Whether you are in position two or twelve in your career, you will at some point ask, or ask again, “what’s next for me?” But, before spamming out your resume, consider some reflection points to get clear on what is different for you now so you know what type of change needs to occur.
Reminisce for a minute. Think back to when you applied for your current job. Something about it was brimming with opportunity for you. What was that? What made you apply? What do you remember as standing out about the position, the organization, what they do and the people they do it for that made you say, "I want this job!" What was your specific motivation at the time?
Now fast forward through the offer, your acceptance of the position, the work attached to it, the work you have since done and the relationships formed on the job up until now. And now, you’re considering leaving. What has changed?
When I hear people feeling discouraged and saying that their job has changed, I feel compelled to pry a bit more. I ask what specifically has changed about their job. After more questions that lift a few rocks and turn a few corners, I sometimes discover that the job hasn't changed as much as the individual’s thoughts and feelings around the job they were hired to do. Aspects like workplace dynamics and office politics may impact our attitudes, changing how we approach our work. Sometimes circumstances in our personal lives changes the priority we place on our careers and as a result, we may see our work serving a different purpose. Then there's the struggle to stay motivated because we feel bored or unchallenged so our enthusiasm for the work we do comes down to 'well, at least it's a paycheck'.
In other cases, it’s clear the job has changed. Sometimes we get assigned or reassigned to a position or tasks we weren't hired to do. This can happen when a new supervisor or leadership comes in and changes the direction of our work aligned to new strategies. Sometimes new responsibilities have been absorbed by our position as a result of other open positions that are currently unfilled or indefinitely ‘frozen’. If left unaddressed, these new or inherited responsibilities may lead to us to feel disempowered and reluctant to engage affecting our productivity and ultimately, affecting how we feel about ourselves on the job.
Regardless of the circumstance, take the time to be clear about what is different for you on the job to determine whether the prospect of greener pastures will resolve your current dilemmas. Start by asking yourself the following questions:
1. What is different around my motivation to do this job since I started?
2. On a scale of 1 – 10, (1- I feel completely disengaged, to 10 - I feel fully engaged), what is my engagement level around the work that I am currently doing?
3. How would it feel to be more engaged in my work- what would that look like?
4. What might be happening in other areas of my life right now that could be affecting how engaged and productive I am at work?
5. Have I felt this way before in previous jobs? If so, what was happening on the job or in my life at that time?
6. How closely does the work I do now align with the work I get paid to do per my position description?
7. What would need to be different in order to feel the way I want to feel at work?
8. What value would my peers and colleagues say I bring to the organization?
9. What are my personal values around work/career and how are my values being met or compromised in this position?
10. Where do I stand with regards to what I really want for my career and how is this position helping me achieve or detract from that?
Once you have had a chance to reflect on why you feel the way you do, you will be better poised to determine how much of a change you need and how much of this change can be done right where you are. Ultimately, it is more important to understand what you are working towards rather than running from. So although it is natural to sometimes feel blah or unmotivated at work, it is important to stop to recognize patterns around your feelings and perhaps compare them to actions taken in the past as a result of similar feelings. Also, understanding your 'buttons' or circumstances that create negative feelings for you will help you better determine when a physical change is required versus a change in perspective or attitude. Sometimes it is easier to just accept circumstances for what they are rather than considering what we can do to change them. How true is this for you at work, at home, in general?
If after this analysis you still feel stuck, talk it out. Consider talking to a career or transition coach. They can help you work through fears, buttons or other career-related challenges that may have you feeling paralyzed so that you come out feeling confident about what your greenest pasture really is and what that could look like for you.