Learn how to love your job—or leave it for a better opportunity.By Samantha Toscano
Getting a better job can do more than benefit your bottom line. It can improve your health and well-being, too. "If you like what you do, you'd add five days to every week," says Devora Zack, author of Networking for People Who Hate Networking. Keep the following promises, and you'll enjoy your time at the office, no matter how long your workweek might be. Photo by Thinkstock.
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1. Network, network, network.
It's not just for the unemployed. "Networking is the key to opening up doors," says Holly Paul, US recruiting leader for PricewaterhouseCoopers. Among what you can get out of it: learning about new opportunities that interest you and meeting the people who can help you get hired. So how do you do it? Whatever works for you, but Zack recommends inviting one or two colleagues who don't work on your team for coffee or lunch and learning about their jobs.
2. Cut the gossip.
Even if the head of advertising is wearing the world's ugliest dress or you suspect the man in the mailroom is dating the woman in the corner office, keep it to yourself. "Just because you think it doesn't mean you have to say it out loud," says Shawnice Meador, director of Career Management and Leadership Development at University of North Carolina's Kenan-Flagler School of Business in Chapel Hill. "If you aren't part of a solution, you're part of a problem, and that's bad for your career and mental health," says Lynne Sarikas, Director of Northeastern University's MBA Career Center in Boston. That's because gossip can cause co-workers to view you as less trustworthy. Instead, say something complimentary when you feel tempted to be negative or pass on a rumor.
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3. Update your resume.
Making changes to your VC can be part of a larger self-assessment exercise that's especially appropriate at the beginning of a new year. "Documenting your accomplishments makes you feel good about what you've done," says Paul. "And the years go by quickly, so take stock sooner rather than later." Plus, you can separately list things you didn't get to do and would like to by the end of the year. Consider reviewing your resume monthly thereafter to quickly recall your successes and support them with specifics on paper.
4. Consider a switch.
If you've been unhappy, it might be time to make a change-internally or externally. Zack's advice: Create lists of what you want to start, stop and continue. Then, you can actively work on altering your workplace or responsibilities. But shoot for opportunities that combine your passions with your strengths, reminds Amanda Augustine, Job Search Expert for TheLadders. "It may be a little late to become a prima ballerina, but that doesn't mean you can't leverage your existing skill set and experience within the dance industry."
5. Further your knowledge.
Most professional organizations have online discussion boards and skill-building groups, so take part and discover new things, new people and maybe even new opportunities. Continually learning helps you become an expert in your field. Even work with nonprofits and unpaid internships lets you develop and enhance your skills, says Sarikas. Don't have time or money to commit regularly? Zack suggests attending a few free seminars throughout the year.
6. Say, "thank you."
This year, take a moment to recognize those who make your job easier and have helped you find success in your career. We sometimes forget to verbalize our gratitude, but "people appreciate being appreciated," says Zack. She says old-fashioned notes resonate, so keep a stack of stationery at your desk and hand-write one every month or so. Whether you're thanking someone for their time or reconnecting with someone for their past support, be specific and clear about what they did and how it was helpful.
7. Share your goals.
You can't grow within your company if you don't share your aspirations with your supervisor. An annual review is the time to make your intentions known, says Augustine. Develop a growth plan with your manager. "Agree upon specific, measurable job expectations and make sure to meet regularly to discuss the direction you'd like your career to take," says Meador.
8. Become a mentor.
Sharing what you've learned throughout your career can be rewarding, so this year, find someone starting out whom you can guide professionally. "Helping them will make you feel good, and you'll hold yourself accountable to be a positive role model," says Sarikas. Catch up at least once a month and use your experiences to address their work successes and challenges.
9. Maintain (or discover) a work-life balance.
Commit to making changes to bring things into better alignment, says Sarikas. She suggests scheduling a regular date night with your spouse and saving certain nights of the week for family dinner or a movie for yourself. You could also explore more flexible work schedules (working from home on occasion, coming in early to leave early), says Augustine, but be sure to "do your research and develop a proposal to discuss with your manager." She just may be on board: Tearing yourself away from your desk to do things that energize you will increase your daily efficiency.
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10. Fall back in love with what you do.
It's common for your job to lose its luster after a while, but you must "recognize when that happens and decide what to do next," says Augustine. Pinpoint the problem (whether it's the commute, the company culture or the work itself) and solve it with your manager or make a serious change. Before you make any sudden moves, Augustine suggests exploring the root of the problem for a few weeks. No major problems but you're still not head over heels for your gig? Sarikas advises remembering why you took the job in the first place. "Celebrate what you like about your work," she says. "If you fall back in love with your job, you'll be more productive and successful."
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