Do you love the work you do? Or do you feel like your career is stuck in neutral and you’re in a rut of mediocrity? Or you might be on the brink of burnout. You may have changed to a new position or even been promoted. And while it’s true that you feel a sudden burst of renewed excitement, soon enough you realize that you’re going through the motions again. And one day you wake up and feel you’re passion has once again vanished. So, how can you avoid career stagnation, prevent burnout and renew your happiness at work?
Do not despair; there is hope. Life and work don’t have to be perfect in order to feel a sense of happiness. And you don’t have to necessarily end your career either. If you’re looking to rejuvenate your life at work, here are six ways that you can turn things around. Take these one at a time to feel a renewed, sustainable passion about your work and career.
6 Steps to Renew Your Happiness at Work
1. Ask for what you need and want.
Is there something in particular you dislike about your job? Maybe it’s the “unspecified additional duties” section of your job description. You’ll never be able to get to your ideal position if you don’t ask for what you need and want. Job satisfaction is a wonderful theory and even though companies say they strive to keep employees happy, most of the time it’s your own responsibility to keep yourself happy at work. So, become your own advocate. If there’s something that really irks you about your job, take action to change the situation.
Need a different office for a valid reason? Want to transfer to a different team or department? Want to work on a new project or start your own? Ask for it! Looking for a new challenge or promotion? Speak with your boss to learn how you can start working towards these things.
Assertiveness and communication is the key here. You might be surprised at how easily things can start to materialize once you start asking.
2. Develop a social network.
Having a strong social network is one of the key indicators of happiness (and overall success). It’s easy to feel detached and despise your job when your co-workers are strangers. Turn that around by making an active effort to get to know them. If you fall into the trap of avoiding people in the hall, taking lunch breaks alone, or just simply disengaging from your workplace, you may wind up exacerbating your career unhappiness in the short and long term.
We’re all busy. Most of the time we barely have time to “socialize” at work. Perhaps you relocate to a new position where you don’t know anyone. You might attend orientation with a co-worker and you hit it off, but they are now working in a different department and you rarely bump into that person. You’ll likely need to make an effort to call them and schedule time to connect, perhaps during lunch time.
Don’t become a stranger in your own work setting. You might look back and realize you’ve been there for months and still barely know anyone. Break the silence from the beginning and learn about your co-workers. Kick off a casual conversation or just give them a genuine greeting the next time you pass each other. I’m sure that some of them are the most amazing people you could know.
3. Strive for growth and shift your mindset around failure.
Have you ever avoided a new challenge at work because it was too “risky?” Much of the time, people would rather stay in their comfort zone rather than spread their wings and try something new. After all, what if you don’t succeed at the new task, right?” This protective mindset is what often keeps you “safe” but also can hinder your growth at work. Instead of looking at a situation as an opportunity to grow and stretch, we take every measure to minimize our chances of failure, which sometimes means that you do nothing at all but coast through the workday day after day.
Not good. When we look at new ideas or situation with a skeptical eye, we’re stunting our growth instead of allowing for expansion. It’s time to shift your mindset. You’ve been on the defensive long enough. Take a deep breath and open up for opportunities. Look for a new project that is within your interest and can capitalize on skills you already have while challenging you in a new direction. In every work setting you can always find opportunities for something new, and a unique way to contribute.
You’ll find your workplace can be a goldmine of learning opportunities that go beyond punching in and out of the clock, which leads to a much easier and pleasant workday.
4. Take on a leadership role without the title.
Want to improve your attitude at work and turn your mundane workdays into meaningful work experiences? Make yourself important. While you may not necessarily apply for a promotion, there are many things you can do to be a leader in your work setting. At work you have choices. You can choose to remain in the shadows and be invisible, or you can choose to become an important part of your workplace puzzle.
Making yourself an integral part of the work setting will not only help others but will help you to improve your overall perception and attitude at work.
Being excited and happy at work doesn’t just happen because you have an ideal work setting at your fingertips. You have to decide that you are a valuable contributor to your work and employer. Sometimes this involves taking on even the smallest “leadership” task to make you feel more respected and valuable at work.
If you’re eager for more responsibility but not sure where to start, talk with your supervisor and see what needs there are within the work setting, or perhaps develop a unique plan for ways you can contribute.
5. Help others.
One of the things that gave me a great deal of fulfillment when I worked in my J.O.B. was helping coworkers. I found just as much gratification in helping a coworker or supervisor to solve a problem or get information they needed as I did in helping my own clients. Being a helper comes naturally to me I guess. I can recall helping friends in elementary school to work on their math problems, and volunteering in psychology class in high school to work on a motivation project for the school. When I entered the workplace, it was no different. I would lend a helping hand to new staff by being a mentor or trainer. These voluntary work assignments often led to appointments and promotions, letters of recommendations, and relationships that I don’t believe would have materialized had I not put myself out there to lend a hand.
Being helpful has its benefits. And it’s quite rewarding if done with a genuine desire to assist another person. If you haven’t been feeling happy at work, think about what you can do to help another person. Perhaps you’ll find some mutually beneficial relationships can be formed just by offering your extra time to help on a project or simply helping a co-worker to tackle an assignment.
By helping someone else to solve their problem, you might just be resolving your own.
6. Take simple actions to spread good will.
How does it feel when someone says something nice about you or something you did? Feels great, right? Most of us are wired for happiness. We like to be happy and make others happy. Most of us. By being nice, generous with your time, or just plain being helpful with a small task, you create an environment where you make others feel good (happy) and you in turn are primed to receive the same in return.
Tiny examples of this are a simple, cheerful greeting or a genuine compliment to a coworker. It doesn’t have to be elaborate. These things may seem small and insignificant on the surface, but a few words can pack a powerful impression and set the stage for opportunities in the future.
“‘Tis better to give than receive” might not be a popular belief in a workplace where there is a feeling of scarcity, but rising above the status quo can elevate you to further heights in your career.
Being respected doesn’t mean you’re always on the receiving end of these compliments or recognitions. Taking the initiative to send a simple note to a co-worker about something great they did actually elevates you further in your work environment.
Another way this can work for you is to keep things focused on the positive. Rather than focus on how to make improvements, keep your conversations and interactions focused on the 20% that might actually be working right in your workplace. Being a Positive Pat rather than a Negative Nelly is always the better road to take, no matter how your workplace or coworkers may be getting it all wrong.
Try to make a few simple shifts towards being more positive in the workplace. Becoming respected and gaining happiness at work is inevitable when good will is abundant.
Finding happiness is just as much about the choices and actions you make at work as it is about the type of work setting you are in. If there are things you don’t enjoy about your work, take active steps to change them. The first, and easiest change to make, might actually be in your perception and mindset. Doing the same things day after day won’t lead you to your ideal work situation. Your “perfect” work setting might just be a few behavioral changes away from you. Incorporate some of these strategies to position yourself for many years of happiness in your work and career.