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How to Love Your Job Even If You Don’t Like It

Author Kerry Hannon offers 10 easy ways to do it

A story caught my attention on the NBC Nightly News a few months back. It was about Clockwork Active Media, a Minneapolis, Minn.-based digital strategy agency and its 75 employees say they love, love, love to work.

Clockwork staffers can come in and leave any time and their vacation time is unlimited as long as they get their work done. Ice-cold beer is always on tap and the employees can bring in their kids whenever they want. “WE LOVE MONDAYS,” is emblazoned across the company’s home page and “it’s true,” says CEO Nancy Lyons.

Great for them. Most employees, however, aren’t so lucky. Just four in 10 are highly engaged, according to the Towers Watson 2014 Global Workforce Study. Little wonder that Americans are quitting their jobs at the fastest pace since early 2008, according to a U.S. Labor Department survey.

But I believe there are a few ways you can fall in love with your job even if you don’t like it right now. (In fact, I’ve written a new book to inspire you: Love Your Job: The New Rules for Career Happiness.)

When I hear people whining about their jobs or their boss I want to shout: suck it up! Do something about it. Stop being a victim. If you can make it work where you are right now, you’ll save yourself a lot of trouble.

Here, taken from my  book, are 10 ways to do it:

Challenge yourself to look for one area that would give you more joy at work and then make it happen.

1. Focus on what you like about your work and ramp it up. This will give you the strength to tackle the tough parts. Consider things like your coworkers, your (perhaps only occasionally) stimulating assignments, opportunities for learning, the respect you engender and the perks —  whether that’s cold beer or a 401(k).

2. Make a change — even a small one. Boredom is often at the root of unhappiness at work. So take a single step toward modifying what’s getting you down. Challenge yourself to look for one area that would give you more joy at work and then make it happen. If you persistently add worth to what you bring to the job, chances are your boss will notice and reward you for it.

One way to do this: sign up for continuing education or professional development programs offered by your employer. When you acquire knowledge, you notice the world around you. Your mind turns on.

As author Bruce Rosenstein writes in Create Your Future The Peter Drucker Way, it’s your responsibility to “remain relevant” in your work. Rosenstein told me: “Drucker [a management guru] believed that education never ended for a successful knowledge worker.”

3. Declutter your office. When people feel low on energy, often it’s because they’re not clearing out as they go. Their inbox is overflowing. Their desk is a disaster. Their file drawers are jammed.

Decluttering is liberating and empowering. Says career coach Beverly Jones: “You are saying, ‘This is valuable, this is not.’ It’s a physical, practical way to engage in making decisions about your life and what you want to do with it.” Getting rid of stuff brings a new perspective, she adds.

4. Find a positive image to inspire you and help you cope with a job. I call mine “going to my happy place.” I close my eyes and visualize a green field in the Virginia countryside with a sweeping view of the Blue Ridge Mountains. I go there in my head and sit. It calms me down, I feel peaceful and my attitude shifts.

If you want a more concrete focal point, tape a picture of a special image on your office wall, away from your computer and phone. That way, you’ll have to turn to look directly at it, which can be transporting. The very action of directing your attention away from your work opens up the door in your day for a respite, a restart, and a new view. It’s reviving and centering at the same time.

5. Volunteer — either through work or on the side. Helping out at a nonprofit gets you out of your own head and that swamp of negativity and lets you gain perspective on others’ needs. When the volunteer effort is initiated by your employer, it builds relationships with co-workers (and perhaps your boss), as you work side-by-side to make a difference.

Check with your HR department or supervisor to learn about volunteer projects that may already be in place and how you can get involved.

6. Get up to speed on your field. If you become complacent about trends, you’ll get left behind. Then, when new and interesting opportunities do arise at work, you might not be nimble enough to grab them.

Make a practice of reading trade publications. And set up a Google Alert to notify you about the latest news in your industry. Being in the know can inspire you to think of projects you might be able to nominate yourself for at work or start on your own.

7. Raise your hand and ask for new duties. Dissect your current position to pinpoint a new responsibility you can add that will refresh your focus and maybe even scare you a bit. Keep your ear to the ground to get the scoop on positions opening up or emerging projects — even if they’re short-term. Then throw your name into the hat.

Say “yes” to new assignments. If you’re worried you’re not up to the task, accept the invitation gracefully and with confidence and then get moving to figure out how to do it. The adrenaline will charge you up and when you succeed, the rewards will be internal and external.

8. Explore finding joy around the edges. For example, if you have a musical bent, form a band with a group of coworkers to play music or start an a cappella group. Maybe you can arrange to play gigs gratis at local assisted living and nursing homes or hospices.

As Richard Harris wrote on Next Avenue, The National Institutes of Health, for example, has the N.I.H. orchestra, drawing on the musical talents of its staff around Bethesda, Md. Marsh & McLennan Companies, a global professional services firm, has an employee choir: The MMC Chorale.

Alternatively, if your interests are more physical, join or organize a company team sport— say, softball, kickball, or bowling. Or create a walking, biking, or running group with co-workers.

9. Look into telecommuting. When it comes to what makes people love their jobs, this is a biggie. Telecommuting employees are happier, more loyal and have fewer unscheduled absences, according to a survey by outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

Working from home without a boss hovering over you also gives you more flexibility to get your job done when you want and how you want. In my own research and interviews with hundreds of workers, I’ve discovered that more flexibility in scheduling day-to-day activities leads to greater happiness on the job. And this is especially true as you get older.

10. Finally, laugh more. A recent Gallup poll found that people who smile and laugh at work are more engaged in their jobs. And the more engaged you are, the happier and more enthusiastic you’ll be. This won’t just trickle down to the quality of your work; people will want to have you on their team. Plus: couldn’t we all use a laugh?

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