No matter how much you like your job, there are some days you feel as if you could walk out the door and never return. That’s pretty common, especially when you have the kind of day when everything seems to go wrong.
But if you start to realize that your feeling of boredom or frustration or stress is becoming a common theme, then you need to take action. If you don’t, those feelings may affect your performance to the point that you get fired or the boss passes you over for a big opportunity. Neither of those outcomes is good for your career, so it’s important that you be the one to manage a career turning sour.
- Balance adaption of Situation, don’t take this situation too lightly or too seriously. While this may sound ridiculous, only you can make an internal assessment of the situation and know a) that you’re prone to drama and you could be making this situation much worse than it really is or b) you tend to avoid your feelings, and your career is about to go off a cliff.
- Take a Break. If possible, try to get away from your career for a while. If you can’t get away for a quick vacation, at least try to use your weekend to detach. This means letting everyone at work know that you’re going to unplug (you can make up a creative reason here, or give no reason at all) and then really do it. Set up an auto-respond to emails, turn off notifications of the latest basketball score and get away from screens.
- Occupy yourself: Occupy yourself with something completely unrelated to work. Buy a paint by numbers kit and do it. Go dig in the dirt and plant something. Buy a kite and fly it. Repaint your bedroom. Bake a batch of cookies.
- Strong Boundaries: Boundaries are the invisible barriers between you and your outside systems, and they regulate the flow of input and information between you and the outside world. When your boundaries are overly diffuse, you’re “enmeshed” with others – unable to discern where you end and others begin. When your boundaries are rigid and impermeable, you’re “disengaged” – lacking healthy and appropriate connection with others or your own life. The key is finding balance – to be healthily engaged with others but solid enough in your own skin, with your own thoughts, beliefs, and self-worth that you can navigate through life knowing who you are and what you want, and advocating effectively for that without it being a constant struggle. The best way to determine if your boundaries are healthy is to think about your life and career ask yourself, “Am I living someone else’s definition of life and success, or my own?”
If you want this to be beneficial, then you can’t cheat. You can’t fly a kite while checking your email. You can’t bake cookies while reading an industry news website.
Once you’ve had this time away (a week is ideal, but a solid two days away may do the trick) then it’s time to take your internal temperature again. Do you feel better about your job? Are you starting to remember how much you like what you do? Have new ideas been popping into your head while you were planting a new elm tree?
If so, then you know that your career crisis isn’t serious, and just needs some tweaking. Would you like to talk to your boss about training in a new department? Is it time to talk to your team about better ways to communicate? Do you want to attend a few seminars to learn some new skills or come up with new ideas?
On the other hand, if you find after having some time away that you would still like hide under your bed at the thought of returning to work, then things are more serious. You need to really dig deep and find the root cause of your unhappiness and whether it can be fixed. If you have a mentor, now is the time to talk to him or her. If not, try writing down the pros and cons of your job and doing an assessment of what can be changed and what cannot.
Ultimately, no matter how many career coaches or mentors you have, you still are the one who must do the work and figure out whether your job is working for you or not. By knowing how to make an internal assessment, you’re more likely to handle career bumps before they become a full-blown crisis.