You need to be aware of a significant career management danger. In this tough economy and job market, your professional expectations may be unmet. Whether it is job satisfaction, career development or job search success, things may not be going your way. When this happens, there is a natural tendency to disengage, to unplug. You go through the motions, but part of your mind is elsewhere; unfocused.
You can instantly recognize people who are fully engaged. They are focused, working on what is most important at that time, and committed. And you can recognize those who are not. Which are you?
Why your head should be in the game
Here is what happens when you aren’t fully engaged. Your efforts are scattered. You don’t do your best, which hurts you and hurts your employer, colleagues and clients. With one foot out the door and one in, you are dissatisfied which often negatively impacts your personal life. You are certainly not using your talents to their fullest. You are wasting your precious time and may be a productivity risk to your employer. You aren’t making a difference. In short, you are sabotaging your career.
Certainly, we all have days when our motors just aren’t running at full speed. That’s fine. What you should be concerned with, however, is identifying if you are habitually disengaged, and if so, resolve to snap out of it.
What can you do about it?
1. Diagnose yourself
Take a page from Dr. Phil and accept reality. Is your head really in the game or not? Here are some statements to test yourself:
* I am frequently or always dissatisfied with my work situation and I haven’t done anything concrete to resolve it
* I tend to complain, put the blame on others, or I have developed a cynical attitude
* I always have one foot out the door, keeping my options open, but never acting on them
* I jump from job to job, assignment to assignment without really settling, or making a difference
* I haven’t made a noticeable difference where I work or the projects I work on
* My performance barely meets expectations, or worse
* My mind wanders during my work day and I have trouble focusing and delivering on projects and responsibilities
* I feel bested or outclassed by colleagues or customers when I am discussing work-related things. I don’t have a lot to say.
* My presentation is weak, sloppy or lacking direction
* I don’t have a plan as to what my next steps are from now, going forward
If you answered yes to 1 or more of the above, then follow the remaining steps.
2. Try and figure out why
One way to do that is to review your history. Is this the first time you have been in this situation or is it a recurring pattern? If the later, then the chances are that it is you rather than your environment. If the former, what is it about your current situation and environment that is causing it?
3. What choice can you make right now that will make a difference?
A common reaction is to identify some large change and focus on that as the answer to our lack of engagement. “If I only had this job, or worked for this company, then I would give 110%. " Maybe. But what about today?
We choose how we react to our environment. What can you do today? Here are some things you can do:
Change your attitude. A reality-check can do wonders in changing behavior. Refocus.
Go deep. Overreact. Throw yourself into your work or job search. Do your best. Immerse yourself and see what happens.
Identify what motivates you and focus on building that. See if you can inject more of those motivations into what you do. In particular, those things which align with the priorities of your employer, or your own business.
Find the good in your situation. What can you identify about your job or situation that is positive? Be thankful for what you have.
Identify what the key success criteria are for you, for your employer, colleagues and customers. Determine how you can be successful in the current environment and focus on that.
4. Medium-term strategies:
Go internal. Build on what you have started in the short-term. How can you turn this situation around and be a rousing success story?
Adjust your expectations. Goals can be energizing if we actively pursue them, or a real drag on our energy when we keep them alive without making progress towards their fulfillment. Resolve to pursue those goals that mean something to you and dump the rest.
Make a change. If you need to make a change, do it. But, do it with determination, passion, and focus.
Get help. If you recognize a long-standing pattern of behavior and believe that its roots run deeper than career management issues, then seek qualified, professional help.
Special Advice for Job Seekers
As a job seeker in a tough market, you need to be engaged on at least two levels. Obviously, the first level is applying yourself with focused determination to the process of the job search itself.
The second level is less obvious. You must demonstrate that you are fully engaged in your industry, profession, or particular specialty. Believe me, you will stand out more if you ooze commitment to your profession. See Creating your own Opportunities for some ideas.
Being engaged or not is the ultimate personal choice. It requires consistent, daily resolve to back it up. Not being engaged is self-sabotage. Get in the game!
Ian Christie is a career coach, entrepreneur, former Monster.com Sr. Director & former executive recruiter. Ian is a career expert with many published articles and media interviews. Visit BoldCareer for free career resources & personalized career services.