"If you can't be with the one you love, love the one you're
with," croon Crosby, Stills and Nash in their oft-quoted song. The same
could be said of your job, especially in today's troubled economy. That's
not to say you must resign yourself to another six months of boredom,
stress or misery while you wait for the recession to end; you just have to
work a little harder to make your current job work for you. Tinkering with
your present situation involves substantially less risk and effort than
looking for and starting a new job. And once you make a few fundamental
changes, you may find you're right where you want to be, at least for the
time being. Here are eight ways to make the best of the present.
1. Focus on how you're doing, not what you're doing.
Most of us assume that the ultimate in professional satisfaction hinges on finding the perfect job, but that's putting the cart before the horse. The first step in doing what we love involves becoming the type of person who can succeed in our ideal job. When you envision yourself in your dream job, how would you describe yourself in that role? You may be inspired (and inspiring to others), highly competent, supremely organized and confident. These are all things you can work toward becoming right now, no matter what your job description reads.
2. Find a mentor.
Chances are, unless you work alone, that there's someone on staff you respect and can learn a lot from, even if their job duties are dissimilar to yours. You may have to look outside your own department to find a match, but it's a search well worth undertaking. The mentor-protégé relationship can an incredibly fulfilling bond. A good mentor will do more than stroke your ego; she'll help you look critically at your goals and how to achieve them. And a mentor doesn't have to be doing a job you want -- it's how they're doing their job that really matters. You could approach someone informally for frequent lunches or formalize the relationship with scheduled check-ins. Either way, choose someone who is succeeding and happy with their role in the organization.
3. Combine your talents with the company's goals.
Many of us find ourselves in a position that isn't taking advantage of our strengths. If this is the case, work on finding a way that your talents can intersect with your company's needs. The first step is to know your own strengths. Then you'll have to do some investigative work: What does your company need now or in the near future to stay competitive, and how can you contribute to that goal? Then you'll have to articulate your value to the individual who can make it happen. This adjustment takes effort and creative thinking, but the payoff could be big: A new role for you doing what you're good at in a way that gives your company a competitive edge -- it's the perfect professional marriage.
4. Own up to at least one weakness and take steps to overcome it.
Operation "Job Improvement" will go more smoothly if you admit that you're probably not the perfect employee (who is?). It's easy to place all the blame on the other party.
To that end, identify one thing you can
tackle now that will help you do your job better, improve relations with
your boss or coworkers, or simply make things more tolerable. If you're
a few minutes late to meetings, make an effort to be a few minutes early
from now on; if your relationship with your boss is strained, look at
how you might be contributing to that (Are you responsive enough to his
concerns? Do you keep her updated on your projects?). A weakness doesn't
have to be something you're doing wrong, per se. It can also be an area
you simply need more experience or confidence in. Whatever the case, the
improvements you make now will move with you from job to job.
5. Toot your own horn.
Just as sure as there's an area in which you can improve, there's something you're doing well that you're probably not getting credit for. In fact, feeling underappreciated is a top reason for job dissatisfaction. But in many situations, you won't get the praise you deserve unless you bring your strengths to the attention of your supervisors.
6. Take advantage of free training.
Many companies offer free group training in computer skills or other technical or managerial aspects. Even if you don't need the skill for your present job, it pays to make yourself more marketable for future prospects. And if your company doesn't automatically offer the training, ask for it; you may be surprised at how accommodating your supervisors will be once they know you're interested.
7. Ask and ye shall receive.
Speaking of requests, it's probably the easiest, least-utilized tactic for getting what you want. And it's surprisingly effective. In many instances, it's not that management doesn't want to give you what you want or need -- it's that they're oblivious.
8. Create your own project.
For those of you who feel bored or trapped, coming up with an original project can provide the inspiration and control you lack now. It's best to start small -- reorganizing your work space, for example -- before moving on to larger goals, like starting a company-wide volunteer program. This tactic amounts to much more than busywork: You're building a highly valued skill -- that of self-initiating -- that can set you apart and boost self confidence. Working on something you care about will also shift your focus off job-hating and onto job-creating.
If you try these tips and you're still groaning come Monday morning, it's probably time to start sending out the resumes. But you can feel good about the fact that you've exhausted your options and made some self-improvements that will make you more prepared and marketable for your next career move.