We are a society obsessed with talking about employees and entrepreneurs who “love their job.” They are the poster boys and girls who prove that when we’re passionate in what we do, we excel.
The painful reality, however, is that just like pursuing a partner in life, not all of us will be lucky to find a job we can call “The One.” Many of us will be paid for a job we love doing, but will eventually lose the spark that once ignited it. The causes for the latter are aplenty: a major life experience that changes you, a boss who micromanages, or boredom out of doing the same things for years.
What do you do when you start losing the love you once had for your job? Here are 4 tips to consider.
1. Evolve in your job the way you want to love it.
Our employment contracts define our job description, but they’re also not cast in stone. You may have noticed that re-organizational changes happen more frequently in this digital age to keep up with business. It is this same “open and ambiguous space” that allows many employees to tweak certain parts of their job to find meaning and purpose. We call this as “job crafting.”
I had an extroverted colleague, Julian, who excelled as an accountant in the company I worked for years back. Julian also found his finance department as too quiet and “less happening.” But he was resourceful enough to find his stimuli: he volunteered to organize company parties, and he hosted the townhall meetings. Over time, his boss assigned him to organize finance literacy workshops for sales employees. Today, he’s helping in the development of a finance software with the IT department.
Job crafting entails being proactive and deliberate in shaping your career path. It’s understanding that while your boss, the HR department, or the management have your interests at heart, there’s no one else who can speak up for what you want in your career but yourself.
2. Explore a different department, team, project, or boss in the same company.
Rediscovering your passion for work doesn’t mean you should quit your job.
Here’s my proposition: You don’t need to climb a new mountain to reach a peak. Sometimes, you just need to look for a different route to get to the top. You can stay in the same organization, but perhaps you just need to move somewhere: a new department, a new assignment, or a new boss. Ask yourself thoroughly: Am I losing the flame because I don’t like what I’m doing per se, or could it be that the people or my surroundings are the ones causing me to hate it?
My sales colleague Allan once felt that he wasn’t enjoying his job anymore because it was becoming
“too easy,” and yet he knew that selling was the only thing he wanted to do in life. I asked him: Have you considered requesting for a territory change so you can face a new set of customers and competitors? He did, and got thrilled selling to a new audience that he had to study, and a new boss that he had to build a relationship with. Allan is a competitive guy, and he simply needed to be challenged again to spark engagement.
3. Find your outlet: Pursue projects outside of work.
You might also be asking the wrong question in life: Should you really force yourself to love this job, or can you go through this journey with a less involved relationship that gets you by? If your answer is the latter, you’re not inferior to the rest, but understand that this happens to many of us. Continue doing good in your job, but focus your love and energy more on something else: a sport, a hobby, a community, or a business that serves as an outlet for that skill or creativity you’ve wanted to unleash.
My friend Angela who serves as an operations manager for a manufacturing plant isn’t the biggest fan of her job. She thinks that many of her direct reports are undertrained, and that she’s lifting weights for almost everyone. But her company pays her well, and she’s been saving up to finance a startup business she’s been dreaming to launch in the next 5 years. In her current role, she also gets to stretch her leadership skills, which will surely be handy when she starts hiring her own employees. Angela may not be too happy with her job, but she’s happy whenever she imagines what’s going to come out of it.
4. View your job as a means and not as the end goal for happiness.
Many employees don’t desire high-powered careers because they believe that something else is more important in life. And there’s nothing wrong with this perspective as long as you don’t compromise your job. What matters is understanding what’s important to you today. Is it your family? Your health? Your personal relationships? If you value these things more than your career, then look at your job as a means to achieve them, not as an end.
I once reported to the most hard-working manager who had the potential to become the next CEO. When asked about her plans for promotion, she candidly said that she didn’t want it. She was single at the age of 47 and didn’t want any more responsibilities and stress. What she wanted was to spend more time off traveling and meeting people, perhaps a lifelong partner too. Even if she had the choice of climbing up, she refused to because she was already enjoying her pre-retirement life.
Once I started embracing this alternative mindset, I realized that there are people whose happiness are not defined by their careers, but by how their careers can support the lifestyles they choose to have.
If you really need to have a change of heart
Once you’ve calculated everything, and you strongly feel that none of the above works, the last step is to consider dropping what you do today and finding something new. You can move to a new company, or start a new life journey (e.g. from employment to entrepreneurship, or vice-versa). Remember, however, that these are more costly and risky, so exhaust all solutions first before making that big leap.
At the end of the day, your happiness is what ultimately matters. You don’t live so you can work, you work so you can live and enjoy what life has to offer. Good luck!