How long will you stay at your job? Probably not that long. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Employee Tenure Survey, the median amount of time employees stay on the job is 4.2 years. That might even be good news: when a typical annual raise is 3 percent, switching jobs can be a more effective way to increase your salary.
On the other hand, it’s still possible to job-hop too much. Switch jobs every year, and you’ll wind up with a pretty checkered resume. It costs money to hire and train employees; hiring managers won’t want to take a chance on someone who will probably be out the door in 12 months. For that reason and others, sometimes you need to stick it out where you are for a while, even if you’re not as excited about going to work as you used to be. If that’s where you are right now, don’t resign yourself to slogging through work. Instead:
Focus on mission and meaning.
“Why is meaning so important?” Teresa Amabile and Steve Kramer ask at Harvard Business Review.
“Because when people find meaning in the work, they also feel a sense of ownership. The work means something to them personally.”
Meaning creates ownership, which fuels engagement, which makes it easier and more satisfying to go to work each day.
Start by asking yourself what your company’s mission is, and how your work furthers those goals. If you can’t answer those questions right off the bat, don’t feel bad — many organizations don’t do a great job of communicating their goals to workers and making them see how their own job fits in. (Mission statements themselves can be problematic: check out this roundup of bad company mission statements if you want to feel better about your employer’s.)
If you absolutely can’t find a point of connection between what you’re doing and what the company says it’s doing, the next step is to look for meaning in your work. How does what you do align with what you most value? Don’t overlook the little stuff. Maybe you’re not changing the world, but you’re making your colleagues’ and clients’ life easier. Every little bit counts.
Learn something new.
Maybe your job isn’t thrilling, but it’s teaching you something you’ll need to get a more interesting job later. Maybe you’re disinterested in this career path in general, but your employer offers an educational benefit — free online classes, tuition reimbursement, etc. — that can propel you into another area that interests you more. The best cure for boredom is challenge. If you can boost your resume at the same time, so much the better.
Shake up your routine.
Get up earlier. Ask to work from home a day a week. Move your desk, or yourself to another part of the open office. Change your lunch hour, your break time, your path to work. If all that sounds like a simple solution to a complex problem, remember: you’re trying to get a new perspective, here. Sometimes, it helps to change your physical surroundings and patterns.
Reach out to new people.
People can be habits, too, just as much as where you eat your lunch or what time you arrive at the office. If you’re lucky enough to have good friends at work, or even just colleagues you like a lot, it’s easy to overlook new connections.
Don’t. Make an effort to introduce yourself to the new person on the team, to spend time talking with someone in a different department at the company happy hour, to get opinions from people you don’t normally seek out when you’re hashing out a project. You never know when a new set of eyes will reveal a problem you overlooked … or when a new friend will connect you with the job of your dreams, inside the company or out.
One of the best things you can do for your career isn’t taking a class or attending a networking function, but developing an internal locus of control.
“People who have an internal locus of control believe that, at least for the most part, they determine their fate through their actions and behaviors,” writes Gina Belli. “Those with an external locus of control, on the other hand, feel that others control their fate and that things happen to them more often than they themselves actually effect change.”
In short, just believing that you’re responsible for your own fate (to a degree), can help you be more proactive. It’s amazing what you can do, when you remember that you have that power.
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