- Manage expectations
In work, as in love, the best way to prevent disappointment is to adjust your expectations accordingly. In a broad sense, if our job is the thing in our lives most closely tied to our identity and sense of purpose, we are engaging in risky behavior every morning when we sit down at our desk. It’s wonderful, and lucky, to have a job that so closely resonates with your passions and joys, but resting all of your goals on your career puts a lot of the control in the hands of others. To manage your expectations on a day-to-day basis at work, set limits and boundaries on your actions. Schedule your time to be divided accordingly on certain projects. Put parameters on out-of-office work tasks to help maintain a healthy personal life. Understand that the expectations you have for yourself may be vastly different from your colleagues.
- Develop your expertise
Again – in work, as in love, it’s important to be well-rounded. You don’t want to date someone who’s a good listener but terrible at other adult behaviors. As a professional, you want to be able to adequately perform a large variety of tasks, and specialize in a few. You shouldn’t expect yourself to be an expert at everything, but you can realize where your natural abilities, experience and preference already intersect, and then work to elevate that skill. Don’t force yourself to spend lots of time on tasks that you’re not great at, unless they are specifically stated in your job responsibilities. If you focus on what you’re good at and are able to do more of it, you will shine.
- Let your interests drive you
If you work within a large department, chances are there are committees formed to tackle certain issues. If you love organization, join a committee dedicated to digitizing documents or streamlining processes. If there is a task force committed to bringing healthier food options to your area, ask to serve on the board if you’re passionate about the cause. You can reap a handful of rewards from this activity: you’ll interact with your coworkers on a different level, strengthening those relationships in new ways; you’ll get to break up your day with new thought processes and situations out of the norm; and you’ll become a better spokesperson for your organization, since you’ll have a clearer picture of all of the issues your department touches.
- Shadow and ride-along
For those in the beginning of their career, frequent advice is to say ‘yes’ more often. When a new task or responsibility needs to be absorbed, employees can feel pressure to assume it, even if it’s far outside the scope of their job duties and an unrealistic time commitment. Saying ‘yes’, to a certain extent, should be part of your office behavior, but there is another way to insert yourself in multiple work areas without assuming too much responsibility for new tasks. Reach out to other divisions or departments and ask if you can shadow them for an afternoon. If you have colleagues who work in the field or within the community, ask if you can ride along with them for a day to see what their job is really like. These experiences can strengthen others’ perception of you while you gain hands-on experience about the reach of your organization
- Form bonds with others
Affinity groups, also known as employee resource groups, are one avenue to meet new coworkers and strengthen relationships based on common interests or characteristics. This is a formal route to bring your personality into the office, which provides a certain level of structure and risk avoidance that’s desirable to most people. Typically, these groups are employee-led and independent, so you may need to take the initiative to get the ball rolling. Many government entities are already doing this, including the State Department, U.S. Census Bureau, the CIA and the EPA. Talk with your HR department about the possibility of starting a group.
How do you love your job more? Leave your own tips in the comments!
Kim Schoetzow is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.