What to do when you are stuck in a job that’s going nowhere

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What to do when you are stuck in a job that’s going nowhere

Emily Perron here with the final addition in this series. Over the past couple months, I’ve been answering some of the most common questions I get as a career development strategist.

If you missed the last two questions, you can get them here and here.

The final question I hear most often sounds like this, “I work really hard, but my job is going nowhere. How do I get recognized for my contributions?”

 

Or in other words, “How do I get promoted?”

With both recognition and promotions, it may feel that you have little control over receiving them.

But there are a few things you can do to take initiative and get the recognition you’re looking for.

If you’re curious, read on to learn what actions you can take to have more control.

 

Do what you can.

According to Emilie Wapnick in How to be Everything,


YOU CAN’T CONTROL OTHER PEOPLE’S REACTIONS BUT YOU CAN CONTROL WHAT YOU DO.


Instead of stressing out over how others might perceive you or your work, focus on what you can do.

An easy place to start is to act like the co-worker or leader you wish you had.

Try commending coworkers on the work that they do. This can create a ripple effect in your workplace where others begin to notice others’ contributions and you too.

And there’s no reason you can’t reward yourself.

Schedule a massage, indulge in your favorite dessert or use a vacation day or two to take time for yourself.    

 

Ask for feedback.

I know this can be scary for some. But it’s the fastest way to get what you’re looking for.

Feedback and its equally fun cousin “constructive criticism” often get a bad reputation.

For many, just hearing the word is enough to fill them with a sense of dread because of its negative connotation.

But, the truth is, feedback can be positive, negative or neutral.

It’s really all how you perceive it.

And honestly, people are usually so busy thinking about themselves and their problems that they don’t take the time to think of others.

They probably haven’t even noticed that you aren’t getting what you need, because they are wrapped up in their own needs.

So, if you’re not getting enough recognition, ask your manager and your co-workers what you’re doing well. Or ask them what strengths they see in you.

Remember, you can only control yourself. And the more you ask for feedback, the easier it gets and the more information you have.

 

Learn about other opportunities.

If you’re not getting the recognition or promotion you deserve, it may be time to move on and find a new job.

When that is the case, one of the easiest ways to get started is to start learning about the other options you have available to you.

An effective strategy to do this is to ask a few people for an informational interview.

Essentially, an informational interview is an informal conversation to learn about another person’s career, experience or education. You can meet over lunch or coffee and learn about them.

 

When you need a boost...

When I need a boost at work, I remind myself of this quote from the book Happier by Tal Ben-Shahar:


WE CANNOT, THOUGH, SIMPLY HOPE THAT THE RIGHT JOB OR RIGHT EMPLOYER WILL BE HANDED TO US. WE HAVE TO ACTIVELY SEEK AND CREATE MEANING AND PLEASURE IN THE WORKPLACE.


It’s up to you to take charge of your career and your life because you are the only one who can. I know you can do this and I’m here to cheer you on each step of the way.

 


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What to do when you’re totally bored at work

What to do when you’re totally bored at work

Emily Perron here with part two of a new series where I’m answering some of the most common questions I get as a career development strategist.

If you missed the first question, you can get it here.

The second question I’m often asked is along the lines of… I’m soooo bored at work! What do I do about it?

Let me tell you, I know a thing or two about being bored at work.

Basically, as soon as I have learned how to do something, I want either to move on to something else or start improving what I just learned.

For me, finding new challenges in a traditional job has been a challenge in itself. And I know how hard it can be to stick with a boring job because I’ve done it.

Emilie Wapnick, author of How to be Everything, says:


BOREDOM IS YOUR MIND'S WAY OF LETTING YOU KNOW THAT IT's TIME TO MOVE ON.


And I completely agree. But, unfortunately, changing jobs is rarely a fast process. Applying for jobs takes time and we usually don’t get the first ones we apply for. That is if you actually know what jobs to apply for in the first place.

If this sounds familiar, here are a few ways you can shake it up…

 

Change up your routine.

If possible, a simple change in the time you commute to and from work can make a big difference. Even if it’s just a couple days out of the week.

It might sound silly, but when you’re stuck in a rut, it can be really effective.

For example, maybe you start going to the gym before work, pick up a meditation class or sit in a coffee shop to read for an hour.

Be sure to check with your manager before you make these kind of changes, but I’ve found most can be flexible if your work is still getting done.

 

Take on an extra project.

Sometimes, the best way to make a change at work is to literally change your work in some way. There are a few ways to do this.

