Welcome to the Texas Exes career blog. Here you’ll find thought-provoking, actionable career tips, hints and exercises designed to help you manage your career. Comments? Questions? Ideas? Email us!
Top 10 Ways to Survive a Soul-Sucking Job
Many of my clients have been there. Honestly, I’ve been there. You go to work Monday through Friday to a job that feels like it is slowly sucking the life out of you. It is negatively impacting you at work and, even worse, it is having a negative impact on you outside of work. You dread Sunday evenings. I called it “the blue flu.” I felt sick on Sunday nights with the thought of having to go into work the next day.
So what can you do? Quit? Yes, of course. However, for most people, quitting without another job lined up isn’t a financial option. What can you do in the meantime to survive this soul-sucking job? Here are some tips that can help ease the pain until you find that next position.
1. Remember the Bigger Goal
First thing in the morning, remind yourself of your bigger goal: to find the job that fulfills you. Start the day by writing, reading or stating your goal out loud. Post your goal in places you will see it right when you wake up and throughout your day.
2. Password Power!
Use your computer password to your advantage. Choose a short phrase that reminds you of your goal. We typically type in our passwords several times throughout the day. Use your password to remind yourself of the bigger goal. Here are a few to try… YouareAWESOME88 TodayIStheDay1
3. You Have a Choice
Your perspective or approach to the day can be the key to surviving even the worst situations. While it doesn’t always seem apparent, you have a choice about how you want to approach the day. Set an intention of how you want to approach your day and how you want to show up at work.
4. Meditation Station
When your day feels overwhelming or at its worst, take a 5 minute meditation break. There are great phone apps you can use. Calming your mind can help you when the situation at work seems bleakest.
5. Attitude of Gratitude
To contrast the soul-sucking nature of the job, be sure to keep a gratitude list or journal. Remind yourself of those things in life you are grateful for. This list can go a long way in making your day seem more bearable.
6. Show Me the Good
Find the good in your day. It may just be a quick conversation with a colleague or the ability to answer a client’s question quickly. Recognize and savor those good moments, however few and far between they might be.
7. Add What is Meaningful
Identify activities you can add into your work day that might be meaningful. For example, perhaps mentoring others is a meaningful activity for you. Find out if you could add in a 30-minute mentoring session for a younger colleague once a week. This one activity could provide you with a sense of fulfillment that is lacking.
8. Tap into Your Values
Our values give us purpose and meaning in our lives. Spend some time identifying your values and defining them. In evaluating your next job, make sure your values are aligned with that job. It can make a huge difference in whether the job feels fulfilling to you or soul-sucking.
9. Use Your Support Network
Identify a “cheerleader” in your life and put her or him to work. Give your cheerleader specific ideas of how they can help you. For example, emailing you a bad joke every Tuesday morning, or sending you funny YouTube clips 3 times a week could be just what you need to bring some levity to your day.
10. Partner Up!
We all need help when we are making a big change. You are not alone! Find an accountability partner in your support network to help you through the process of getting a new job. Tell that accountability partner how you want them to hold you accountable and how they should approach you if you miss deadlines. They can partner with you to complete your career transition, especially when the process gets overwhelming and difficult.
While none of these tips can instantly make a soul-sucking job seem fulfilling, they are small steps that can really make a big difference in how you feel about your day, how you approach others and how you approach your life.
About the Author: Amy Wolfgang
Posted: April 2017
Not Satisfied With Your Job? Get Your Marbles Back.
“How did I get here?” I hear this question often from my clients. Typically this conversation is in regards to their job or organization, but it could easily be a question related to their life or a relationship. It is a question that is often asked.
In some of the cases, my clients are wondering how they got to a point where they are not engaged in the work with their current organization. They joined the organization with high hopes of the contributions they could make, the challenges they could tackle, the professional development opportunities, the cultural fit, their relationship with their manager, etc. However, now it no longer feels fulfilling. They don’t know why or what went wrong.
The Marble Jar
Oftentimes, we talk about this scenario through the lens of Brene Brown’s concept of “trust and the marble jar”, though mine is a slightly different take here. We discuss the concept of when they started at the organization or in their new position, they were given a jar that was full of marbles. Over time, some of the marbles were taken out of the jar. The reasons why the marbles were removed vary for each individual, though it could be because:
- they were reprimanded by their manager in front of others
- they were promised vacation time but received emergency calls throughout their time off
- they were promised projects that did not come to fruition
- training opportunities were removed
- their manager was not open to their new ideas
- team members acted disrespectfully toward one another
Over time, though, some marbles were likely added in as well. For example:
- they were put on a project that developed their skills
- they were recognized for their contributions on a project
- a client sang their praises to their manager
For some individuals, though, more marbles came out of the jar than were put back in. It doesn’t typically happen all at once, however, I will get to that scenario later in this post. If each year, more marbles came out than were put back in, the marble jar may only be half full or less. This is typically when my clients recognize the pain of being at an organization or in a position that does not fulfill them.
