By Paula Fernandes
Paula is a New Jersey-based writer with a bachelor’s degree in English and a master’s degree in education. She spent nearly a decade working in education, primarily as the director of a college’s service-learning and community outreach center. Her prior experience includes stints in corporate communications, publishing, and public relations for nonprofits. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Your professional life, just like your personal life, is a work in progress. When you start a job, it’s all new and exciting. You may find yourself easily overlooking imperfections and dismissing signs that call this new arrangement into question.
With time, the job that once seemed so perfect may lose its luster. You may become complacent, disinterested, or irked by little things you used to find endearing or not even notice. You may begin to wonder if the grass is greener on the other side.
Before you call it quits and start sending out your resume, give yourself the opportunity to reconnect with some of the reasons you loved the job in the first place. Sometimes it’s not about changing your employment, but changing your perspective and making a genuine attempt to improve things where you are.
Here are time-tested tips from career coaches, human resources managers and other professionals to reignite your interest in your work.
1. Engage in self-refection.
If you started out loving your job but don’t like it anymore, you need to figure out what changed. Sometimes the answer is obvious. Your new boss could be a jerk, or maybe you burned out by staying late or skipping lunch every day. For some, however, disillusionment grew slowly over time, in which case you’re not really sure what caused you to disconnect from work.
If you find yourself in this situation, take time to reflect on your professional life, assessing your accomplishments, outlining your goals and pinpointing specific incidents that have impacted your attitude toward work.
“When you can identify the parts of your job that are causing you grief, it makes it easier to come up with a plan to address the issues, either with individuals or with yourself,” said Valerie Streif, senior content manager with Pramp.
2. Practice gratitude.
One of the simplest yet most profound things you can do to reframe your relationship with your job is to identify all the good things about it.
“If your wanderlust is more about boredom and grass-is-greener syndrome, it’s good to do the age-old exercise of counting your blessings,” said Scott MacDonell, co-founder of BizCounsel.
This may seem difficult at first, because it can be hard to see through the unpleasant stuff and recognize the positivity. But you know that the good things are there, so dig deep until you find them. Maybe you have a great colleague, enjoy working on certain projects or simply value the paycheck that keeps a roof over your head.
By taking the time to write down all the positive aspects of your job – and keeping the list somewhere you can refer to it often – you remind yourself that they exist. This knowledge can give you the energy to keep going.
“What you focus on grows,” said Emer Moloney, certified personal coach and founder of This Is Not Life Coaching. “The more positivity you look for, the more you will find.”
3. Talk to the boss.
If you have lost interest in your daily work or feel stagnant, it may be a sign that you are ready to take on new tasks or more responsibilities.
“This would be the time to talk about steps for a promotion or role expansion with your manager,” said EB Sanders, career coach for creative types.
Be ready to have a candid discussion with your boss where you highlight your strengths and contributions and ask to tackle new assignments.
“Once you have discussed it and put a plan in place, your commitment to reaching that new level will spark a love for the opportunities your new role will offer,” Sanders said.
Of course, this only works if you’ve already proven you’re capable and committed. If you’ve been unproductive or disengaged, you’ll need to get yourself in order before approaching your employer about any changes to your current position.
4. Make friends.
You don’t have to love all your co-workers, but you should make an effort to become friends with at least one or two.
“There tends to be a high correlation between work fatigue or losing interest in your work and isolation and loneliness,” said Eli Howayeck, career coach and founder and CEO of Crafted Career Concepts.
Having a close confidant, lunch buddy or other trusted friend in the office can transform your attitude toward your workday. “It provides an outlet for safe and confidential discussions, allowing you to talk about concerns or analyze management actions or communications without being perceived as a gossiper or alarmist,” Howayeck said.
Who better to share your work woes with than someone who is also in the trenches? They can validate or challenge your feelings and perceptions with inside knowledge not available to most of your friends and family. Above all, they provide a friendly face to visit with during lunch or share a cup of coffee with in the break room on a particularly stressful day. Sometimes a bit of friendly human contact is all we need to carry us forward.
5. Find a passion project.
Have you always wanted to start a mentorship initiative at your company or introduce a recycling program to the office? A passion project may be exactly what you need to pull yourself out of a professional rut. This side project, which may fall outside the scope of your job description, can serve as an outlet for creative energy and help you develop leadership skills, all while providing a new service to your organization.
“The enjoyment you get from this, even if it’s not your primary duty, will make the workday more engaging and fun,” said Howayeck.
Howayeck points out that the only catch is you need to be performing in your actual job before you can take on a passion project. You also must consider the resources you’ll need, the time commitment and what buy-in is required from your manager.
“Approach your manager or executive leader first to present your idea,” he said. “If you don’t, you might get scolded for working on something outside of your job duties.”
6. Learn something new.
Sometimes you feel frustrated at work because you lack certain skills or the necessary understanding to succeed in the job. Sometimes you have all the skills you need for your current position but lack the knowledge to take on a desired new role.
“Failing to find inspiration may just be the result of not knowing how to approach a problem or obstacle in your work,” said Robin Schwartz, human resources director at Career Igniter.
The best way to tackle this roadblock is to invest in continuing education and development opportunities. Schwartz suggests talking to your boss about available trainings or certifications that will benefit you and the organization. You can take the initiative to compile a list of online courses, in-person workshops, conferences, classes and other training programs you are interested in attending. Share the list with your boss and jointly select a couple you both think are the most worthwhile and relevant for you.