One is to ask for an additional assignment of some sort. You never know… your boss or another leader may be looking for some help but not know that you’re interested in some new experiences.

Another way is to trade work with a co-worker. That way, your work and their work is still covered and you both get something new to do.

Again, having your manager’s support is important. Typically, if you make a case for how the department or the company will benefit while you get some new experience, they just might say yes.

Keep in mind that you will never know if you don’t ask.

 

Make the most of your lunch break.

If creating change in your work environment isn’t an option, take ownership of your lunch break.

Listen to podcasts, read a good book, bring a small personal project to work on or even start experimenting with what you pack for lunch.

All of these things can give you something to look forward to in the middle of the day.

Counting down the hours until you get to leave just makes the day drag by. But creating a lunch time you’re excited for gives you something to work towards.

 

Remember, you are in control.

A boring job can feel impossible to get through every day. But the truth is, it’s all in how you approach it.

When you take control of your work day in whatever way you can, it makes the week a lot easier to get through.

What are some of the ways you’ve tried to make a boring job more bearable? I always love to hear from you so just hit reply and let me know!


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What to do when you don't have time to figure out what you want to do

What to do when you don't have time to figure out what you want to do

One of the questions I hear most often is: How do I find the time to figure out what I want?

The simple answer is: you don’t.

If you keep wondering when you will find the time to do this or that, let me be the one to tell you that you’ll probably never find it.


Time comes to those who make it, not those who try to find it. {Jen Sincero}


We each have 24 hours in a day. And that means we each get to decide how to spend those hours.

But so often, we put ourselves on auto-pilot.

We coast along in unfulfilling routines because it’s so easy to just go through the motions without thinking.

Being thoughtful and intentional about how we spend our time can take some effort, and we just don’t have the time or energy in these routines to do it.

However, Annie Dillard captures the issue with this truth bomb:


How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. {Annie Dillard}


So if—or when—you’re ready to start prioritizing yourself, here’s what I recommend:

Start by noticing how you spend your time.

One of the easiest ways to do this is to track how you spend your time in 15-minute increments for one day.

Try to pick a fairly typical day so you can get a pretty good representation of your life.

And then consider these questions:

  • How did you feel when starting your day? Throughout your morning routine?

  • Who did you spend your time with? Are they the most important people in your life?

  • When did you wish you were doing something different? How would you rather have spent your time?

  • How did you feel when ending your day? Your nighttime routine?

If you find that you don’t enjoy how you’re spending your time and feel totally stuck… keep in mind that you don’t have to have it all figured out right now. 

Awareness of what isn’t working is a crucial first step so you’re already closer to creating change than you may be thinking.

And you might be surprised at how change can happen naturally just from being aware of where you’re dissatisfied.  


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The book that changed the way I think about work

The book that changed the way I think about work

This is the third and final book recommendation in a series. If you missed the first two, you can get them here and here.

After finishing my master’s degree in industrial and organizational psychology, I was more interested in all things work, purpose and calling than ever.

So, I started reading everything I could find but, with every boring and/or difficult book I read on these topics, I became more frustrated that I couldn’t find one that a normal person would enjoy.

That is… until I read The Art of Work by Jeff Goins.

In case you just want the highlights, I’ve pulled out the best truth bombs and added some commentary for you.


Most of us have some sneaking suspicion that there must be more to life than this. {Jeff Goins}


When I left my corporate job, I was so tired of the grind… commuting to work, sitting in meetings, responding to instant messages, replying to emails and commuting home.

If this sounds familiar, you’ve probably found yourself wondering whether there is more to life than this.

And I can say with a resounding yes that there is more to life than being stuck and bored at work.

A different life is possible if you have the courage to start looking for it.


The process of finding and claiming your calling is a journey, one that requires you to leave what you know in search of what you don’t know. {Jeff Goins}


When it comes to having a calling, I’ve spent much of my career skeptical at best.

But the more I study work, and the purpose it serves in our lives, the more I’m convinced that we each have a calling.

And it really doesn’t matter what stage of life you’re in… whether you’re just starting your career, already retired or somewhere in between… you have a calling.

Because, doing work that we are called to do is part of what gives our lives purpose and meaning.

It's what allows us to feel as if we are contributing something. And without contribution, we tend to be unfulfilled because our lives become rather meaningless.


A calling is more than a career; it’s the purpose and direction of your life. Which means that it doesn’t apply to what you do; it’s who you are. {Jeff Goins}


When we shift our thinking about having a calling from what we do to who we are, it changes everything.

