How to find that motivation to jumpstart your career
Ennui. That feeling. When your career is at a comfortable state — you’re getting paid on par with what you’re expected to do at work, or at-least you’re satisfied with the monetary variables and find solace in the daily mundane routine of your workday — or when you’re too comfortable in your job — knowing your work, stakeholders, professional relationships, industry and ecosystem fully well , and there’s nothing else left to learn per say — you might get into a state of inertia. I’ve felt this at a few times in my career — it’s not a bad thing, but only you can know how this feeling impacts your personal life, your purpose and the ‘why’ of your life.
You might feel un-inspired, de-motivated, lethargic even, lacking of purpose, de-energized towards your work, team, company or all three. Various factors might contribute to it — lack of energizing work, lack of work even, lack of visibility from your leadership towards the work, too uninspiring a team culture, company lacking competitive advantage or not innovative enough, bad bosses/management/leadership, work becoming mundane due to you being an expert at your job, no new learning opportunities, lackluster culture, not able to move the needle on company’s goals or not being able to make a measurable impact through your current work etc.
When you acknowledge that there’s something lacking in your job/role that you cannot stand anymore, but at the same time are having a hard time to extricate yourself from, how do you get your Mojo back?
#1 Leadership coaches & Therapists (Counsellors) —
I initially spoke to my therapist one evening about the ennui I had been feeling in my career. She dug into the reasons and my past experiences which might potentially influence the feelings I have this time around. It felt good to talk about in detail the factors leading up to my dissatisfaction and lack of morale. However, the resounding outcome of that conversation was for me to find inspiring people (read : mentors and/or sponsors) who I can connect with and learn from — more of that in point #3.
I also connected with a leadership coach, who conducted a simple exercise with me — understanding my career value wheel i.e. (a) identify the top 5 or 6 factors that’re of utmost importance for me in my career (b) map them out as 5–6 pies in a wheel (c ) color-code a portion from each of the pies to depict how each factor is being satisfied by my current role/team & (d) there you’ve it — the reason for your dissatisfaction with your career/role is delineated out in a pie-chart format for visual articulation. You can find a similar representation of the career-wheel here.
All in all, coaches and therapists might help you to deeply understand and articulate the nuances of what is missing in your career that is causing you the frustration and ennui. They can also provide you with some tools and strategies that you can partake to start making small changes in your life that can help bring back the zest in your career, or can provide you with the truth (harsh reality) that you’re shying away from. As they say, truth liberates us!
#2 Understanding the root causes of dissatisfaction
The value-wheel exercise that I mentioned above can provide valuable insight into what is causing you the discomfort, demotivation or inertia in your career. If any of the factors that you value in your career (eg. team culture, challenging projects, new problem spaces, a great boss, smart people around you etc.) are missing (or aren’t completely available to you right now), this gap can cause slow rupture in your sense of purpose at your job, which will further deepen the sense of ennui in your career.
Hence understanding root-causes of your dissatisfaction can help you either fix the factors that are “lacking”/”less of” in your career, or can provide you the clarity required to get out of a muddy situation fast.
#3 Mentors & Sponsors —
This is a no-brainer, and potentially a solution to almost all our workplace/career challenges and concerns. Mentors (guidance providers) and Sponsors (proactive advocates) form an integral part of our career fabric, since they can influence our trajectory to a great extend by providing us the knowledge, learnings, insights and advocacy we may need to solve challenging problems or climb the proverbial career ladder. However, in order to abolish the ennui in your career, maybe you need somebody who’s really inspiring and a motivating force for you.
Think of somebody who you really want to emulate or get inspired by, somebody whom you find interesting and want to learn from, someone who then also has your best interests at heart and wants to actively promote you in their network. These relationships take a lot of time and engagement to pull off, but the effort is worth your while, especially if it can get you out of your career stalemate.
#4 Small Actions
One of the ways to tackle this career inertia might be to take small actions, or have an actionable realistic goal every month. For example, it might as simple as identifying leaders you want to connect with (just identifying, not connecting with them as of yet, if that seems too daunting), having a coffee chat with one person outside your industry, or connecting with someone new from your sister team etc.
The purpose of these small actions is to help you snap out of your career inertia, albeit in a steady manner, lest you further retreat into your cave like a hermit crab. Some actions that you can get inspired from —
- creating a blog-post (around career lessons, expertise etc.) once a month
- interviewing one industry leader once a month
- starting a newsletter, with a commitment to post one short post every two weeks
- reading & summarizing industry articles every week for your teammates
- attending a virtual or in-person conference/event every month (or every couple of months)
- identifying stretch opportunities in your team ecosystem that you can potentially start helping out with
- tagging/saving new roles/opportunities on LinkedIn
#5 Paying attention to opportunities
Last but not the least, paying attention to what’s getting your attention is key to proactively start making a headway into solving your career crisis. Being in-tuned and conscious to your needs and interests will lead to you making intentional choices about your career.
If you think you’re reading up a lot about, let’s say, chatGPT, or are following up on the news about OpenAI, and are curious to explore a project of your own around LLMs, then maybe you need to explore this path further and become attentive towards it. This way you can direct your energies into the opportunities you’re more passionate about, and take tangible steps to achieve those goals.
If you’ve stories to share about your career crisis, how you tackled those, and regained your sense of purpose in your career, please comment below!