DEAR J.T. & Dale: I’ve been at the same job for 10 years, and I’m totally bored. However, every time I look into doing something else, I realize I can’t afford to switch careers. I’m getting more depressed by the day; it’s hard to get out of bed in the morning. I feel like it’s affecting my attitude at work, too. What should I do? – Brad
J.T.: That’s definitely a concern. I’ve seen many people grow resentful of their jobs, turn bitter and then get fired. Don’t let that happen! To start, get your finances in order. To free yourself of the golden handcuffs, you’ll have to cut expenses and start saving. At the same time, start looking at jobs that would let you pivot in a new direction. Even a similar job at a new company might reinvigorate you. Don’t think that you have to make one big, sweeping, perfect change to your career. There is nothing wrong with going through an exploratory phase.
Dale: Meanwhile, how about exploring the option of not being bored? After all, what is boredom? For one, it’s the opposite of surprise. When was the last time you surprised yourself by coming up with new ways to do your job? Doing so is possible, even in a corporate environment. I spent years in corporate life, and I eventually found it stultifying. In response, I persuaded the company to undertake some exciting new computer modeling, which required me to spend a few days in Manhattan every month. Nothing boring about that. And part of that same job was giving presentations, so I joined Toastmasters and tried to be the best presenter in the company. Then I volunteered to get more involved with the ad agency, just because they were the most fun people. On and on. I’m not bragging; I’m trying to convince you that boredom is the smokeless detector – boredom is the silent alarm that lets you know when there’s no fire. Answer that alarm.
J.T.: Nicely said, but let’s face it: Not every company is going to welcome the sort of experimentation you suggest. So, Brad, you may need to seek out another employer. Moreover, you owe it to yourself to determine whether you need a more fundamental career shift. This is a good time to consider career coaching. Just as many people benefit from a financial analyst to help them make better investment decisions, many people need the expertise of a career coach to think through their options. I work with some great coaches, and you can learn about them at careerHMO.com.
Dale: Good idea. But boredom is a habit, and it will follow you. Start playing around with your job, and you might discover a new career.
Dear J.T. & Dale: I was at a big nightclub a few weeks ago and ran into a co-worker whom I’ve never been friendly with. He’s really annoying, and people at work can’t stand him. However, at the club, he was relaxed and funny, and we’ve gotten together since. But now, around the office, he’s acting like we’re best friends. I don’t want to be associated with him at work, and I find I’m alienated, too. Advice? – Cristie
Dale: Workplace cliques are anti-team, bad office politics and bad business. You are wise to recognize the problem; after all, a good corporate politician is aware of all social relationships and how they affect the group dynamic. Nevertheless, your goal is to refuse to take sides. You want everyone to think of you as an ally. You want everyone to know that you are the ultimate team player, always working to bring everyone together. Become known for asking The Question: “How can I help?”
J.T.: And let’s apply that question right here. It sounds to me like your co-worker could use some advice on how to make a better impression at the office. Is this something you could offer? Imagine what you could do for him that would make the attitudes toward him change. Before you decide to write him off at work as a way to save your own reputation, why not try to help him improve his?
Jeanine “J.T.” Tanner O’Donnell is a professional development specialist and the founder of the consulting firm jtodonnell. Dale Dauten resolves employment and other business disputes as a mediator with AgreementHouse.com. Please visit them at jtanddale.com, where you can send questions via email, or write to them in care of King Features Syndicate, 300 W. 57th St., 15th Floor, New York, NY 10019.