A lot of what makes us happy at work is beyond our control. Autonomy, for example, leads to higher productivity and job satisfaction, but if your boss won’t let you have a say in how your day is structured or your projects evolve, there’s not a lot you can do to change it. Ditto for your boss his- or herself – it’s unlikely that you have much input into hiring the person who tells you to jump and then specifies how high. Money, too, is something we can only influence so much; you can be the best negotiator in the world, but if the budget isn’t there, you’re not getting a fat raise.
So what can you do to make your job more fulfilling and your days more interesting? Focus on the things you can control, without getting buy-in from your manager or the cooperation of your teammates.
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- Be on time.
If you’ve ever tried to get a meeting back on track after arriving late, you know how important this one is.
“Being on time is one habit that accomplishes two very important things?—?it melts away stress and improves relationships at the same time,” writes Andrew Merle at Motto.
- Keep your own goals in mind.
Working as a member of a team means being willing to put others ahead of yourself, but if you get into the habit of doing that all the time, you’ll wind up stressed out with nothing to show for your labors. Remember, when it comes time for annual reviews, you’ll be judged on how well you achieved your goals – not your teammates’.
- Be loyal to yourself.
Similarly, don’t confuse the company’s goals with your own long-term professional ones. If you love what you do (in the sense of your larger career, if not always your current job) it’s easy to start identifying with the company. That kind of loyalty is in your employer’s best interest, but it’s not always in your own.
It’s satisfying to feel that your work is in the service of something bigger than yourself. Just remember that if it were financially prudent to lay you off, your employer would do so in a heartbeat. You need to be similarly ruthless.
- Remember that every job is temporary.
Even if you stayed at the same employer from graduation until retirement, you wouldn’t have the same job by the end of your tenure. That would be true, even if you kept the same job title, because roles change as the market evolves and personnel turns over and companies shift focus.
Of course, very few of us will find ourselves in the same job for decades, which means that it’s even more important to know that things change. Assess your job satisfaction based on today’s circumstances, not how things were when you were hired. It’s possible that your position has evolved into something that no longer satisfies you. Admitting that, and looking forward, will make you immediately less frustrated than trying to pretend things are the same as they were.
- Know your worth.
Even if you love your job, it’s important to keep on top of how much your skills are worth on the job market. Why? Because you never know when an opportunity for a promotion or a raise might appear – and when they do, you’ll want to have an idea of an appropriate salary range for your role, and the one that might come next.
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