All of a sudden, it becomes more realistic that there might be one out there for us.

When you’re doubting yourself, not sure what direction to go… just remember this:


Committing to the wrong thing is better than standing still. {Jeff Goins}


Yep! You heard that right. Doing something is better than nothing.

And it might just be time to pick a small thing to do differently and see what happens.


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The book that made me realize I don't need all the answers to get started

The book that made me realize I don't need all the answers to get started

This is the second book recommendation in a series. If you missed the first one, you can get it here.

Two years ago, a friend told me about this book and I’m still grateful she did.

Now I’m passing it on to you... it’s a book titled:


You Are a Badass

How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life

by Jen Sincero


If that subtitle doesn’t hook you, I’m not sure there’s anything I can say that will convince you.

Nevertheless, when I came across this book, I was a pretty big self-help skeptic.

Therapy… sure. That’s helpful.

But a self-help book?! Doubtful.

What do those people even know??

Well, it turns out… a lot more than I ever thought.

And the author’s style is just as real and sassy as the title implies, which makes it really fun to read.

Sincero puts the bomb in truth bomb... 

Because she presents each new idea for what it is instead of coating it in glitter or dressing it up in fluffy words.

Plus, there were so many moments that stuck with me, like:


You don’t have to wait until you hit rock bottom to start crawling out of your hole.

{Jen Sincero}


Really… You don’t have to be addicted to heroin or become homeless to go after the life you want.

But you also don’t have to be content with a life you feel is mediocre or subpar.

You are the only one who can give yourself the green light to strive towards the life you want.

And then there was this truth bomb:


Do not waste your precious time giving one single crap about what anybody else thinks of you.

{Jen Sincero}


This is always a helpful reminder because we all spend way too much time worrying about what others will think.

I mean, really, how often do we fear that we’re going to disappoint our friends and family? How much time and energy are we wasting?

If you’re anything like me, it’s a lot. Probably more than we care to admit.

Seriously, they aren’t thinking about us all that much. Because, they are wrapped up in the details of their own lives.

Finally, one of the most inspiring lines from this book:


Be open to the fact that you may not know exactly what your new reality will look like because you’ve never seen it before.

{Jen Sincero}


If you want something different, you have to do something differently.

Whether you read this book or not, what I hope you take away from this is that you have everything you need to get started today.

But, instead of getting overwhelmed by not knowing how you’re going to get the life or career you want, focus on a couple small steps you can take today.

And then take a couple more teeny tiny steps. Because all those little actions build up to massive change over time.


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The book that helped me stop wasting time keeping up with everyone else

The book that helped me stop wasting time keeping up with everyone else

When I first heard about the book Essentialism by Greg McKeown... 

I thought it was just going to be some manifesto from a guy I had never heard of. But the cover was interesting, so I gave it a shot.

Within a few pages, I was hooked because I felt like McKeown was reading my mind.

He was dealing with the exact things I struggled with when I was working at a Fortune 500 company.

What McKeown helped me see was that it wasn’t about working at a corporation or a non-profit or in public service.

It’s the reality we’re all facing in the 21st century:

Overwhelming options with every decision.

Pressure to do all. the. things. all. the. time.

Responding immediately to every beep, buzz and bing.

Instead of teaching us how to do more with less, McKeown shows us how to “do less but better.”

Plus, he provides a roadmap for doing the right things for the right reasons at the right time—not do everything popular now.

The best part? You get to decide what “right” means for you.

Plus when he drops truth bombs like:


“If you don’t prioritize your life, someone else will.”


And…


“What if we stopped celebrating being busy as a measurement of importance?”


It's easy to see why the world needs his work.

Honestly, I wish I had known about this book a few years ago when I was wasting so much time and energy trying to keep up with all of my emails.

I called it Inbox Zero—a magical and mythical state where your inbox has no emails to deal with because you have responded or filed every email.

Basically, I had convinced myself that if I could keep my inbox clean, then I would be happy.

Eventually, I realized this was an impossible goal I had set for myself.

And, even if my inbox actually didn’t have any emails in it… there was likely someone, somewhere writing an email to me at that very moment.

By reading Essentialism, I was forced to reconsider not just my Inbox Zero goal but a lot of my other work habits, too. Habits that kept me really busy but not necessarily productive.

If you’re struggling to keep up with the constant swirl like I was, I know this book will help you to find peace amongst the chaos.

Even if email isn’t your downfall, I highly recommend Essentialism to anyone ready to learn how to focus on what matters most and tune out what doesn’t.


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