Ok, so there isn’t really a couch! But as a coach who specialises in working with insights professionals, I often work with clients who have fallen out of love with their careers. I work with them to help them get their spark back and feel good about work again – but prevention is always better than cure, right?!
So in that spirit, and based on some common themes that I’ve observed from talking to my clients, I’m here to share 5 key things you can do to make sure you keep your relationship with work fun, meaningful and inspiring.
Stay connected to your purpose
Now, I know that ‘finding your purpose’ can feel a bit deep. But finding your purpose isn’t some kind of cosmic mission. It’s actually just about making sure that you are deriving meaning from how you spend your time. Having a sense of purpose is one of the key drivers of fulfillment, and even the most enthusiastic of us can start to struggle if we lose sight of it. If you feel like that’s happening, start by asking yourself these questions: Why am I doing what I’m doing? Do I feel like I’m making a difference? What am I contributing? Is that contribution something that matters to me, that feels important, that I value? And does it make me feel good and feel happy? If you don’t like the answers, have a think about why not and what needs to change in order to find that purpose again.
Check your compass regularly
When I work with clients who are further into their careers, it’s not uncommon for them to wonder ‘How did I get here? This isn’t where I wanted to end up’.
That’s normally not because they’ve made a seriously bad decision – it’s usually more subtle than that.
Have you heard of the ‘one degree’ rule? It says that for every one degree travelled off course for 60 miles, you will divert 1 mile away from your intended destination. In career terms, that can mean that the cumulative effect of seemingly small decisions can result in drifting away from your intended destination over time. So keep checking in. Are you clear on your destination? Are you still heading towards it? Are you doing what’s expected, what’s conventional – or are you doing what’s actually right for you? The typical career path in research can be quite linear, so take time to stop and look from side to side, rather than just straight ahead. You never know what’s just outside your peripheral vision!
It’s really easy to get stuck in a rut because we don’t explore alternatives. But just because we’ve been doing something for a while doesn’t mean we have to keep on doing it. Sometimes we run out of steam with something or our interests simply change. There’s nothing wrong with that – it’s just a natural part of evolving. But you have a choice. You can fall into the rut, then have to invest time and energy trying to haul yourself out of it; or you can keep it fresh by being proactively inquisitive. Make a point of being curious about yourself, other people and other things, and that way you will stay connected to the bigger picture of what excites and interests you, and have a much better chance of dodging that rut!
Find a mentor
When my clients describe happy times in their career, when it felt like things were really flowing nicely, more often than not a mentor features in the story – someone who has guided them, inspired them, supported them and helped them overcome challenges in their career. Do you have a mentor? It doesn’t even have to be a formal arrangement – but having someone you trust and respect in your corner can be invaluable in your development and growth.
And finally, build a network – and use it
The concept of ‘networking’ can make some people really cringe. But all I mean here is simply this – stay connected to people. Build relationships. Keep in touch. Have those off-the-cuff chats with people you might not normally talk to. Having a rich and varied network of people around you is inspiring, interesting, educational and quite frankly, useful. Need someone’s opinion on something? Want to pick someone’s brains about their experience or their career? Wondering what it’s like to do a particular role, or work in a particular company? Go to your network, and you will probably find the answer! The majority of people are really up for helping out and sharing their experiences – and it works both ways, so you can do the same for other people, which is a great feeling!
And one final tip for good measure…remember, your career is an active thing, it’s something you have the power to control and take charge of – it’s not something that passively happens to you or that other people dictate. So stay involved, stay connected and if something’s not working – change it!