You know that feeling you have when you first start a new job? It’s a mixture of excitement and challenge, nervous energy and high hopes. Everything is new, and opportunity seems to live around every corner.
At some point in your career, you may experience a deep desire to recapture those feelings. Sometimes, it takes a dramatic shift in your current circumstances—like finding a new job or an entirely new career. Other times, it requires a lot less.
Minor adjustments can often lead to significant improvements.
Below, you’ll find suggestions to improve your physical environment, your mental satisfaction, your social environment, and your overall personal fulfillment outside of work. Making just a few simple changes may shift your entire work experience dramatically. Give one (or several) a try and see what happens.
Improve Your Physical Environment
- Redesign your office space
Move the furniture, shift around the organization of equipment, or try a brand new layout. We all need to shake up our surroundings now and again. It helps rejuvenate us when we’re in a rut. Plus, your workspace says a lot about you. A positive improvement may be just what your career needs.
- Improve the atmosphere
Start listening to a little light music; bring in a small fountain and enjoy the gentle sound of running water; buy a few plants and take special care to ensure they have enough sunlight. A few unique touches will quickly elevate the mood of the space—and your own mood in return.
- Change your work schedule
Maybe you can come in an hour later and/or leave an hour earlier. A shift either direction can make a tremendous impact on your daily schedule. If you aren’t spending enough time with your loved ones or doing the things you enjoy outside of work, figure out when you could get the most quality time and make efforts to shift your schedule accordingly.
- Switch up your weekly routine
If you always go to the gym at night, start going in the morning. If you always eat lunch at your desk, start going out with friends. Move Monday tasks to Friday and vice versa. Breaking your regular routine will shift your perspective and make boring old everyday responsibilities feel new again.
- Ask for a change in pay or pay structure
If a major source of dissatisfaction comes from financial compensation (or lack thereof), consider asking for a pay raise…if it’s truly warranted. If that’s out of the question, your employer may be willing to try a performance-based pay structure instead. This would allow you to earn bonuses or commissions based on agreed-upon goals. This is a great alternative to a regular raise and many employers like the idea because it ensures they are getting something out of the deal as well.
- Transfer to a new location
If your company has multiple offices, a transfer may offer just the change you need: new people and new surroundings. Consider your options.
- Request more/less travel
Business travel is something that many people enjoy. Others simply can’t stand it. A little more or less in your schedule could make all the difference in your happiness.
These days, many organizations are happy to let employees work from home one or two days a week. Studies show that efficiency improves, as well as morale. All you need is an Internet connection and the ability to focus (which means you can’t try to work while also watching the kids). If your job could be done effectively virtually, consider trying this out for a small portion of your workweek. The shift in environment may have a wonderful impact on your spirits.
Improve Your Mental Satisfaction
- Develop a new skill
It feels so good to challenge yourself mentally and develop as a professional. Growth is one of the most satisfying feelings in the world. What skills do you need to hone to achieve your career objectives? Take a class, read a book, or simply offer to work on a task that stretches you beyond your current abilities.
- Tackle a new project
Sometimes, you get so used to your work duties and comfortable in your routine that you actually feel brain-dead by the end of the day. If this describes you, it’s time to push out of your comfort zone. Volunteer to take on a new project that forces you to do something different, learn something new, work with new people, or simply explore a new side of your professional abilities.
- Seek expanded responsibilities
Ask for more authority, and be willing to take on more! Again, it’s all about pushing yourself to the next level. With added responsibility, you may find that you actually care more about the quality of your work.
- Volunteer to take the lead
Leadership is often something that people shy away from. It can be intimidating to step up and be the one making decisions and being held accountable. Bite the bullet and take the lead in big ways and small. You’ll increase your visibility at the company and gain a new level of respect. Plus, you’ll stretch your skills, find new ways to communicate, and develop new relationships in the process.
- Evaluate long-term career goals, discuss them with management and develop a concrete plan for achieving them.
Career planning is something many people fail to do. They don’t have the time or the company doesn’t have a formal process for approaching the topic. Take the situation into your own hands. A plan will give you a tangible road map and, once management understands what you’re trying to achieve, you’ll find more opportunities come your way. Plus, as you begin working your plan, you’ll feel a great sense of progress and accomplishment.