What are your marbles?
Now is the time to start exploring. First, it is important to understand what your “marbles” are. These are unique to you. They likely come from:
- your values
- your goals
- the work environment you want to work in
- how you develop/maintain relationships
- your perspective or outlook on life
Then, tackle the following questions:
- What is the likelihood that more marbles will fill your jar in your organization/position?
- What needs to be done? Will it happen?
- What is your level of willingness to stay at an organization that continues to take marbles, but is not filling them back-up?
- What are your thoughts on finding a position/organization that may keep the marble jar more than half or three-quarters of the way full?
- What level of risk are you willing to take to leave the current organization/position for the opportunity to find a better fit? What are your ideas on how to mitigate that risk?
When your marble jar is smashed.
For some of my clients, they had a fairly full jar of marbles at their organization and then one day it was smashed on the ground. This happens through demotions, layoffs, company acquisitions, etc. When this is the case, it is extremely important to recognize and process the loss that was experienced. Many of my clients want to move straight into “action” at this point. They want to put the marble jar back together as quickly as they can. However, in order to move into intentional action that will get them to the right place to refill that jar, they first must work through the loss. It is an important step that can’t be overlooked.
This concept of trust and the marble jar, as outlined by Brene Brown, can easily be used with individual relationships, friend relationships, romantic relationships, etc. It can also be applied to many parts of your life. I really resonate with the visual she described and I hope it provides you with a useful metaphor to look at your job, your life, and your relationships. Comment below if you have recently had marbles added to your jar?
About the Author: Amy Wolfgang
Posted: March 2017
How to Set Career Goals for a More Successful & Productive Year
This is the time of the year when many of our clients want an objective take on their annual or quarterly review from work. In many cases, my client’s goals are at the heart of a poor annual review. Here’s my list of ways to work with your goals in order to get a favorable review and find greater job satisfaction at the same time.
Create your own goals for the year
Your manager may help you create your annual goals, however, those are not the same as your personal career goals. Write your own goals and focus on what will make you more successful, what will make you happy, and what areas of improvement your manager identified the previous year.
Set SMART goals
SMART stands for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound. Force yourself to document your goals using these criteria and you’ll significantly increase your chances of achieving them. This exercise should drive the tactics you choose.
Set realistic goals and tactics
Your goals should be something entirely within your control. “Increase revenue by 50%” is not a reasonable goal. Instead, make smaller goals that you can control that, in turn, may produce bigger results. For example, “Call in to 50 accounts by February 28” is something you can control and realistically achieve.
Set calendar reminders to review your goals
Schedule calendar appointments every two months or every quarter – schedule them for the entire year. Put reminders so they prompt you to stop your regular work and revisit your goals. For each goal, ask yourself:
- How close am I to achieving this goal?
- Where am I coming up short?
- What new tactics do I need to make better progress toward these goals?
- Does my manager know about my progress toward these goals?
Track your progress
Track the progress you are making toward your goals. Make sure to document results and achievements when they happen. It’s much easier to remember your great achievements in real-time than to try and remember them at year’s end.
Find a mentor or accountability partner
Accomplishing your work goals is not easy. In some ways, it’s like trying to lose weight or start a new exercise routine. So find a friend to do the same goal-setting exercise and then meet with that person to review each other’s progress. Alternatively, you can find an individual who will hold you accountable for meeting your goals. (Someone besides your boss!) Knowing you have to answer to someone can be good motivation.
Collaborate instead of isolate
Many people think that working on career goals is something they are supposed to do alone. That’s not the case. If someone asked you to build a 2-story, 2,000 sqft house would you do it all by yourself? You would find experts in architecture, wiring, foundations and so on and solicit their help. In the same way, find people in your network or consider a career coach that can help you figure out how to accomplish your goals, even help create your goals.
Address obstacles blocking your job satisfaction
What do you dread about work? What frustrates you or makes you unproductive or unmotivated? What is keeping you from achieving your goals? Identify the root causes, think of solutions, and present them to your boss. Don’t delay.
My last tip is to regularly review this list and make sure you are on track. One of my clients printed it out and claims he will hang it on his cubicle wall – that’s not a bad idea! Either way, take your goals seriously and don’t treat them like your manager’s goals. They are yours and once you take ownership and focus on achieving them, you’ll be rewarded with a better annual review.
