How are things between you and your job?

Are you in an “open relationship” with your current job? You may not think of it that way, but there are early signs that your outlook on work may benefit from a reset. Maybe things have been okay for a while, but the spark and the excitement of the early days is gone. As you might imagine, that does not help your commitment to your current job, and it’s not long until your co-workers and boss take notice. When is it time to quit your job? How do you find the motivation to go to work and stay positive?

If you’re struggling with these questions, you might find that opinions around you fall into one of two camps. Some people think you should just cut ties and sail into the sunset in search of bigger and better things. Others cannot understand why you’re restless and uneasy in the first place; after all, nothing is drastically wrong. Some days, you are perfectly content at work. Other days, you could scream in frustration. What should you do?

This paradox defines much of our personal and professional lives. Today, we have more options than ever before. That’s great, except when the possibility of something better sabotages and distracts you from building relationships and experiences where you are. It’s so easy to get overly focused on annoying little things and miss the big picture!

Here are five signs that your current job is a great catch and worth a little extra effort.

#1: The job delivers what matters most to you.

Sure, your job might come with its own annoying factors: an overly talkative office neighbor, a difficult client or a tight set of sales goals. However, if it also has financial and non-financial benefits that are important to you, walking away may be a mistake. In order to see the benefits of your current position clearly, you must first be clear on your priorities. I recommend writing out a list of factors that matter most to you (salary, specific benefits, length of your commute, growth potential, etc.) just as you would if you were considering a new job. If your current position meets your needs, an upgrade may be nice but not urgent.

#2: Job expectations are clear and you have the tools and resources to do what’s needed.

Lack of clarity on job expectations is one of the top red flags to be on alert for when you’re considering a new opportunity. If your current position has a well-defined set of performance criteria, and if you have the tools and resources to do your best every day, you may actually be better off than you think.

#3: Someone at work cares deeply about your success as a person and a professional.  

This may be your boss, a mentor, a co-worker or a best friend. If you have the benefit of a reliable sounding board and a trusted ear when it comes to work dilemmas, professional growth and personal satisfaction, you have a valuable perk. Finding another job is not nearly as hard as making deep human connections there.

#4: You have opportunities to learn and grow.

Every job has its own degree of boring and repetitive tasks that have to get done. However, if your position gives you an opportunity to learn new things and take on new challenges, you may be less stuck than you think you are. Remember that sometimes, new opportunities may require proactive efforts. That might mean volunteering to lead a project, offering ideas for a pilot program or asking to attend a conference or a client meeting. Seek out new chances to learn and grow, and take advantage of the ones in front of you – that will help you stay positive and motivated at work.

#5: You receive recognition and regular feedback on your performance.

Acknowledgment of a job well-done can do wonders for your motivation and commitment. Beyond praise and financial bonuses, regular feedback conversations can provide you with a chance to reflect on things you could do better. If you’re getting that already – great! If you would like more feedback, consider asking for it.

Wondering how to love your job again? If you have discovered that rekindling the passion and the sparkle in your job is a worthwhile investment, here are five ways to do that.

1. Take a break.

Sometimes, you need to walk away from a project or a task to realize that you miss it. Taking a break from work might look like a month-long vacation to an exotic island, but it does not have to be that to be drastic. Consider setting boundaries that will allow you to not work when you are off – whether by staying out of your work inbox between 7 PM and 7 AM, not taking any work home and not working on weekends.

As a Type A super-driven professional, I have had trouble with this in the past – until a psychologist next door recommended thinking of my work responsibilities as a sweater. Just as you can leave a sweater on your chair at work, so you can leave your assignments and deadlines behind the closed door. By creating a clear boundary and allowing yourself to focus on family, friends, hobbies and rest when you’re home, you will find yourself to be more creative and productive when at work.

2. Look for more of what you love.

It takes very little effort to find things to complain about. Bad coffee, aggressive air conditioning, difficult clients and tight budgets – reasons to moan and sulk are plentiful. Instead of focusing on what’s uncomfortable and annoying, choose to stay positive at work by looking for more of what you love. You might look forward to the opportunity to walk outside at lunchtime, a chat with an inspiring colleague, or a chance to contribute to a new project. I’m not suggesting that you color everything in rainbow colors and fake it. Instead, simply take the time to notice and acknowledge the many ways your professional life goes right. If you want more inspiration around this idea, look into the 21 day no-complaint experiment.  

3. If an entrepreneurial path is calling your name, start your business – without leaving your job.

Many professionals dream wistfully of a way they can monetize their talents by launching their own business. If you’re one of those people, why wait? You can start your business right now! By taking the time to develop your idea on evenings and weekends, you can test-drive the creative and exciting path of business ownership without leaving the security net of your current job. Having an outlet outside of work can do wonders for staying positive and motivated in the office.

4. Look for people who are excited and engaged.

Mood and attitude are terribly contagious. If you have decided to fall back in love with your job, you may have to actively seek out co-workers who are engaged, enthusiastic and positive. I recommend making friends with interns and new staff – their bright-eyed excitement can offer a great boost to your day.

5. Make small changes.

Change does not have to be overwhelming. By making tiny tweaks, you can introduce enough fresh elements to your job to make it feel like a whole new gig six months from now. Whether you have your sights on a promotion, a cross-functional leadership role or better work-life balance, start by taking the smallest viable step in the right direction.

In closing, remember to be patient with yourself and your professional situation. Even the best jobs have boring or tough days – they do not necessarily mean that you have settled for less than what you deserve. Bad attitude and poorly considered moves can hurt your career.

Don’t sabotage yourself by burning bridges or compromising your professional credibility – but know when bad days turn into bad weeks and bad months and it is time to leave the job. Even if you decide to leave, remember that a positive outlook and a focus on what’s right is more attractive than a stream of negative comments. That will allow you to search for a new opportunity with grace and retain the goodwill of your colleagues and superiors – valuable currency no matter what choose to do next.

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