Need help? Grab the Build Your Professional Development Plan workbook here
Improve Your Social Environment
- Join a networking group
Surrounding yourself with other career-minded people is incredibly motivating. You get to see what other people are doing and the things that excite them. Attending networking events will help you expand your horizons and open your mind to what’s possible in the working world.
- Join a professional association
Associations within your field and industry are great resources for education and networking. Don’t just join though—be an active participant! Attend meetings and events, and even consider volunteering within the leadership group. This can be a great way to re-spark your passion for what you do.
- Create a lunch and learn group
This is an easy, convenient and free way to collaborate with your colleagues, learn something new and have fun all at the same time. Pick a topic, ask everyone to bring their own lunch, gather in a conference room, and talk. You can leverage online learning tools (like my free webinars, for example), books and other learning resources. There’s no limit to what you can do.
- Get to know new people in the office
When new employees join the team, take them under your wing. Share your insider tips for success, help them meet new people, and be a sounding board as they acclimate. Focusing on helping others is a great way to get outside of yourself and shift your perspective.
- Start an office club
Many organizations have informal employee “clubs” where people gather together regularly to share a common interest. Here are just a few that I’ve seen:
- Walking Clubs: Members get together to take walks on their lunch breaks a few times a week.
- Books Clubs: Members pass books around library-style or all read the same book and then discuss it once a month during lunch.
- Lunch Clubs: Members bring food items to share (like a potluck) a few times a month and enjoy their meal together.
Please be welcoming with your club and allow anyone to join! This isn’t about exclusivity; it’s about camaraderie and building more work life integration. You don’t want this to become a clique.
- Organize an office charity event
If you have a cause you’re passionate about, consider hosting a charity event with a group in your workplace. This, of course, should be a voluntary activity—no one should feel pressured to participate. But you might find a small group of people who are all inspired by the idea. Maybe do a charity walk or gather toys for kids at the holidays. Shared service is an easy way to bond with your teammates.
- Invite a leader to lunch
Leaders have to eat too. Why not make efforts to connect with them by breaking bread together? You can probably learn a lot from the conversation. Plus, you may be surprised by how much more comfortable your relationship becomes once you’re back at work.
- Create a contest
A little friendly competition can be both motivating and fun! Set up a simple game where participants earn “points” for completing certain tasks or accomplishments. You might be able to get leadership to supply a small reward too!
Improve Fulfillment Outside of Work
- Take up a new hobby (or nurture an old one)
Life is not all about work. I know you’re busy, but hobbies have been proven (repeatedly) to be incredible tools for stress management. When you regularly engage in an activity purely for the enjoyment and fulfillment it brings, everything else in life gets easier.
- Volunteer in your community
There’s no quicker way to feel grateful for what you have than to help the less fortunate. A little time spent working in your community will shift your mindset completely. Plus, you may even develop some new skills you can apply at work, or meet some fabulous new professional contacts in the process.
- Go back to school
Education is not only motivating, it’s a great way to expand your career options. Plus, it will keep you crazy busy! When it comes to energy, the more you exert, the more you have. So, adding a big job like going back to school to your schedule may actually amp up your work enthusiasm as well.
- Take a vacation
Look, we all need time off to recoup. A well-spent vacation could be just what the doctor ordered. It doesn’t have to be extravagant though. A mini-vacation or even a stay-cation can do the trick. Just remember to do something that really feels different. When you get back to work, you want it to feel like you’ve been in another world! With any luck, the familiar routine you’re returning to will feel like an old friend—and you’ll be eager to get reacquainted.
- Start a workout regimen
Exercise stimulates endorphins and the feel-good chemicals in your brain. By incorporating even a small amount of it into your regular weekly routine, you’ll experience a greater sense of well-being. Plus, you’ll have more physical energy during the day, which makes work a whole lot easier to deal with!
- Start a side business
These days, the “side hustle” is a common thing. Many people rely on their day jobs to pay the bills, but channel their personal passions and creativity into side ventures. This can help release energy and—surprisingly—can make your everyday work-life more manageable as well. After all, when you’re actively following your dreams, you gain new perspective about everything in your life.
I know not ALL of these will work for EVERYONE. But try to find one or two suggestions you can implement. What have you got to lose?