It happens to the best of us. Maybe you’re having a bad day at work, or even just a “meh” day, and you’re checking social media to see how much better your friends are doing at their jobs. Maybe you’re fresh out of college, six months deep into your new job, and suddenly suffering a bad case of early career FOMO (fear of missing out). Maybe you’re taking that as a cue to jump ship already and start over somewhere else.
Don’t be too hasty, kid. Even the best jobs lose their luster after a while. If you feel stuck or burned out, look for these signs that you’re actually contented with your career.
Maybe you’re discouraged because even though you did really well in school, you’re really struggling in the workplace. But look at it this way: if you know everything you need to know about your job from day one, then you have the wrong job. The right job starts with you being at the bottom, knowing only the absolute basics. The point is to build yourself up from there. You’ve got to make yourself better every day, and that means being humbled once in a while.
Young people tend to be really impatient. Whether it’s because the Internet has conditioned them to get instant results or because of natural impulsiveness, millennials generally aren’t used to the idea of not getting immediate benefits. Just because you’re not achieving your goals today doesn’t mean you’re not getting closer to them. Great walls are built by laying one brick at a time. KPIs and work metrics may feel like inconsequential numbers right now, but they’re really the inches that add up to miles.
In school, students have a lot of chances to study, do practice exercises, and prepare themselves for the exams. In the real world, there’s no such thing. You learn on the job, so you’re making decisions, some of which are bound to be wrong. Does making a bunch of mistakes make you a failure? Edison famously said that he only invented the light bulb after finding thousands of designs that wouldn’t work. It’s the same with your job: the more shots you take, the closer you get to your desired results. Finding success often involves discovering the different ways you can fail first, and if your job lets you do that, you’re in a good place.
A great workplace to start your career in has solid feedback mechanisms in place. Sometimes you can’t see your own mistakes, so someone else has to point them out and explain them to you. Sure, your ego will get bruised. You’re not some kid whose hand needs holding, and it’s natural to feel irritated when someone tells you how to do your job. But set your pride aside and really think about the feedback. Will it make your job easier or make your work better? People, including you, just need an occasional cold dose of reality to improve.
If you’re constantly competing against someone at work, you may see that person as a thorn in your side. You may think you would be much better off without having to compete with that person all the time and just went at your own pace. But competition can be a great motivator. Maybe you feel like the job is too hard, and you can’t do it. However, seeing someone who can do it better can show you that it can be done, so you try harder or figure out what the other person’s secret to success is. Maybe you feel it’s too easy and you can do decent work without even trying. Seeing someone who can do it better can push you from good to great. Look at the situation through the lens of self-improvement and you’ll gain a better perspective.
Whether you’re trying to stay motivated in your call center career or going through lots of spreadsheets as a junior accountant, there’s a point where your everyday tasks could get really overwhelming. You may want to quit and do something easier. But ask yourself: “Would I be any happier or more confident doing another job? Am I doing something that puts me at an advantage over others?” If you really think about it and find that you’re actually doing what you can do best, and you have the best possible opportunity to distinguish yourself, then you’re on the right professional trajectory.
Businesses are increasingly embracing the idea of diversity, so chances are you’ll be working with people from all walks of life. Most likely, the company you’re working for is even more culturally-varied than the population of your old university or college. Dealing with personalities you’re unfamiliar with takes you out of your comfort zone, and you may be wondering whether you’ll do well in a place where cultures can clash. The truth is that the best ideas come from diverse teams. And the best companies look for people who know how to deal with different personalities, see things from different perspectives, and can manage individuals to form solid teams.
Being uncomfortable with people is one thing, but having to deal with their different interests and agendas is another. A lot of people don’t like office politics and drama, but it’s just a fact of life. Even if you’re all working for the same company, you’ll often find that the marketing team wants to promise clients the moon, while the operations team wants to keep production schedules very manageable. Whether you’re a member of a particular department or someone who’s arbitrating a conflict between teams, learning to negotiate will help you develop emotional control, verbal communication, problem analysis, ethics, and a lot of other valuable soft skills.
There’s a lot of value in having loose connections. Sure, you may not see the sense in maintaining contact with people you’re not really friends with, and can’t see yourself being close friends with them. But if you think about your long-term goals, which would probably involve having the option of working at another company, having a lot of acquaintances can be a big help. Maintaining a professional relationship with clients, coworkers, and other people can lay the foundation for a network of contacts that you can rely on for professional support. It’s ideal to have opportunities to build those bridges in your current job.
Do you have a habit of talking about work at home? Do your housemates or your family often roll their eyes, finding themselves the unwilling listeners of another tirade about how decentralizing client communications at work would increase productivity, or how there needs to be a better screening process to minimize time and money spent on training new employees? If you find that you just can’t shut up about work, even if it seems like you’re complaining, take a second to think. Maybe you’ve found something you’re really passionate about.
A lot of people have doubts and worries when it comes to their career. Choosing what you want to spend the rest of your life doing is a big decision, especially if you’re thinking about what others expect from you. Just remember: there are many ways to tell if you’re on the right career track, and it doesn’t have to be a straight path. Journeys of growth involve plenty of detours.
This is a guest post by Aby League. Aby is a passionate writer and researcher. She owns About Possibilities blog and writes mostly about health, psychology, management, and technology. Get in touch with her via @abyleague