Thursday, 02 September 2021
It’s always a good time to pause, take stock and think about your career goals for the foreseeable. But you don’t have to search out a new position in order to change up your career. Actively seeking out new perspectives and adopting new practices can help you to press the ‘reset’ button, allowing you to grow professionally, expand your skillset and stay engaged. We look at five ways to freshen up your role.
Whether it’s the start of a new year, a period following a seismic upheaval, or simply because you need a change, it’s key to check in with yourself regularly to assess whether your values and priorities are still current and accurate. Perhaps a period of working from home has made you realise how much you value flexibility, or a role in a particular project has fired up a part of you that you didn’t realise was so important — either way taking time to realign your work and how you do it with your values and priorities is one of the most powerful ways to increase job satisfaction.
Take action: Tailoring your work to you, rather than changing jobs and looking for satisfaction elsewhere is a key tenet of job crafting (see below) and getting clear on your values and priorities is essential to do that effectively. The things you believe are important in the way you live and work (your values) will determine your priorities and will ultimately probably be the metric by which you judge how successful you are. If you are not living and breathing your values, you will likely experience internal stress — the first thing to do then is to check in with yourself about any area that you feel is conflicted and start your self-awareness exercise there. Get clear on what is most important to you at this stage of your career — and then seek to align yourself internally and externally through proactive changes.
Turn the job you have into the job you want with job crafting. First put forward by The Academy of Management 20 years ago, job crafting basically involves redesigning your job to make it more meaningful to you — either by task crafting (altering the type or scope of elements that make up your job), relationally (changing who you interact with), skills crafting (upskilling or moving laterally) or cognitive crafting (reframing the work you’re doing).
Take action: Recent research by the Harvard Business Review indicated that those who try job crafting often end up more satisfied with their work lives, with higher performance levels and greater resilience. In turn, organisations gain by offering a creative way to motivate and retain talent and in creating empowered employees full of ‘intrapreneurial energy’ who find new ways to add value to the company. To start job crafting, take a ‘deep dive’ into the components of your current role: the tasks and activities, who you interact with, when and where you do them and why your job exists — and then look to see how and where you could make these work better for you, using your values and priorities to guide you. One-to-one job crafting conversations with line managers, workshops and team crafting activities can help you to explore your options and keep on track. Importantly, remember that research shows that much of job crafting happens through small, frequent actions — so just keep moving forward, calibrating changes with the feedback you get, for long-term transformation.
In order to grow in and expand your current role you are going to need to move forward psychologically within it. Part of that is being able to assess your own performance to-date, ‘let go’ of past mistakes and course-correct any deviations you might have taken away from where you really want to be.
Take action: For author of bestselling book Emotional Agility, Susan David, it’s essential to factor your emotions into any situation, and to use them as a tool to guide you forward. Emotionally agile people, she says, don’t fear their feelings; instead they know how to gain critical insight about situations and interactions from them and use this to adapt and make the positive changes they need. She recommends leaning into these messages during your personal career appraisal in order to ignite positive change. Key to success is what she calls ‘showing up’, or facing your thoughts, emotions and behaviours willingly instead of ignoring difficult or painful ones, or, equally as ineffective, engaging in relentless ‘positive thinking’. As part of this exercise, it’s essential you also practise some detachment so that thoughts and feelings don’t end up overwhelming you and your energy supplies. This, she says, will help you to see yourself as ‘a chessboard, filled with possibilities, rather than as any one piece on the board confined to certain preordained moves.’
Life begins at the end of your comfort zone, so the saying goes, and it’s easy to get comfortable and — whisper it — bored in a job you have done for a while and understand end-to-end. But there is no quicker way to get the proverbial blood pumping than to push yourself beyond your perceptions and add a little ‘strategic instability’ to your life. Research by Yale University shows that ‘stability’ can put a break on personal growth, while uncertainty signals the brain to kick-start learning.
Take action: Liven up your working experience and environment by putting yourself forward for projects, responsibility or tasks that you’d like to do but have been putting off because of lack of confidence, timing or ennui. Setting yourself new development goals will also do the trick, but make sure that they are suitably ambitious — to get your brain to react positively you have to be doing something that genuinely slightly stresses you a little with its challenge. Pushing yourself beyond your current limits will, in time, develop new skills and a deep sense of achievement — as well as allowing you to expand your role, and perhaps even fundamentally alter the way you see it.
If you feel inert — physically or mentally — then setting a goal is a powerful way to shake things up for the better. Goal setting can supercharge your situation and provide powerful new motivation, something that’s proven to have a biological basis — research published in the Behavioral and Cognitive Neuroscience Review shows that goal-setting can actually restructure your brain to make it more effective, while a study in the Journal of Applied Psychology found ambitious goals to be far more motivating and able to impact on the plasticity of your brain than easily achieved goals.
Take action: For goal setting to be effective you have to do it the right way, and in a role you might have been in for a while, the key is to make sure that your goals align with the scope of your position, but also deliver something more for you. To create a win-win outcome, consider where the important intersections are between your ultimate goals (informed by your values and priorities) and the company’s objectives. Refresh yourself on your company’s mission and values — and then find spaces where your ambitions overlap. This could be anything from bringing in a large client, setting up a mental health initiative or wellbeing programme, or instigating a new process to increase efficiency in the company. Just remember to keep all goals SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-Bound) and focused on creating and reinforcing your ideal situation or vision of yourself, while also bringing value to the company.