About the Author: Amy Wolfgang
Posted: February 2017
Engage the Being & Doing to Make a Career Change
As humans, we constantly strive to balance our two states – the being and doing.
The Being is who you are and includes self-reflection and developing awareness of yourself, your thought patterns, behaviors, etc.
The Doing is what you do and includes the actions you take and the plans you put in place, etc.
Personal and professional development requires engaging both the being and the doing. Self-reflection and self-awareness are key before an individual can take intentional actions toward their goals. They are intertwined.
Taking action without awareness can potentially take you down the wrong paths. Self-awareness without action will not push you forward towards the goals you want to achieve.
Many career counseling clients come to us seeking a change in their careers or lives. Most are predisposed to want to take action. They ask:
- What can I do differently?
- What should I be doing?
- Here is what I’m doing; what am I missing?
They want to “do”. Doing is important.
However, the doing side cannot be done without considering the being side.
- Who are you? Who do you want to be?
- How do you want to feel? What are your values?
- How is your life and career in alignment or out of alignment with those?
This self-reflection is necessary so that the actions you take are intentional and in alignment with who you are.
Jumping to the doing side typically feels good. We can cross things off our list. It feels like we are making progress. Oftentimes it is easier. These are tangible steps we can easily wrap our mind around. They make sense to us.
Oftentimes, the being side is not as easy.
It stirs emotions and thoughts in us that have been set for a very long time. It can take a lot of internal work to uncover these old stories, old patterns, and old beliefs. It can take even longer to rewire our brains - to create the new stories - to reshape our old patterns.
It can feel overwhelming and difficult. It can take a long time without feeling as though you are making visible progress.That’s what makes it so easy to then shift back to the doing. That feels better.
It feels like we are making progress. In many cases we are getting external validation that we are making progress, i.e. a job interview, a promotion, etc. However, the being side doesn’t go away. The work that needs to be done is still there.
Remember that two sides need addressing when you are looking to make a change in your life or career. They need to be in balance.
If you are feeling drawn to the doing, doing, doing; stop and ask yourself what inner work needs to be addressed first. If you find yourself stuck in the being side; you may need to engage a friend, family member or professional to help you move out of that stuck place into some doing work.
Engaging both the being and doing sides will help you make you successfully make a career change.
Posted January, 2017
Author: Amy Wolfgang
4 Checkpoint Questions for your Career
When you are dissatisfied with your career, what questions do you ask yourself before looking into your next career step? When you are happy with your career, what questions do you ask to make sure your career is on the right path?
In June, I attended the National Career Development Association (NCDA) Conference in San Antonio. One of the speakers at the conference discussed how a career management plan can be viewed in terms of “check points”, specifically, the four questions you are asked at a checkpoint to enter another country.
I expanded on these broad checkpoint questions and listed sub-questions below to help you drill into your next career-related steps. Ask yourself the following questions and record your answers. Do this exercise at least annually in order to learn more about what you bring to the table and what you are looking for in the next steps of your career.
Career Management Checkpoint Questions
Who are you?
- What are your personal characteristics and traits?
- What do you value?
- What interests you?
- What does your ideal ‘day off from work’ look like?
What do you have?
- What knowledge, skills, and abilities do you have?
- What is your educational background? What certifications do you have or professional development completed?
- Most importantly, what have you done with the skills, knowledge, ability and education you have?
Where are you going?
- What are your goals in the next six months? In the next year? 3 years? 5 years?
What are you going to do when you get there?
- How will you use your newest opportunity to help you meet your ultimate career goals?
- What projects are you going to seek out?
- What people are you going to try and meet and for what purpose (mentoring, networking)?
- How can you tailor this latest opportunity to ensure you are gaining the necessary skills for your next career step?
Career management ‘plans’ can seem daunting. However, you do have time, once a year, to ask these important career-related questions. Take the time to assess the answers, realize how they changed from the prior year, and determine the steps that can alter your career path to meet your current needs and goals.
At some point, create your own checkpoint questions and add them to the ones above.
Posted December, 2016
Author: Amy Wolfgang
About the Author: Amy Wolfgang
Amy Wolfgang is a leadership & career coach and owner of Wolfgang Career Coaching – the Official Career Services Partner of the Texas Exes. We have served over 2,500 clients and have hundreds of 5-star reviews. We offer exclusive services and pricing for Texas Exes members looking for 1) executive coaching and leadership development, 2) career development and long-term career planning, 3) career transition and career exploration, and 4) job search strategy, resume writing, interview preparation and professional branding. Learn more at www.WolfgangCareerCoaching.com and schedule your free 30-minute career consultation.