Before unhappily going back to work in the new year, think about this

You used to love going to work (or in the hybrid world, doing the work) and was inspired to find solutions to your challenges, says Anja van Beek, talent strategist, leadership & HR expert. You used to thrive on that energy. But now, you are struggling to focus and you find yourself wandering on social media, Tik Tok or Pinterest, counting down the time to close your laptop.

You could also be secretly scrolling through job portals in the hopes to search for inspiration for the rut you find yourself in.

But, it isn’t as clear-cut as you would want it to be, especially in the current climate where you should ‘just be too happy to have a job’. Let’s be honest – the past year had its unique challenges – from working while being at home, homeschooling your primary school child(ren) and managing your full-time job as well. And to top it, the expectation to be ‘innovative’ adds another layer to this complex situation.

A Microsoft survey of more than 30,000 global workers showed that 41% of workers were considering quitting or changing professions this year. That’s a very high number.

There are a variety of reasons why team members are looking for a change in what some economists refer to as the “Great Resignation.” The pandemic shifted some employees’ priorities, pushing them to seek a “dream career” or move to be a stay-at-home parent. And then there are the colleagues that decided to quit because of how their employer treated them these last 18 months.

Enough has been said that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side… but rather water the current garden you have, especially in a country that has such a high unemployment rate.

While you still have the opportunity to find inspiration and a new love for what you do, here are a few recommendations to revitalise your current job.

1. Get a mentor (or two)

Many of us can vouch for the benefit of having a mentor. Conversations with an experienced person to soundboard your ideas and to learn from their life and career lessons are priceless. There is a lot of value in taking the lessons shared and finding understanding and appreciation to impact your decisions and career choices.

What I have learned from my mentor are the benefits of building a network and how to embrace the currency of generosity, this simply means to be open to share knowledge and be helpful without expecting in return.

I had more than one mentor… one with a specific HR, functional perspective and another from a broader business strategy and personal perspective. My HR mentor has guided me on how to handle sensitive matters; some tricky Industrial Relationship issues and how to handle them with a human-centric approach not only a tick box exercise where you let someone go.

2. Find your spark

By finding meaning in your work, you can have a significant impact on optimizing your performance. The key skill to enhance your personal agility is purposefulness. When you focus on your inherent strengths and passions you will be able to better identify how to use these to benefit and contribute to the wider team. This will have an immediate impact on your sense of making a meaningful contribution which directly impacts your sense of belonging.

As professionals, we are tempted to “fix” something, meaning we focus on our weaknesses, instead of building our innate strengths. To discover your innate strengths, make a list of activities that you do during a normal week.

Record which activities make you excited, the ones where you are lost in time. Things that you do effortlessly, should be an indication that your natural strengths.

Now that you have identified your strengths and gifts, share them with the world. Consider how you can serve others. Sometimes a change of scenery is all that is needed to find that spark. It could also be that you feel more energised when you help others. For example: assisting a different cross-functional team with a major project.

This could also help your reputation to be a reliable and valuable resource and help to trigger some newfound energy in your problem-solving capabilities.

3. Find the ‘self’ in leadership

How are you directing the energy you use? How do you choose to see the world? By practising daily to consciously choose how you look at the world, will influence your thinking, feeling and actions. This is a critical aspect when you want to revive your job.

Our brains are like Velcro – noticing (and sometimes, obsessing) about the negative first. Be intentional about finding the benefit in your role and the value and impact you are making for the clients and team members.

Another step of self-leadership is to consider if you are being biased. A bias is simply an automatic response we use to navigate the world to react quickly without thinking. What mental shortcuts do you have in place that impacts the way you view your current role and may need some adjustment?

For example, if you are in a brainstorming session and you tend to like or dislike a suggestion from one of the team members, ask yourself: “If this suggestion was made by someone else, would I also like or dislike the idea as much as I do”.

4. Build the blocks in your (career) mosaic

The traditional way of career pathing is outdated. A concept we teach in Agile HR is called a career mosaic. This means careers are much more flexible with a focus on individual development and a value-add to both the organisation and a person.

You should take ownership of your development — don’t wait for a manager or an HR initiative, and start a conversation about your future and be open about your aspirations and dreams.

In closing, consider the role of self-care when reviving your role and career. Ask yourself if you have sufficient habits in place to be resilient and operate in a high-performance mode. Selfcare is a critical component and solid research back the benefits of nourishing your soul with journaling, silencing the mind and mindfulness.

One of my coaching clients, a mom of two boys, which is heading up a successful department, mentioned she doesn’t have time for herself. She laughed when I suggested doing an exercise of mindful breathing for 20 minutes a day. After a few months of coaching her, she now lives for her 20minutes of ‘me’-time.

Consider what you can commit to? Perhaps 3 x 5 minutes of mindful breathing, perhaps a morning routine which includes some exercising. Decide what works for you. You need to invest time to create daily rhythms and routines you can benefit from. These rhythms and routines will support you to be able to cope better with the challenges you find in your career and as a result, you will then find joy in the career journey.

  • By Anja van Beek, talent strategist, leadership & HR expert

Read: Business Talk – Georgina Barrick on the post-pandemic workplace in South Africa