Job Talk: When you've lost zest for your work
Dear J.T. & Dale: How do you advise someone in a helping profession to stay charged and current, day after day? It takes its toll, and I see a high percentage of people who are disengaged and who seem to have lost their effectiveness. — Stephen
DALE: Your question reminds me of a transformation in my work life. A decade or so ago, I made a conscious decision to change the question I asked myself from "What do I have to do today?" to "Who can I help today?" Huge difference. That's when I realized that work at its highest level is helping, so we're all in your boat, Stephen. Once you get used to thinking of working as helping, then there are follow-up questions: "Who else can I help today?" and "How else can I help?" There's energy to be found in new ways of doing old work.
For instance, I once profiled a cancer-treatment clinic experimenting with ways to uplift patients' spirits. One simple example: They installed a bell for the patients to ring after their final radiation or chemotherapy treatment. Every time that bell rang, a cheer went up around the clinic. Patients soon began to talk of "three more sessions, and I'll be ringing that bell." Beautiful, no? However, I'm sure that after a while the employees did not feel the same charge when hearing the bell. What then? Time to try something new.
J.T.: The key word there is "new." The best way to "get back that lovin' feeling" is to disrupt your daily routine. You might be able to do it within the job, but you may need to go further. Can you take a class? Ask for a different assignment? Eventually, though, you might reach the point where it's time to move on. We have a belief that we should stay with the same job in order to be stable and secure. That thinking is outdated. People with fulfilling lives tend to constantly reinvent themselves. What I'm saying is that what's holding you back from making a change is the same thing that's making you unhappy. There's a saying that "life begins where your comfort zone ends," and maybe it's time to choose to be uncomfortable.
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Dear J.T. & Dale: I want to relocate back to my hometown, but I need a job to be able to do so. How do you go about networking when you don't live in the area? I have family there, but they can do only so much. Although I am planning to pay for my own relocation costs, I've applied for several jobs but don't get any interest. — Joan
J.T.: Remote job search has become easier now that you can do a lot of the work online. Start by being clear on what skill sets you possess, then research all the companies in the town that would need someone with those skills. From there, see if your friends and family can identify people they know who work at these firms. Your goal is to set up a short phone call — not to ask for a job, but to ask the best way to prepare yourself to be seen as a fit for the company. Next, schedule some visits back home and try to set up in-person informational interviews. That way, when you see a job posting that fits your skills, you'll have someone you can ask for advice to get yourself considered, and they even may be willing to recommend you for the position.
DALE: Employers have a reason to discard applications from out-of-towners, and it isn't just a matter of relocation costs. People who have recently moved often get homesick and move back, or have other adjustment problems. That's not an issue for you, and you need to make it clear that you are not merely relocating — you are coming home. Given that most people are proud of their hometown, helping you get back will be a pleasure for them, and they likely will help you make connections. I'm predicting that your relatives will soon be putting up a "Welcome Home, Joan" sign.
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