It’s another day at the office. Another boring, blah day.
In fact, lately every day feels this way. You’ve even thought about leaving, maybe fantasized about it on your lunch break or while sitting in another meeting you didn’t really need to attend.
But right now, that’s not an option. Because money is tight. Because you’re the breadwinner. Because you carry the benefits for your family. Because you’re trying to get a mortgage or pay off your credit card debt. Because of any number of—valid, legitimate—reasons.
Or maybe you do like your job but you simply feel uninspired. You’re simply bored and stuck in a rut.
Either way, you’re pretty miserable. And working five days a week, eight hours a day is a long time to feel pretty miserable.
So what can you do?
While acknowledging how you’re feeling is important (Ughh, this is incredibly frustrating), wallowing in the negativity definitely doesn’t help. Two career experts share five strategies to follow instead.
Realize you do have a choice. Stop telling yourself that you don’t, said Aurora Meneghello, founder of Repurpose Your Purpose, a program for individuals who want to change careers. That’s because when you tell yourself that you’re stuck, you take away your power, and can quickly ignite “a downward spiral of feeling more and more like a victim, filling you with sadness, resentment, frustration and regret.”
Telling yourself that you have a choice in your situation—and you’ve chosen to stay—empowers you to take thoughtful action, and reminds you that you’re being responsible, resilient, dedicated, and hardworking, Meneghello said.
After all, as she pointed out, there’s no law stopping you from leaving your job. You could quit, and lose your benefits. You could quit, and go broke. You could quit, and let your debt mount. You could quit, and not buy a house.
When you’re feeling powerless and stuck, it can help to remind yourself that you’re not helpless and trapped, and name why you’re choosing to stay, Meneghello said: “I show a lot of strength and commitment by staying in this job,” and “I want to provide for my children,” or “I am committed to having health insurance,” or “I choose to be free of debt,” or “I promised myself I would never quit without having another job lined up.”
Ask for what you need. “People often feel uninspired or bored when they stop being challenged at work,” said Jill Jacinto, a New York City-based millennial career expert and career coach. Which is why both she and Meneghello suggested scheduling a time to talk to your boss about your career goals, or a new task or project you’d like to pitch. This is also important because your boss likely has 50 other things on his or her mind and has forgotten about your goals, Jacinto said.
When pitching your boss, “think of something that would make both a positive difference in your routine and also help the company,” Meneghello said. You might create several slides that showcase the great work you’ve been doing, and explain why the company would benefit from expanding your role (e.g., transitioning to a new position, presenting at conferences, leading a team), Jacinto said.
Another idea is to “study what your competitors are doing and use them as an example to invest in new strategies and technology,” and mention “your own desire to lead this change,” she said.
Focus on solutions. When you’re frustrated with your job (or anything for that matter), it’s very common to ruminate about it: It’s so unfair that I didn’t get the promotion, even though I clearly work ridiculously hard. Why do I always get stuck doing the boring projects? My boss is an idiot.
Not surprisingly, this only makes the situation worse, Meneghello said. It also “will make you come across as a negative person and further hinder your efforts to get out of your predicament.” The key is to shift your attention from harping on the problem (and everything that comes with it) toward creating solutions (and practicing acceptance).
Meneghello suggested exploring these questions: This is the situation I am in; what can I learn from it? What am I grateful for today? Who has been kind or helpful to me? Given where I’m at, what can I do to make my time at work more pleasant? What would it be like to go through the day feeling love for myself and everyone around me?
For instance, maybe you can use your job to experiment with various productivity hacks, or challenge yourself to become faster or to write better—whether or not your company needs or recognizes these efforts, Meneghello said.
She also noted that employees can create a reward system—such as setting aside $5 for a weekend getaway for every two hours of focused work.
Become a mentor. We can easily feel uninspired about work that we’ve been doing for years, or decades. Naturally, doing the same thing over and over starts to lose its luster. Mentoring a younger coworker can bring a breath of fresh air.
“Sometimes helping someone at the start of their career can help remind you why you are in the career you are in and help you fall back in love with it,” Jacinto said. Plus, you might gain new skills from your mentee, she said.
Delve deeper into your job. “Get a better handle on the whole picture by learning what your colleagues are working on and getting a more in-depth view into the company,” Jacinto said. For example, you might ask your coworkers to meet you for coffee, and sit in on their presentations, she said. Think about other ways that you can network within your company and gain a clearer, deeper understanding of how things work.
It’s frustrating to feel uninspired, bored, or stuck at a place that takes up so much of your time and energy. But when you shift your perspective and redirect your attention toward creating other opportunities, you just might find that spark again.