Let’s face it — not many of us will ever land our dream job. Instead, most of us find some acceptable compromise between salary, perks, job security, schedule, and job satisfaction. We don’t expect to have it all; we just want balance. But what happens when external obligations make you feel trapped in a job that you can’t stand?
What Does “Making Difference” Mean?
Everyone has moments when they ask themselves, “What am I doing to make a difference? Does what I do really matter?” Unless you work for a charitable organization, finding meaning in your work can be elusive.
Making a difference doesn’t have to involve grand gestures. People make small differences every day, even when their work isn’t intrinsically altruistic. Simple kindnesses such as a pleasant greeting or words of encouragement when a coworker is having a rough day can have significant impact on the well-being of others.
Positions, titles, and salaries don’t determine influence. Actions do. Never underestimate your potential to influence others in a positive and meaningful manner.
Find Your Gifts
We generally find happiness and satisfaction when we’re able to fully use our natural gifts. Everyone is exceptionally good at something, but not everyone has a job that plays to their strengths. Unfortunately, some managers aren’t good at steering employees toward their potential. So it’s up to you.
Write down five things that you’re very good at and find some way to apply them to your work, even individually.
Widen Your Focus
Is your career at a standstill? So what? You don’t have to be, even if your career is. You are not your job, but neither are you separate from it. As hard as we might try to compartmentalize our work selves from our private selves, all parts of our lives overlap and blend.
Bring your personal goals to work. When frustrated with on-the-job tasks, shift your focus to self-development and away from concerns about where your career is or isn’t going. When you move forward personally, other parts of your life tend to move along with you.
Let Life Teach
Use job-related setbacks as teaching moments by relentlessly pursuing their underlying lessons. A bad day at work can teach you all kinds of things about yourself when you’re able to step away from the situation and review it dispassionately.
Look for opportunities to expand your knowledge in ways that will make you more marketable. Always be alert for prospects both within and outside your organization. Keep an open mind; life can take you in directions you’ve never imagined.
All of us at one time or another loses sight of our values. When work has you down, it’s often a sign that you’ve strayed off course in some larger sense. Find some quiet time alone when you can give thought to prioritizing what matters to you and formulating a plan for getting the most that you can out of life. You may find the things that have been bothering you the most aren’t as important as you thought they were.
Whatever your circumstances, you’re not trapped forever. Don’t let your present situation prevent you from developing skills that will lead you to something better. Visualize where you want to be, and plan how to get there. You never know when doors will open, but you can always be prepared for when they do.