4 Ways to Stop Coasting at Work and Feel More Challenged

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You work eight to 10 hours a day, five days a week, wracking up anywhere from 40 to 50 hours in the office. With only 168 hours in a week, 56 of which you (hopefully) devote to sleep, you’re spending nearly half of your waking hours on the job.

Don’t you want them to be worth your time?

No one should need to tell you to choose a career you enjoy, but many people still consider this a luxury. In my experience, feeling challenged at work fuels that enjoyment. This may sound irrational, since challenges usually make us think of a struggle, but without challenges, we never grow or improve.

Is your job making you feel challenged, or are you cruising on autopilot?

5 Signs of a Challenging Job
If you’re challenged at work, you’ll feel the impact both inside and out.

•    Temporally: You already know that time flies when you’re having fun, but the same can be said for being challenged at work. When you’re devoting yourself to worthy work, the workday goes by quickly.

•    Intellectually: “Boredom” is no longer part of your vocabulary. Your day-to-day tasks stimulate you on an intellectual level, and few things seem tedious or mundane.

•    Mentally: The intellectual stimulation constantly keeps your mind engaged, so after a day of work, you feel mentally drained in a good way.

•    Emotionally: The thought of going to work doesn’t bring you down. It doesn’t seem like drudgery, and your mood is consistently positive.

•    Professionally: In the back of your mind, there should be a slight feeling of being underqualified for your role. This isn’t a bad thing. You know you have room to grow, and these feelings push you to challenge yourself.

When these “boxes” are checked, you develop a sense of professional fulfillment. It’s important to reflect periodically to make sure you’re headed in the right direction, but when you feel fulfilled, you don’t question your role every day. Your focus is on the tasks in front of you and growing within your job.

4 Ways to Find New Challenges at Work

If you have yet to feel challenged at work, you’re not without options. While you may be working for someone else, you still have the power to take control of your career. Perform a self-evaluation of your job performance on a regular basis.

•    Schedule weekly debriefings. Carve out 15 minutes at the end of each week to look back at what you’ve accomplished. Identify which projects and activities challenged you professionally and which made you feel like you were spinning your wheels to gauge which facets of your job need to be addressed to make your workday more fulfilling.

•    Check in. Schedule regular meetings with your manager to discuss your job. In many cases, management is unaware of issues until you bring them to their attention. During your check-in, ask for additional work, more responsibilities, or to be considered for a new role within the company.

•    Expand your skill set. Make yourself available to take on work from colleagues in other divisions. You could even suggest instituting a job rotation program. Here at AlphaSights, we rotate people through cross-divisional teams, helping them develop new skill sets.

•    Find another job. If you’ve tried everything and still don’t feel challenged, it may be time to consider working for a different company or even striking out in a new industry.

Once you take the steps to uncover the hidden challenges and opportunities of your job, you’ll begin to reap the benefits.

•    Professional growth: When you’re constantly challenged, it’s hard not to grow and pick up additional skills. You’ll also develop a deeper understanding of your industry, which enhances your value and your potential for career advancement.

•    Inner drive: If you’re challenged, you’ll begin to push yourself a bit harder. This doesn’t necessarily mean working longer hours. Rather, you’ll work more consciously and deliberately. Each day, you’ll feel more engaged and want to do well for yourself and your employer.

•    Sense of fulfillment: With each challenge and professional success, you’ll find a confidence that your time spent at work wasn’t wasted. You’re contributing and providing something of value.

•    Personal growth: Professional growth, combined with mental engagement and genuine happiness, makes you a more well-rounded person. Your professional and personal challenges are not burdens, but chances to pursue growth and achieve your goals.

Finding a career that can challenge you to develop new skills and grow should be your top priority. The personal and professional benefits are well worth pushing yourself outside your comfort zone. Rather than feeling stagnant or overworked, you can find a fulfilling balance of using your current abilities and reaching for your ultimate career goals.

Written on 3/10/2014 by Stirling Cox. Stirling Cox is the managing director of AlphaSights USA, a company that connects today’s business leaders with the insight and expertise they need to prosper. The company assists a global client base, including private equity firms, asset managers, strategy consultancies, and corporate executives, in making more informed decisions.

Photo Credit: miuenski miuenski

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