Learn to Love Your Job

You love your spouse, your child, your dog and maybe even the person who walks your dog. But how about your job? For some, it’s a love that’s hard to find.

Most of us spend at least eight hours a day, five days a week at work, so there’s a compelling reason to change things if professional satisfaction has eluded you. Fortunately, with some effort you may be able to turn a so-so job into a fabulous one. Here are five tips to get you started:

Create your own job description. People rarely find positions tailor-made for them; the happiest professionals have molded their duties over time to suit their talents and interests. If you relish certain components of your job, seek out ways to increase these activities—and downplay the areas you dislike. Most managers want their employees to optimize their potential and will support these efforts, as long as they produce results.

Set a target. Do you know what your next step up the career ladder will be? Establishing a tangible goal provides a sense of purpose—:a key component of job satisfaction. It also helps you advance in your profession. If you haven’t done so already, consider where you want to be in the next five years and how you are going to get there. Achieving your objective may require taking classes, finding a mentor or enhancing your interpersonal skills. The steps you take will not only build your self-confidence, but also strengthen your chances of earning raises and promotions.

Pal around. Those who are happiest in their jobs tend to have developed friendships with coworkers. This doesn’t mean you have to spend all of your free time with your colleagues; in fact, many on-the-job friends rarely socialize outside of the office. Forming positive personal relationships with several people whom you trust and admire is gratifying. They’ll serve as a built-in support system when times are tough and increase the amount of enthusiasm you feel for your work on a daily basis.

Manage stress. Some work-related stress cannot be helped, but all too often anxiety is self-induced. Rule No. 1: Don’t worry about things you can’t control. If you’re fretting that your boss won’t like that report you spent all week preparing, stop right there. If you did your best, let it go and direct your energy elsewhere. Another good practice: Confront challenging projects head-on. It’s tempting to procrastinate when you have a particularly difficult or unpalatable task on your "to do" list, but the sooner you tackle it, the faster you can move on. And finally, take periodic breaks, even when you’re especially busy. You may think you’re saving time by skipping lunch, but stopping to recharge will help you feel refreshed and focused on the task at hand.

Take a chance. Professional growth entails smart risk-taking. Often, an action that can advance your career—such as requesting a raise, giving a public presentation, inviting your boss out to lunch or taking the lead on a high-profile project—will fall outside of your comfort zone. While it’s perfectly normal to fear failure, don’t let negative feelings deter you. Immense satisfaction can be gained from overcoming personal challenges and breaking new ground.

Obviously, these tips won’t solve more serious barriers to enjoying your work: You may never be happy in a job with no growth prospects or a manager you can’t seem to get along with no matter how hard you try. However, if you enjoy your workplace overall but feel a lack of passion for your job, taking steps to enhance your day-to-day experience can turn it into a richly satisfying career.

The Creative Group is a specialized staffing service placing creative, advertising, marketing and Web professionals on a project basis with a variety of firms.