Monday, November 19, 2007

Use Time Off for Job Reflection

Probably the last thing you want to do on your Thanksgiving break is think about work. And yet it intrudes into your thoughts, whether you want it to or not. You wonder how many email messages are piling up; how the boss will receive the report you left; and whether you're still in the running for that promotion.

OK, you’re going to think about work whether you want to or not. So why not channel that mindset into something productive? Like taking a mental step back and really considering where your career is at, and where you want it to be.

Consider, for example, whether you’re happy. Not happy just sitting there eating that second piece of pumpkin pie, but happy at work. How do you feel about your job? Is it something you look forward to, something you endure (kind of like your grandmother's fruitcake), or something you truly hate?

These and other questions are not easily answered when you’re running a meeting, rushing to meet a customer’s order or doing reports at home. These are questions best answered when you can sit back, relax, and let your mind and heart work together.

For example, maybe you’ve been thinking about quitting your job, but haven’t really considered the reasons behind it. Look back over the last year. Has something changed that has made you feel unhappy at work? Maybe you’re required to travel more, or perhaps you’ve gotten a new boss that is giving you a hard time. Make a list and decide what must change in order for you to enjoy going to work, and then whether you’re willing to work for those changes in order to stay put.

Or, maybe you’ve been thinking about starting your own business. What do you see yourself doing? Who would be your customers? Do you have the financial and professional resources to make it a success? Can you receive moral support from family and friends?

At the same time, sketch out where you see the business in the future, what resources it would take to get it off the ground, and what failure would mean to you both personally and professionally.

And while you’re considering your career, look into your crystal ball and try and predict where your employer will be in the next year. Considering industry reports, the economy, and your own observations, do things seem solid? Many times those who have been laid off say they never saw it coming, until they reconsidered all the warning signs they ignored. Do you have a game plan in place if things begin to look rocky?

Also consider your time away from the job to think about how you feel -- deep inside -- about your work life. Are you committed to what you’re doing? Are you able to stay focused on your goals, or are you often distracted and depressed? If anger and resentment are present more often than not, maybe it’s time you were honest with yourself about your job. You may realize that your work is making you really unhappy, but you're afraid to give it up because you've grown accustomed to the lifestyle it can give you.

Maybe you can't come up with the answers to all these questions right now, but it's important to take the time to try. Often, we're so busy hacking through the forest that we forget to climb to the top of the trees from time to time to see where the heck we're going. So, find some time between all the eating, shopping and football to do just that.


Rick said...

Very helpful post, Anita! Especially if you have a four-day weekend ahead of you, take some time to be alone and ponder the questions posed in this post. If you conclude that you’d like to improve your work situation by looking elsewhere, update your resume, looking especially at where you would like your career to go. If you’re spending a lot of time with family this weekend and it strikes you that you’re happier spending time with them than at work, you’ve just told yourself that your work/life balance may be a bit out of alignment. Or, if it’s late Sunday afternoon and you’re already feeling angst about the workweek ahead, there’s another telltale sign that you need to update your resume. And maybe you’ll feel better at the same time.

The bottom line: Take advantage of the respite that a holiday weekend offers you. It’s a good time to take a detailed inventory of your work life.

Anita said...

All good points...not to mention that over the break you're likely to be with people who care a great deal about you and they can sometimes be just the sounding board you need to sort things out.