Upcycle Your Career

So, it’s Sunday night and your Facebook newsfeed fills with half a dozen “look out, Monday’s coming” memes and you sink slightly deeper into the sofa. Monday morning and another week at work loom. This is not the way life should be. Does that mean it’s time for a new job? Fresh start? Maybe not. Before you dust off your CV, have you thought about upcycling the job you have? 

No, I’ve not read too many lifestyle mags over the Bank Holiday. Upcycling isn’t just about taking the tired and ugly looking sideboard and turning it into a sophisticated shabby-chic talking point for your living room. The principles apply just as well to life as to furniture. 

Your job, the one you have now, could be fabulous. You applied for it, wanted it, worked for it and got it. You were probably thrilled when you heard and maybe celebrated with your friends or family. And now you’ve fallen out of love with it. So how do you upcycle your job and get that magic back?

1) Remind yourself what good looks like. Ask yourself what was happening when things were great. What were you doing? What were other people doing? And how does that differ from now? We all get dragged into a rut from time to time. It could be that home pressures are squeezing the time we have and work is getting squashed. It could be that a change of personnel – whether that be colleagues or the boss, has unsettled things. Maybe you’re simply bored.  You can’t get the magic back until you know what is missing.

You could stop at this point, and having taken the time to yourself what good looked like, you may already having a little action plan in mind to get back there. But this is about upcycling your job, not recycling. 

2) Having looked at what good looked like in the rear-view mirror, try looking forward to what you want it to look like. Do you know what it is that you want now? There is no point in seeing the current doldrums as a sign that you need a new job if you don’t know what it is you are looking for. Any new job that came along right now would tarnish quickly and you’d be just as disillusioned in six months’ time. Picture your job the way you want it to be. Imagine the bits of the job that give you a sense of achievement and look at that job from every angle. If you can’t picture what good looks like as a whole, think about what it is you enjoy at work and take the components as a starting point. 

3) What do you need to get there? Having looked at the job from every angle, hopefully you will have started to identify the gaps between where you are and what you want. 

At this point, please don’t tell me that you have decided that what you want your job to look like involves David Beckham. We’re upcycling what we’ve already got here! And, yes, I know it’s not always as simple as that. There are tools you can use for step three.  

Do you use your appraisal? Appraisals are a two way process and are not just about how much your pay award is going to be. If you’re in a rut maybe you could use that as a tool to change things. If your boss doesn’t know that you’d rather work in Early Years, you can’t blame them for leaving you in Year 6.

Have you identified development needs that you have? Can you ask for training in the area that interests you as a stepping stone to something better? By “better” I don’t necessarily mean promotion, but I mean making your job the one you have fallen in love with all over again. 

At this point I can hear you complain that there is never any money in the budget for training, but if we’re upcycling a career we might need to be creative. Can you arrange to shadow someone who does the job really well? Can you do voluntary work or research yourself? Are there books you can access online, or through a library that will add to your skills? 

Training is not just about someone booking you onto a nice course with a good lunch, it has far more to do with opportunities for learning. Those are often free and easily available if you look. 

Have you checked out your job description? Most of us do the same sort of things each day at work partly because it’s habit. I looked at mine recently and surprised myself with a few of the things that I’m supposed to be doing when “the day job” doesn’t get in the way. 

If you’re upcycling, perhaps one of those little done tasks has piqued your interest? Use your appraisal to talk to your manager about how you can do a little more of that. You’d still be doing “your” job, but maybe a few more of the bits that make your eyes gleam, and maybe you won’t dread Sunday night so much. 

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