We could consider this a stereotypical “Give Thanks” article written in reflection of the Thanksgiving holiday, but this year, at least for me, it’s a bit different. This year, the neighbors in my part of the Tri-State area are rebounding and rebuilding in the wake of superstorm Sandy and a subsequent Nor’easter. Many people have lost power, homes, and even loved ones. And while many have been devastated, still more have turned caring hands and minds to help clean up, feed, clothe, furnish, and/or house those who have so little.
I am constantly reminded of this harsh reality through Facebook posts, loose tree limbs in streets, heart-wrenching media barrages, and more. But there is another sobering reality to deal with: Many of us have jobs to which we must return.
For some, going back to work in Sandy’s aftermath can be difficult. With so much going on outside the office walls – so much that matters in a potentially life-changing way – how does one justify giving attention to the responsibilities of the workplace? How do you get back into your job when reality is so brutal around you? With all there is to care about, why should work even rank?
Of course there’s the obvious surface rationale: To earn a paycheck, to uphold your standard of living, to avoid asking friends or family for loans to cover food, clothing, shelter, and “stuff” such as iPads.
There’s also the need for individuals to evolve professionally. Without that continual mental challenge and development, it may ultimately be difficult to identify future career opportunities or even new paths to be explored.
So the why is there, for one reason or another, but next comes the how. How do you re-energize yourself? How do you get yourself back to work, while also caring about what you’re doing? How do you get your head back in the game without resenting everyone and everything around you? Here are some thoughts:
Go back to the beginning. Why did you start the career you currently have in the first place? What drew you to the job you’re in now, and how might that have evolved? What were you passionate about at the start? Sometimes we need to go back to move forward; to be reminded of why we started our jobs in the first place and re-establish a critical focus. If you started in HR to “make a difference,” remind yourself that making a difference is what you need to be doing. Getting back to the basics of your career can help you regain or even evolve your focus, giving you the guidepost you need to get back on track.
Reflect on the good times. If your initial career motivator doesn’t necessarily re-ignite the passion, think back to a day that made you happy; a time in your career when you went home with a smile on your face. A friend of mine once insisted that “a smile is contagious.” Maybe you just have to remind yourself of a time that made you smile in order to remember that happiness (versus the mundane or frustrating) does exist in your professional life. When did you make a difference? When did you inspire someone around you? It’s imperative to know what’s worked so that you can either continue it or bring it back to life.
It’s not all about you. If you are part of a team in your current role, you’re already aware that things get done with all, not one. Regardless of your level and position, you have people relying on you to complete your work. Not accomplishing your part of the task at hand leaves others to pick up your slack, which could reflect negatively not only on your performance, but on your interpersonal relationships at the office. Don’t let them down.
Embrace the big picture perspective. Your toner running out should no longer (nor ever) be the incentive for a tirade. Appreciate the perspective that perhaps the “little” things that drive you crazy about your job are just that — little. Allowing them to bother you and ultimately affect others can be unproductive. Work to overcome not only the frustration of minor issues, but also to fix some of them. Be your own solution. Sunlight streaming into your office and heating it up at 3 p.m. might not be as bad as you perceive it to be if you simply pull down a shade at 2:45 p.m.
Yes, there are things bigger than your job out there and larger than your career. What you do may seem insignificant in the scope of the ”real world.” It’s easy to lose focus and even begin to resent your current role or company. Bring it back to basics to see if you can get your head back into the game. And if you can’t, perhaps a change of venue or a new path is worth exploring. Life’s too short not to be thankful for what you have.
Christine Stack joined the media agency MEC in 2011 as Senior Partner, Director-Talent Acquisition; in that role, she is responsible for the creation, development, and delivery of strategies to attract and retain senior-level talent at the agency across North America. She is also a key member of MEC’s Talent executive committee.