfit in your current team, keep your eyes open for other internal opportunities that you might like better.
By now, you may have a renewed sense of your strengths and weaknesses. Use your knowledge to mentally fit yourself into another task or work group. Observe others’ daily routines closely so you have a clear vision of what your own routine could be.
For example, if you feel like an ugly duckling most of the time, remember that the ugly duckling was just a swan in disguise. Tally up the skills you already have. Ask co-workers what they think you do well. If you’re in sales but long to be in the engineering department, talk to other engineers about their daily routine. Compare that information against your talents and interests.
Make Your Current Job Mean Something—Even If It’s Not Your Dream Job
It’s easy to scoff at those who have a Pollyanna attitude about life. Of course, Pollyanna was a fictional heroine who played a “glad game” to find something to be happy about in every circumstance.
The glad game may have come about fictionally, but don’t knock it until you’ve tried it in reality. Remember, entire programs of study now exist about the power of gratitude. Unsurprisingly, those who see the sunny side of work challenges feel better about work in general.
If you feel disengaged or disconnected at work, you can also take steps to connect—either with those around you or the tasks at hand.
For instance, you might think more about those you serve. Even if your department doesn’t see customers regularly, stop and think about those customers. How do your tasks improve that customer’s life? Which person around you couldn’t use a cheerful greeting and a smile every day?
You may not be able to change all your work circumstances, but begin where you are now. Make a small goal that you know you can complete.
Meanwhile, celebrate even small wins. If you improve your output even by one extra task, congratulate yourself. Chances are, you can also congratulate co-workers for similar achievements. As you add up these little changes, you may feel surprised by how much more you enjoy work.
Prepare for Your Next Job Now
Finally, remember that you don’t have to stay at any job permanently. But you don’t serve others or yourself well by glumly enduring your current circumstances.
Prepare for a future job today by working on needed skills. Recruit a few mentors, both at work and externally. Offer a favor, ask mentors to lunch, or follow other relationship-building strategies. After all, these people may well pave the way for your new job—but only if you do what you can to prepare.
Keep a list of accomplishments, even if you think they’re small accomplishments. Ask for direct feedback, even if you have to steel yourself against the bitter pill inside the sugar cube. Take the time to learn more about the jobs you want to apply for.
It is possible to stay connected at work. And you never know; by following a few of the above suggestions, you may just find that your current job fits you well after all.