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What Do I Do When I am Bored With My Job?
Q: "I'm a bored baby boomer in mid level management with no chance for
advancement in the foreseeable future. Some people, like my parents and
unemployed friends, say I should feel lucky I have a job, given the current
economy. But I wasn't raised during the depression when any position was a
"I like my boss, but his being only seven years older than I is a problem. He
has nowhere to go in the company, and he won't be retiring for another 15 years
or so. It seems the whole organization is full of people like him and me who
have a lot to offer and are quickly outgrowing their jobs.
"I'm not married to this firm, but I think my situation is a lot more positive
than many of my friends'. Short of leaving the company, what can I do to ignite
my enthusiasm and start feeling productive again?"
A: You're right when you say many talented people are stuck in their
organizations with no where to go. As you have personally experienced, the
career opportunities for baby boomers are not business as usual. People born
from 1946 to 1964 comprise a population bulge often called "the pig in the
python." This unusually large piece of demographics is currently filling our
mid level management positions and looking longingly at the higher levels of the
corporate pyramid, where there are relatively few jobs versus the people
qualified to fill them.
Adding to this situation are several other trends which serve to exacerbate the
Corporate downsizing in
an effort to be more globally competitive and increase shareholder
self-directed work teams, which are changing organizational
hierarchies to flatter, more democratic structures
Compression of mid
management layers, a result of downsizing, self-directed teams and
the information revolution
Most baby boomers have grown up assuming their lives will be better than their
parents'; they will make more money and rise higher in their companies.
Because of all the above factors, their once logical expectations have become
unrealistic. And, as you've noticed, some are worried about having a job, let
alone moving to an officer position.
But from adversity can come opportunity. Employees who are ready to embrace the
idea of managing their own careers will have a tremendous advantage over those
who continue to assume the company will take care of them. In the next few years,
we will see the emergence of the employee who has little loyalty to any
organization and is always prepared to take his portfolio of experience and move
on to a more promising position. He will think of his career as a small business
and his employer as his current most important client. Always mindful of which
assignments will add to his marketability, he won't allow himself to stagnate in
one job too long.
This trend represents a good news, bad news scenario. While the mutual
commitment and long-term perspective employers and employees used to share is
fast becoming an anachronism, their relationship is gaining in parity. The
parent/child duo is being replaced by a peer association, with each party making a
contribution to the others' well-being.
What do all these economic and societal trends mean to your career? You'll be
expected to discover and take advantage of your own opportunities or risk
stagnation or job loss. Here are some things you can do to empower (the latest
Human Resources buzzword) yourself:
Make the most of your current job. Evaluate everything you are doing in
light of its efficiency and effectiveness. If you aren't spending most of
your time on important and enjoyable activities, change your approach. You
may have lulled yourself into a comfortable rut if you've been on the job for
a while. Or, you may have inherited some techniques from a predecessor whose
style of management doesn't mesh with yours. By taking some time to ensure
you are using the smartest, most up-to-date methods, you'll enjoy yourself
more and increase in value to your company.
Once you've done all you can to improve current activities, consider proposing
a new project to your manager. Cutting costs, finding another source of
customers, improving quality or customer service, and increasing cooperation
among departments are all prime issues likely to facilitate colleague
A corporate task force is a great way to learn something new, expand your
visibility and add marketable experience to your portfolio. Some typical
task force issues include developing an interdepartmental MIS process,
implementing a total quality program, recognizing and encouraging cultural
diversity and building a customer-driven approach to product design and
marketing. If there is no task force, create one. There must be some issue
you genuinely feel deserves attention. Put together a proposal describing
the need and how the organization should tackle it. Present it to your
manager for approval. Then, with her okay in hand, solicit the backing of
the CEO, who has the power to make it happen.
Working on a task force is an excellent way to make contacts in other
departments who can recommend you for job openings. New challenges can come
from moving laterally when upward mobility isn't feasible. If you can't join
a task force, look for other company functions. Many firms have sports
teams, singing or hobby groups that are fun and filled with potential
in-house contacts. Making an effort to meet other employees at training
seminars, the company lunch room, etc. can open some doors for you, too.
If your organization has a good Human Resources department, it can facilitate
information interviews in areas that peak your interest. Just be sure to
tell your manager about your desire to transfer. Emphasize that it has
nothing to do with her management style. You want her in your corner when
the other department asks approval for your move.
Perhaps you should consider looking at other areas of your life for a new
challenge. A sense of achievement can come from personal as well as
professional arenas. This may be a good time to get more education. An
advanced degree or a couple of specialized courses can expose you to new
ideas, build your expertise and provide useful contacts. If the courses are
job-related, your company will probably pay for them. On the other hand,
learning more about history, wine, kayaking, investments, etc. can open a
whole new chapter in your life. This may be the time to find out more about
those "off the wall" subjects that have intrigued you for years, but you've
never had time to pursue.
Volunteer work is another way to rejuvenate your spirit. It can give you
opportunities to develop new skills, feel you're making an important
contribution to the community, gain visibility and, of course, make valuable
contacts. If you haven't volunteered before, consider the issues that
genuinely concern you. Then, pick an organization which addresses them. The
supply of volunteers is less than the demand for them. If you are really
committed to your work, you'll be given all the responsibility and authority
you want much more quickly than in a paid position.
In fact, you may become so involved with your volunteer work, you'll want to
take a sabbatical from your job and concentrate your efforts full time on the
community project. Many companies have paid programs for just this purpose.
For professionals who are bored or burned out, this temporary change of scene
can provide wonderful new experience and insight. Often it increases skills
that will enhance job performance as well.
Joining or forming a Mastermind group can also give you some fresh ideas on
how to get more satisfaction out of your career and life. Described in
and Grow Rich, a book by Napoleon Hill, the Mastermind embraces
the idea that the sum is greater than its parts. By gathering
together a group of eight to ten inquisitive and open-minded people, you can explore any subjects
you choose. Some Masterminds deal with career issues; others may discuss
global or community concerns. Participants become good friends and look
forward to their meetings as discussions reminiscent of college bull
sessions. Mastermind groups are fun and powerful.
Probably one of the reasons you're feeling bored is you've run out of
mountains to climb. If the only available topography at work is a few
measly foothills, set some goals for yourself in your personal life. Train
for a marathon; build a game room; research a family genealogy; find a
spouse. The list is endless.
So often we expect our careers to provide us with an identity and sense of
personal worth. Yet, work is only one facet of who we are. By taking a holistic
approach in defining success, we can uncover some fascinating challenges. In the
words of Auntie Mame, "Life is a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to
death." If you're feeling hungry, open your mind to the possibilities around
you. Life is too short to be bored.