7. Find a mentor.
A mentor can provide you with honest feedback and guidance and help get you back on track when you are floundering. Seek to connect with someone in your workplace who performs well, is admired and respected by the leadership and employees alike, and is willing to invest time in helping you grow professionally. Your mentor can connect you to a large professional network you might never be exposed to otherwise and can also serve as a sounding board for your work-related anxiety or frustration.
Knowing you have someone in your corner can lead to a deep shift in your mindset toward work, but it also has practical implications.
“Having some allies in the workplace certainly doesn’t hurt when push comes to shove and the going gets tough,” said Kris Hughes, senior content marketing manager with ProjectManager.
8. Get curious.
Find out what other people do in your company – not in an intrusive manner, but so you get a real sense of what others’ jobs entail. This way, when Ben from accounting takes longer than you’d like to cut a check for a vendor, you have an appreciation of the process it takes to make that happen.
This is also a great way to discover other roles or departments within your organization that may be a better match for you. You can offer to help out on special projects in other areas and then apply for a position, should it become available.
“Volunteer for projects involving cross-functional teams to expand your knowledge and your network,” said Tamica Sears, senior human resources business partner for USA Today and executive and leadership development coach with Sears Coaching.
By connecting with other areas of the business and meeting people outside your bubble, you might just find your niche.
9. Shake things up.
Break out of your routine and try making changes, small as they may be, to the way you approach your day.
“Habits can save us time, but they can also make us feel stagnant,” said Helen Godfrey, counselor and life coach with The Authentic Path.
Godfrey recommends switching things up to breathe new life into your workday. If you always eat lunch with the same people, pick a day of the week when you invite a colleague you don’t know very well to join you instead. If you rarely leave your desk, force yourself to go outside and take a 10-minute walk. If you always approach your work in a certain order, try looking at tasks through new eyes to help you mix things up. You may find that a little variety is exactly what you need to reinvent your relationship with work.
10. Take advantage of the perks.
When your job is feeling less than perfect, it’s a good time to take stock of the other benefits your employer provides.
“Take advantage of wellness programs or other opportunities for personal enrichment within the work setting to offset the daily grind,” said Hughes.
Maybe your company provides employees with free gym memberships, stocks the break room with snacks, offers onsite child care or allows flexible work arrangements. Tapping into these or any other company perks that are relevant to you will make you feel more valued as an employee. They may also reduce the frustration you feel in other areas of your job.
11. Go on vacation.
Job burnout is one of the main reasons people fall out of love with their work.
“Being overworked, having stressful projects, and not taking enough time for themselves to rest and recover can quickly lead to feelings of resentment and contempt toward their job,” said Streif.
If you feel this way and have vacation time saved up, use it now. The work will still be there when you return, and there will never be a perfect time to get away, so stop making excuses.
“Taking time off for a trip or even a staycation, where you completely unwind and unplug from the day-to-day of the office, is going to have huge, rejuvenating benefits,” said Streif.
If a vacation isn’t possible, at least take regular breaks throughout the day. It can be as simple as going out for lunch or taking a short walk. Getting some distance from your work and prioritizing your mental health will help you to recharge so you return to work refreshed and ready to take on new challenges.
12. Create an upbeat playlist.
If you find yourself feeling down at work, slip on your headphones, hit Play, and immerse yourself in your favorite tunes.
“Listening to a playlist comprised of your favorite upbeat songs is proven to have a positive impact on your mood and ability to focus,” said Mollie Moric, career advisor and hiring manager at Resume Genius.
If music during work isn’t your thing, Moric suggests listening to inspirational podcasts or calming ambient sounds. If you can shut out the negative noise of the office, you’ll have a better shot at staying calm, engaged and productive.
13. Personalize your workspace.
Whether it’s a tiny cubicle or a corner office, fill your working area with photos of friends and family, favorite souvenirs from your travels, flowers and plants, or anything else that brings you joy. In those moments when you are feeling down, being surrounded by things you love will help lift your spirits and carry you through.
“You likely spend more time in your office than in your own home, so put in the work to make yourself feel as comfortable and relaxed in this space as you can,” said Moric. She also recommends that you collaborate with colleagues to decorate the communal areas with items that everyone enjoys.
14. Get a life outside of the office.
This is easier said than done, but don’t tie your whole identity to the job you do. Human beings are repeatedly sold on the idea that our passion should be our work and our work should be our passion, so when we find ourselves in a job that doesn’t leave us truly fulfilled, we assume we are failing in some way. The reality is that we don’t always get to solve the world’s problems at work or get paid to live our dream, especially in entry-level positions, and this is perfectly OK. When you free yourself of this expectation, you can begin to find real value and worth in other areas of your life.
Take the time and effort to create a rich life outside the workplace. This will look different for every person. For some, it may be about cultivating hobbies, while others will focus on building community. Regardless of what you choose to do, when you strengthen your sense of self and become happier with who you are as a person, the joy you create will inevitably trickle into your work life.
“Connecting with loved ones, engaging in creative pursuits and keeping healthy doesn’t just give you something to look forward to at the end of the day, but also re-energizes you for the time you are at the office,” said Kristen Zavo, career coach and author of Job Joy: Your Guide to Success, Meaning, and Happiness in Your Career.
15. Make an exit plan.
If you’ve tried everything and you are still miserable, Moloney recommends repeating to yourself five simple words: “I won’t always work here.” You may have to stay in your current job for the time being, but you can also begin actively planning for your future. This can include researching other positions in or outside your company, networking, updating your resume, and furthering your education to increase your skills. All these steps position you to take a leap into a new role when you’re ready.
“Just the knowledge that you can eventually leave, that [you have] control, will help the days go a little smoother,” said Moloney.