In 2013 an OECD report found that more than 14 per cent of Australian workers put in more than 50 hours a week, which is way above the OECD average of 9 per cent.
An Australia Institute study found that Australians work the longest hours in the developed world with an average of 1,855 hours at work each year, which is 200 hours more than employees of other countries.
Of course many professions are also renowned for long hours, which means you could be working even longer than the numbers found in the report.
However you want to look at it, we probably spend the majority of our lifetime at work. Which of course means there will be times in your career where you might feel stale or bored, and lose enthusiasm for what you are doing.
Often that might mean you have reached a career crossroads, when some serious consideration is required as to what your next step is. But sometimes it’s just the grind that gets you down, and perhaps there are ways you can regain your vim and vigour, without throwing in the towel and completely changing direction.
Here are some ideas on how you can reinvigorate your career.
1. Learn something new
The brain loves to learn. When we stop growing on a personal level, it impacts our enthusiasm and energy levels. Many people I work with are also natural “learners” in that this is a crucial aspect of their intellectual, professional and personal wellbeing. So doing the same thing day in, day out, without expanding knowledge or experience can be a real drain on the brain.
Of course you could always learn a new aspect or area of your professional expertise, but you could also take the learning outside of work and expand your knowledge in a completely different area.
I have coached many people over the years who have felt their career has been reinvigorated simply by doing something new outside of the office.
Maybe it’s time to do the photography course, or the creative writing course you’ve been talking about. You might even find it leads to a whole new career.
2. Take a career sabbatical
If you’ve been working for a number of years it might be time to take a longer break (ie longer than 1 month) to explore some other personal or even professional opportunities. You might decide to go on a volunteer vacation, where you can learn new skills and help a cause at the same time. Or maybe you will travel the world with the family for a couple of months.
Don’t be afraid to ask for time off, unpaid if necessary.
3. Go on secondment
If you work in an international, or even a national organisation, make sure you check out all of the opportunities available to you. I once coached an in-house lawyer who had worked in London, Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne with her company over a period of 8 years, and her next move was going to be the US.
You could also look at a client secondment, or just a different department within your organisation. Change is good for reinvigoration and shaking up the routine.
4. Expand your network
Get yourself out and in amongst different people. Join a new networking group, a sporting group, a book club. Meeting new people exposes you to new and diverse ideas, opinions and potential opportunities.
5. Become a mentor
We all have experience that is worth sharing. Offering your time to help more junior professionals, even if they’re not in your field, is a rewarding way to help you feel as though you are contributing to more than just your own career and growth. Look at formal mentoring programs run through Universities, associations and industry groups.
6. Do more of what you love
Often we become so attached to our routines we forget to stop and take stock of what we are actually doing every day. The chances are there are parts of your role you are doing that could or should be delegated or even ditched all together!
A simple but effective tool I use with my clients is the Love and Loathe List. Take a notebook, split the pages in half, down the middle vertically. On one side make a note of every task/thing you do in a day that you LOVE and on the other side make a note of every task/thing you do in a day that you LOATHE.
While no job is perfect, the more you can do the things you love, the more engaged you will be in your role and the happier you will be outside of work.
For example one client I worked with did this exercise and realised everything she loved was client and business development related. Yet she was spending all her time behind her desk, not getting out and meeting people. Some simple tweaks to her schedule and a renewed focus means she is much happier and also doing what she does best – bring in work!
We all get bored. We all get itchy feet. Sometimes we may even get disillusioned. But before you throw the towel in on a successful career, take a look at what is causing the unrest, and shake things up a bit by trying some of the ideas above.
[This post first appeared as my Career Column in the August edition of The NSW Law Society Journal.]