You’ve been in the game for several years, maybe even a couple of decades. And now, the love is “gone, baby, gone”... You dread going to work in the morning, or you feel uninspired and unenthused. How can you maintain enthusiasm for and inspiration from your work? What if you’ve lost that lovin’ feeling for your career? Here’s another Ask Halelly episode of the TalentGrow Show, where I answer a question from a listener, a learner in one of my corporate workshops, a member of the audience at one of my conference speaking events, or a member of the media. I’ve gotten this question several times, so I’m sharing three simple but deep ideas for how to keep the spark alive for your current job or career or what to do instead if that’s not an option (or it’s not working). Take a listen, weigh in with your own opinion, and share with others!
What should one do when they've fallen out of love with their career? How to maintain enthusiasm for your work when you've been in the game for a couple of decades? How can you remain inspired on the job?
There are really only two options: change something about how you work in the current career/job, or change careers/jobs. Let’s dig in to each of these options:
Stay options: change perspective
If you decide you want to stay in your current job, role, or career track, you’ll need to shift something in HOW you work, or at least in how you VIEW your work, in order to shift your level of enthusiasm for and enjoyment from your work. It’s not acceptable to just dread your work and drudge yourself through it. To thrive, you have to keep growing. And if you feel that the spark is gone, often it’s because you’ve reached a certain level of mastery and are not getting the satisfaction of stretching and growing that was there earlier in your career. So the solution must be: grow. As I see it, you can focus either on growing yourself or on growing others (but of course, why not do both?!).
Grow yourself. To feel engaged and challenged, you need to continue to develop new skills and knowledge and experiencing challenges that push you into your discomfort zone. You’ve reached a level of mastery – a level of learning called ‘unconscious competence’.
So you need to find ways to move back into ‘conscious competence’ – that struggle to learn something new that you WANT to learn, which provides lots of sparks of the pleasure of stretching and mastering new skills.
What can you change about the way you’re working currently? What new skills can you learn? What changes in the field could create new learning opportunities or new roles or projects in your current role?
Not only will it keep you interested in what you’re currently doing, it will actually create two side benefits:
It will make you more interesting to your current employer and potential new ones – your skills and knowledge will be relevant and upgraded, and you will become even more value-adding.
It will expose you to new ways of thinking or new types of work or perspectives you hadn’t previously considered, which may lead you down a new and exciting career path, an interesting side-road, or a fun detour.
[In my book Employee Development on a Shoestring, I review 11 different methods that anyone might be able to leverage for their own development with little to no money and many without requiring any support from their employer.]
Grow others. A way to rekindle your enjoyment of your career could be to shift your focus to being a developer of others. When we think about mentoring, teaching, writing/publishing (blogs etc.), and other forms of helping others by sharing our knowledge, it seems like the main beneficiary is others and we’re simply ‘doing good’ – being altruistic. But there’s actually an amazing and sometimes-overlooked potential for a win-win exchange of value where we are also greatly benefiting from helping others in these ways.
The experience of being helpful, of being valued, and of seeing others grow is immensely satisfying and can create a tremendous boost of the sense of well-being and happiness (there’s actually science to show this now), especially (but not only) if those recipients express their gratitude.
But there is also something very gratifying about creating a legacy, especially if you’ve been in your career for a while -- thinking about the way in which you will be remembered once you’re gone from that workplace, that career, or in life can shift your perspective and give you new energy and passion.
And finally, you’ll be honing new skills – going back to my first tip above – when you learn how to be a good mentor or teacher or writer of a blog. Which will keep you sharp, hold your attention, and create a sense of challenge and the pleasure of achieving new milestone and breathe new life into an ‘old’ job.
Go options: change careers/jobs
You get one life, and it’s not that long, but long enough to enjoy multiple careers if you choose. So whether you’ve tried my ‘stay’ options and got all that you could out of them, or for whatever reason they don’t work or you don’t want to try them, and if you’re pretty certain you’re finished with this career and want a different one, then sit down and make a plan to make this happen.
Don’t jump hastily out of your day job – rather, make a specific, time-delineated goal for the transition you’d like to make and then reverse engineer the path to it. Here are some questions to ponder to help you plan a successful transition:
What are skills and experiences you need to gain to make that move and how can you begin to collect them via a side-hustle, a volunteer role, or a part time second job?
What might be the amount of money you should save to help you make the move if it means moving to a lower-paying job in a new field and how can you begin to cut your expenses so that you can save this cushion?
Who do you know that is already working in that field or that type of job and how can you reconnect with them and learn from them via informational interviews or generally stalking their social media and/or shared content to glean insights?
Changing careers doesn’t happen overnight, but it’s not an impossible dream if you make a plan and work it.
So there you have it. Three different plans of attach to rekindle your career or job fire and get re-energized and re-inspired at work.
What did you try and how did it work for you?
What other ideas do you have for people struggling with this kind of situation?
Would you like to submit a question for a future “Ask Halelly” episode? You can use the voice messaging widget right here on the website and then I can even play your audio (with your permission, of course) on the episode! Or you can send me an email, or a ‘contact us’ form on this site, or a comment-based question, or a tweet…. You get the picture. Anyway you like it, I would love to hear your question!
About Halelly Azulay
Have we met? I'm Halelly Azulay. I'm an author, speaker, facilitator, and leadership development strategist and an expert in leadership, communication skills, and emotional intelligence. I am the author of two books, Employee Development on a Shoestring (ATD Press) and Strength to Strength: How Working from Your Strengths Can Help You Lead a More Fulfilling Life. My books, workshops and retreats build on my 20+ years of professional experience in communication and leadership development in corporate, government, nonprofit and academic organizations.
I am the president of TalentGrow LLC, a consulting company focused on developing leaders and teams, especially for enterprises experiencing explosive growth or expansion. TalentGrow specializes in people leadership skills, which include communication skills, teambuilding, coaching and emotional intelligence. TalentGrow works with all organizational levels, including C-level leaders, frontline managers, and individual contributors.
People hire me to speak at conferences and meetings and to facilitate leadership workshops, but what I love most is to help fast growing organizations create a leadership development strategy and approach.
I'm a contributing author to numerous books, articles and blogs. I was described as a “Leadership Development Guru” by TD Magazine. I blog, publish a leadership podcast (um, hello?!), and have a popular free weekly subscription newsletter – so you should definitely sign up at www.tinyurl.com/talentgrow.
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