7 Ways to Turn a Boring, Ho-Hum Job into Your Dream Career
Are you in a blah job, not necessarily good or bad, just meh? Meh can be draining.
Find a way to bring YOU to your job
They hired you for a reason. There were other candidates, other options, but they chose you. Why? Why were you a good fit for the job? Let’s identify what it was that they liked about you.
You accepted the job for a reason. Why? There are lots of jobs out there; why did you choose this one? You have choices in life…why did you make this one?
Now that we’ve identified why they liked you and why you liked them, let’s hope we can find the place where these two circles intersect. That’s what you can bring you to your job.
Have you ever been on a train or a plane where the person doing the announcements just goes the extra mile to make it fun? I had a flight attendant once who had to be part comedian. He had us all laughing when he read through that ordinary emergency plan information. He made it his own, and he entertained us.
He may have originally taken the position hoping to find that place where he could shine, where he could entertain. And he nailed it.
Excellence is its own reward. Competence is satisfying, but excellence is taking it to another level. Putting on a terrific outfit. Having a fresh manicure and haircut. Doing it right.
I was recently at jury duty, and my day was made by one of the men working the desk. When it was my turn to sign in, he just had the biggest smile, a warm welcome, and he took the time to say something nice.
Talk about a ho-hum job: This guy is processing hundreds of people every day who’ve been called to jury duty in Newark, NJ, right outside of job-centric New York City. This is a seriously cranky crowd, but this guy flips those frowns upside down instantly with his professionalism and joie de vivre.
If he can do it, you can too. (Here’s how to be happier at work.) He feels good, he seems good, and he’s able to turn the mood of the room by spending a couple moments with each person and acting like they are the highlight of his day.
Excelling in and of itself is satisfying. As it is said, “a job worth doing is worth doing well.” How can you bring excellence to your job?
Identify what works
I have a client who is a mechanical engineer. She doesn’t like it, never has. She earns a great living, but hates the work; she literally forces herself to do it, and as a result isn’t that good at it. (These are the signs you’re in the wrong career.)
However, she loves communicating and planning. She loves project managing, ensuring all members of the team are aligned to the common goal and working towards it.
Recently, while plotting her departure, she had the opportunity to take on a management role. This would give her more time to manage, less time to do the engineering work. And as you may have guessed, she loves it. She gets the engineering, she’s just not as passionate about it as she is about project managing and people managing. This small shift in her responsibilities has filled her sails; she’s excited to go to work and looking into management training programs with her company.
Plus, her company has excellent benefits and work/life balance programs. All of this is much easier to see and appreciate now that she’s been able to identify the parts of the work that she enjoys, and lean into them.
See the larger purpose and how you contribute to it
What are the corporate goals? Your boss’ goals? What’s the bigger picture and why does your company do what it does? Most importantly, how does this company help people? Or animals? Or the environment? Do they do any pro bono work that you can be involved in? Did you know that volunteering can help your career?
All of my career coaching clients ultimately want the same thing—to have a meaningful impact on the world. How does your company do that, and how can you play a bigger part in it?
When you attach your work to something powerful, it has more meaning and can ultimately feel more purposeful and satisfying. This can increase your motivation and passion for the mission.
Consistently, research shows that the happiest people are those who are connected to other people. It’s the number one factor for happiness, and also the reason why so many people who are not well connected face depression, isolation, and loneliness.
Who are your friends at work? Who do you connect with and chat with? Can you make a bigger effort to step away from the desk at lunchtime and connect with that person during this down time?
Using the office for social benefits can be powerful, whether it’s uniting against a common enemy (big bad boss), or identifying romantic opportunities (more and more people are meeting their significant other at work), the best part of the job is the people you see every day. Here are some things your work colleagues probably want you to know.
Identify the benefits
Are you well paid? Does your job offer flex time? Good office snacks? Complimentary bar cart and happy hour? A turkey on Thanksgiving? What are the benefits of your job?
Identify them and list them. Seriously. Take a couple minutes and write down 10 to 25 benefits of your job, including the workout center, paid vacation, health insurance, softball league, and yes, the holiday party with open bar.
By focusing on the positives, really highlighting them, you will feel better about your job. These positive quotes will inspire you to see the glass half-full.
Plot your exit
Wait, what? Well, the gist of this piece was turning a ho-hum job into a dream career. So, let’s talk about that dream career. (Perhaps you’d like a job protecting the earth from aliens? NASA is hiring!)
What would you rather do? Really rather do? This might be the time to get a copy of What Color is my Parachute or another self-help book in this genre. Bottom line, identify that dream job, if it isn’t the work you’re currently doing. (We can all learn something from people who turned their passion into a career.)
And then, consider how this job will help you get there. If you want to manage people, does your company offer management training? Does your company offer tuition reimbursement? Heck, many companies offer coaching if you want to work with someone to identify that thing you’d rather do, and what you can do at the company to help you get to that place.
Stop the ho-humming and get to your passion, your motivation, that thing you’d be fired up to do. And then determine how this current job will help you get there.
And if along the way to that dream job you end up having so much fun at this one, now that you’ve identified what’s great about it, are engaged to your coworker, and doing pro-bono work that makes you feel like you’re making a meaningful contribution to humankind, congratulations. Just like on the final episode of The Bachelor, your biggest problem is choosing between two terrific options ahead of you.
This is the right problem to have.