Reconnect With Your “Why” To Figure Out What’s Next
When you wake up each day, are you excited to get to work? Are you motivated to perform your tasks well? If you didn’t answer a wholehearted “yes!” to those questions, don’t fret. You are not alone.
In a time of great economic and workplace upheaval, where staffing shortages are frequent and many have chosen to join “The Great Resignation,” people are asking themselves hard questions about what they want from their jobs and careers.
Staff in many organizations have been asked to take on more responsibilities. Many feel overwhelmed, stressed out, and overburdened at work. Others feel a bit lost in their career direction. Still others feel that their work goes unappreciated and struggle for their contributions to be seen.
Kuukua Yomekpe, a former university academic advisor now chef/entrepreneur who cooks and gives lessons on West African traditional foods, spoke of working in a department down several staff whose roles went unfilled for an indefinite period of time: “I realized that I had a choice. I had bills to pay, so it was a hard, difficult choice, but my mental health was impacted. Sometimes [making the hard choice to leave a job], it’s what you have to do.”
If you are feeling frustrated with your work responsibilities and finding less enjoyment at work, here are some strategies to help you move forward, assess where you are currently, and identify where you would like to see your career going.
Clean Out Your Workspace
What does cleanliness or organization have to do with work satisfaction? Research shows that decluttering supports a feeling of calm and decreases anxiety. Creating an organized and tidy workspace (and, in this time of working from home, living space) can be one step towards getting to mental clarity.
Examine Your Values
Identify what the underlying values are that led you to your current job, role, and responsibilities. Take some time to reflect on where you are in your career and whether what you are doing now aligns with the values you identified then. If there’s a disconnect and you have a hard time answering that question, challenge yourself and ask further questions. How did you get here? Remember, this exercise is about YOUR values, not the next person’s. Getting a promotion may be your goal for this year, or perhaps carving out more time to spend with your loved ones. What is important is figuring out what YOU value, then how well your current work lines up with that. Once you find that answer, you will have your starting point to figure out what should come next.
Get in Touch With Your Strengths
Consider what you and others have said are your strengths. Ask your friends and colleagues what they consider to be your strengths. Are you tapping into those strengths in your current role?
Assess Your Tasks
Are you doing things you enjoy? We all need a certain amount of satisfaction in our lives, to engage in activities that bring us happiness and lead to a sense of fulfillment. What are the activities that bring you joy? In assessing your work, ask yourself are you engaging in activities or tasks that you enjoy? Are you practicing skills that emphasize your strengths? Are you doing work that challenges you in the ways that you seek to be challenged? Are you learning and growing in your role? If the answer is no, see what you can do to introduce these activities into your life whether at work or in volunteer or other spaces.
Identify What You Want
Define what “success” means to you in terms that are meaningful and achievable, whether it’s salary, title, flexibility, influence, or whatever measure you seek. Remember if you define success in ways that are unrealistic or perfection-based, you may set yourself up for additional anxiety, stress, and unhappiness. Be compassionate to yourself. Remember that success means different things to different people.
Remember that purpose can change over time. What gets you revved up and excited in your work life at one stage of your life might be different at another stage. Revise your goals and intentions accordingly. A friend who is a successful full-time professional and a mother of two young children recently compared her life to younger, single, childless women, wistfully remembering what that was like. I reminded her that she explicitly chooses to dedicate more time to her family, prioritizing that over attendance at professional networking or social events. Reframing that as a choice helped her reconnect with a sense of success – that she WAS meeting her life goals and purpose.
About the Author: Shirley Huey, J.D., is a consultant providing research, writing, and strategic development assistance to organizational clients. Her experience includes service on academic and professional hiring, diversity, and professional development committees as well as coaching peers and mentees. She is also a freelance writer, with a focus on her passions: food and culture.