Hate your job? Try this.
Do you remember that movie Office Space? The protagonist, Peter Gibbons, is probably the archetypal example of corporate ennui. That the film, with its depiction of the lives of listless, unmotivated, disgruntled employees, has become such a cult classic is a reflection of the discontent many Americans face with their chosen career path. Although conventional wisdom would imply that job satisfaction increases with age and seniority, researchers are now finding rates of job satisfaction take a dip mid-career. Many get stuck in the banality of it all, but plenty of others find success after their mid-career slump.
Here are some tips to beat back boredom.
1. Expand the scope of your current role
The most common reason candidates give when I ask what interests them about a search is “I’m looking for a new challenge.” Sometimes getting out of a work rut is as simple as finding something new to do. If you find that there are lulls in your day or that your place in your current company feels expendable, it could be time to take on more responsibility, and you don’t even have to go back to school to do it. More and more continuing education startups like General Assembly are offering opportunities for professionals of all experience levels to develop valuable skills in marketing and computer science, both in-person and online. Take control of your professional development by reading up on on trends and strategic practices for departments outside your current responsibilities, and form good working relationships with your peers in those departments. Reaching out beyond your intellectual comfort zone will create potentially exciting new opportunities for personal growth, and will also signal to your employer that you are committed to to promoting success within the company through cross-functional collaboration.
2. Get a life!
The truth is that Americans work too much. We are the only developed country without legally-required paid vacation days and holidays. The average American worker receives only 16 annual paid vacation days and holidays, and for many, the prospect of a 40-hour work week sounds positively luxurious. In contrast, Austrians receive a legal minimum of 22 paid vacation days and 13 holidays, and the average Dutch worker logs just 29 hours per week in the office.
And how do Americans spend our time when we finally do manage to pry ourselves out of the office? In 2014 the American Time Use Survey report found that the average American over the age of 15 spent 2.8 hours per day watching television, accounting for more than half of their leisure time. Although there is plenty of superb entertainment being produced right now, your routine of work-commute-couch-bed could be just the thing that is leaving you feeling unstimulated. From childhood, we are encouraged to follow our passions, to do what we love so that we never have to work a day in our lives. Nevertheless, loving every second of one’s job is a rare twist of fate, and the pursuit of this career bliss at the expense of one’s personal happiness outside the office is a mistake that too many of us make.
Get involve in your local arts community or join a recreational sports team. Feed your passions after of working hours, and your outlook on your career could change.
3. Become a digital nomad
Think about how many of your work responsibilities you fulfill using technology. Although in-person meetings still play an essential role in day-to-day professional life, the rise of cell phones, email, and video conferencing have all played key roles in keeping employees connected from outside of the office. The ability to work remotely or commute is probably one of the most common requests I receive from candidates. This need for geographic flexibility has expanded beyond the C-suite as well. In 2015, North American IT Solutions company Softchoice found in a study that “78% of the 1,700 North American full-time employees surveyed said they highly value the ability to access work outside of office. 86% value being able to choose where and which hours they work, and 70% said they’d quit their job for one that gives them more control over their workday structures.”
According to Global Workplace Analytics, “some 2.6% of U.S. workers — about 3.3 million people — telecommuted at least half the time in 2013.” Those who work from home, provide independent consulting services, or telecommute could arguably do so just as effectively from Thailand or Barbados. Those who take the plunge into the digital nomad lifestyle often cite a lower cost of living, greater freedom to travel, and more satisfaction with their workloads.
4. Switch gears
In a 2012 survey, Yahoo Finance and Parade Magazine found that nearly 60% of American workers would start over and choose a different career path given the chance. If you cringe every time you get an email notification on your Blackberry, and if your time in the office is starting to negatively impact your mental state, it’s probably time for a sabbatical or a career change.
But be advised, one should always be cautious when imagining that the grass is greener in someone else’s office. It could very well be the case that you just don’t have the background to become a journalist or the capital to start your own business, and you may end up switching back to the field in which you have a demonstrated track record of success.
Think about ways you can apply your skill set in another industry or at a not-for-profit. Be flexible about your expected compensation range. If you have had any sort of interaction with The Alexander Group either as a client or a candidate, then you likely have a diverse network of accomplished professionals to provide potential references. Assess your priorities, goals and skills, and let trustworthy people in your network know you’re looking.
The Power of Positivity
When I worked in executive search, the candidates with whom I most enjoyed conversing and whom I was most excited to present to our clients were candidates who were already happy in their current positions. When workers are engaged and happy, they are better equipped to produce results.
Beyond my own observations as a recruiter, evidence suggests that positivity and happiness are the ingredients to success and not the other way around. Beating the office blues will not only spare you some short-term stress and boredom; a career path where you are challenged, stimulated, and able to achieve a good work-life balance will also open up more opportunities down the line.