Take Your Job and Love it

Do you wish you were one of those people who cant wait to go to work every morning? You can be! Just follow this expert advice from human resources consultant and leadership coach Leigh Priebe Kearney, Ph.D.

You've probably heard people say, "I can't stand my job" or "My job is totally unfulfilling." They assume the only solution is to find a new one. That's usually not the case. I specialize in assessing the fit between the individual, the job and the organization, and in my experience, it's often not the job that needs to change, but your attitude toward it. How do you go about doing that? Try these methods for boosting your job satisfaction:

What's the big picture? Job dissatisfaction often creeps in when people feel like they don't matter, that they're just tiny replaceable cogs in a big impersonal machine. Do you feel like you're doing something that adds value to the organization, to the products and services your company offers? Talk to your boss about where the company is headed. How does what you're doing fit into the larger vision? Once you gain an understanding of that, you'll begin to see how valuable you are.

Be a leader and reach out. You don't have to be a senior vice president or some sort of superstar. Every one of us is a leader—or has the potential to be. We all have someone who looks up to us, who depends on us. At work, take a close look at the people around you and engage in meaningful conversations with them. Find out what matters to them and do something (something small is fine) to help them achieve it—this doesn't even have to be work-related, although it's more likely to make your job more enjoyable if it is. People tend to feel better about their own lives and what they're doing if they can make a difference in others' lives. Another plus: When you help someone else, you get noticed├ľand when you get noticed, you know your own work matters.

You've got to give some to get some. What we've discovered in the fields of psychology and leadership training is that people usually behave toward you the same way you behave toward them. If you give positive feedback, you'll get genuine, accurate and helpful feedback in return. If you walk around with a sour look complaining, "This job stinks. I can't wait till the end of the week," that's what you'll get back—negativity. You might have to act as if you're upbeat and enthusiastic even when you're feeling the opposite. Fake it till you make it. Slowly but surely, you'll notice that the positive energy you're putting out comes back to you.

Remember the three C's. Psychologist Salvatore R. Maddi led a landmark 12-year study of Illinois Bell Telephone employees during a period of drastic downsizing. He noticed that the hardiest people—those who not just survived, but thrived despite the less-than-ideal circumstances—shared three key attitudes: commitment, control and challenge. Commitment means you're involved and engaged in what you're doing. You don't have to be 100% committed to 100% of your job. But you should commit yourself fully to some aspect of it. Control means you're proactive rather than passive. If you feel like you have some control of a situation, you feel much more positive about it. Challenge means you look at stresses (even those that are unwanted) as opportunities to learn and grow.

Don't wait for your future to come to you. Take charge of it. If you think someone high above is going to recognize your untapped potential, pluck you from obscurity and hold your hand till you get to the top, you're living in a dream world. Time for a reality check: Make an appointment with your boss and talk about areas you can grow into. Craft a plan for your future. Establish both short-term and long-term performance goals. Even if your boss doesn't want to formalize this, put everything down on paper so you have concrete objectives to work toward. Your conversation with your boss will let her know that you are forward-thinking and open to professional growth.

Keep learning. Studies show people are most happy when their brains are engaged in learning. Look for opportunities to develop your skills and explore new directions. Think beyond classes and workshops. Be a mentor to the new hire down the hall. Take on a project that's outside of your usual scope of expertise. Talk to people in other departments who are really excited about their work. You don't necessarily have to be learning something about your job,you could be learning something valuable about life. It helps to know how you learn best. Through reading? Talking to others? Observing? Doing? Go for the opportunities that mesh well with your learning style.

What if you've tried all these methods and still feel that you're in the wrong line of work? Now it's time to find a new job. See a career counselor. You'll probably be asked to take a career self-assessment test like the Campbell Interest and Skill Survey. A good counselor can help point you to an occupation that's a better fit for your interests, skills and personality. No matter what career path you end up choosing, there's one skill you'll bring with you for sure: taking charge of your own destiny. And nothing's more empowering than that.