John started his career as a software developer. A bright and hardworking engineer, he soon rose to become a senior analyst and then project lead and project manager. After having spent 12 years in the same organization, he was managing multiple projects, and to certain extent some of the technical aspects (his former love) of projects.
This seems like a pretty good place for John to be in.
But he wasn’t happy. The spark of the past wasn’t there anymore. He was doing many things alright, but essentially he was managing chaos on a daily basis. John needed some change.
If you have been working in a same role for a long time, one of two things might happen –
a. You have mastered the role and set yourself into a comfort zone
You will love what you are doing and probably expect things to happen in a certain fashion as it has happened over the years – if it doesn’t, you tend to fluster. The risk with this situation is that if there is an organizational shake up, or a low-cost younger workforce is available, it can threaten your position. Or, sooner or later you might slip into situation #b below.
b. You are bored doing the same thing but trudge along somehow
May be your job is too broad (having to do many things) or too niche (there isn’t an easy replacement available). But you do not have the enthusiasm to do the same stuff day in and day out, you move along because there are no alternatives available.
Things need not be the same. You might be able to leverage your experience and reinvent at least some aspect of your job, rekindle that zing and start enjoying your work again.
It starts with introspection.
What am I looking for in my work?
This is often the million dollar question. Many people just rush to get a job, and go with the flow, without thinking whether it gives them the job satisfaction, or the opportunity to grow.
Ask yourself these questions –
- Do I enjoy working with people or am I a lone warrior? – neither of these are better or worse than the other.
- Do I like to spread myself on multiple things, or dive deep and solve a problem? – managerial role is more suitable to former type of person, while technical role suits latter personality type.
- Do I love talking to customers and solve their problems?
- Can I work with lot of ambiguity or do I need a predictable environment? – a line manager position might be more suitable for former personality type, while staffing position is more suitable for latter personality type.
SWOT Analysis is a great way to assess where you stand.
Once you have identified strengths and weaknesses, you will be able to identify what profile suits your job expectation. One that helps you work from your strengths and involves least amount of your weaknesses.
When there is a match between job type and your strengths, job becomes enjoyable and you will be able to excel in it.
Do not hesitate to make a track switch
Once you have figured out what type of job you will enjoy, do not hesitate to make a track switch if there is an opportunity. If you have been in technical role and you figure that you love giving solutions to clients, then a sales or business development role may excite you.
Make sure you take the opportunity if it is presented to you. If not, find a mentor in that profile in your company, someone senior and more influential and offer to help apart from carrying out your current work. This is a great way to get exposure, and create opportunity for you to move into that role.
Mentor someone in your team
Young might have different perspective than yours on the same subject or work-specialization. They often have fresh perspective and bring in newer ways of thinking. These often give rise to better solutions that you can use your expertize to bring to fruition.
Mentoring or coaching is a way to learn and it gives innate satisfaction or fulfillment. Mentoring helps you execute some of your ideas, see what works and what does not. It also builds your replacement so you can move on to better roles once you get the opportunity.
“When One Teaches, Two Learn.” – Robert Heinlein
As we work for a long time in a role there may come a point where we start craving for different kind of challenges. It could be taking different kind of responsibility in the same company, or even a different profile altogether.
While the latter is more risky, it just takes more planning and learning, and can be made to work – as long as we have the interest and commitment.