5 Ways to Fall Back in Love with Your Job

UPDATED: September 30, 2015
PUBLISHED: February 13, 2015

Chris was done, over it. His boss was frustrating and his commute to the office unbearable. So after months of unhappiness, of dreading work, he wanted to find a new job.

Friends asked him what he was looking for. “What do you really want to do? What’s your dream job?”

Chris wanted to work at a place where he’s always learning, where there’s room to grow… something that’s flexible and has great benefits. Sounding off, Chris said, “I want to be a part of a successful, respected company. That’s my ideal job.”

His friend quickly retorted, “So kind of like the one you have today—only different?”

Chris was learning a lot. He had flexibility, telecommuting to be available for his kids’ doctor appointments and school events. His benefits were exceptional. And he was working for an organization with a strong reputation. But over time his frustrations consumed him and his interest and commitment faded. The excitement, the affection, wasn’t there anymore. But could it be again? Could Chris renew those feelings about his job?

If you think you’re falling out of love with your work, see if you can rekindle the spark you felt at first interview, before you decide to break up and dig into that gallon of Rocky Road.

Here are five ways to fall back in love with your job:

1. Remember the first attraction.

You initially chose this job and company for a good reason. What swayed you?

There once was a rancher who wanted to sell his ranch because it was too much work. So his real estate agent wrote up a listing that included beautiful pictures of the property. The rancher read the description—rolling green meadows, a sparkling pond under the shade trees and a large backyard fire pit and picnic area for family get-togethers—and realized that the ranch was what he had always wanted. It had just become so familiar that he almost forgot. He decided not to sell but to make changes to reduce his workload.

We have the same familiarity in our work. Remember what you first saw in the opportunity and decide if what first attracted you is still there.

2. Write down your frustrations and flag the “fixables.”

Look at your frustration list and separate those that can be changed or influenced from those that cannot.

If you are a consultant and are irritated by too much change, an unpredictable schedule and the pressure to solve problems quickly with little information, you might be in the wrong environment altogether—because that’s just the life of most consultants.

But if you are a consultant and your frustration is that you aren’t learning enough and you feel stagnant, think about your options. Can you pursue a new role, get involved in a new project or renegotiate your responsibilities? Decide what you can influence.

3. Identify what you appreciate about your work and organization today.

Make a list of what you appreciate about your work right now. Include everything from your manager to the people you work with to the casual environment. Be exhaustive. Now take a look at your list. Is it made up of “must-haves” or “optionals”?

A single dad might value flexibility and a short commute so much that he is willing to accept an uninvolved manager because his most fundamental priorities are still met.

So assess your current situation. Keep your must-haves—like making an income that supports your family’s lifestyle or working in a culture of respect—in focus to help you decide the impact, or lack of one, of a frustration. And your list will always be uniquely yours, which is important to remember when you receive advice from others.

4. Predict the future if you were to stay.

None of us can really predict the future, but you can look for indicators as to how it’ll turn out. Ask yourself these questions:

What is the financial health of the organization?
What opportunities will be there in two or three years?
What business growth is expected and will it create new opportunities?
What are my possible next moves? Will they take me where I want to go?
Is my ideal job there?

A colleague recently left a successful company because the top leaders above her were settled in until retirement. She was stuck. She knew that if she wanted to advance, it would have to be someplace else. After five years of waiting, she left an organization she loved because she wanted to do more in her career.

So really look at your job’s potential… and if what you see is worth another chance.

5. Go on an interview. See how it feels.

Know this: Deciding to go on an interview and deciding to leave for a new job are two very separate choices.

An interview will give you a taste of how it might feel to go someplace else. Try it and see what you learn about yourself and your situation. Your gut instinct will kick in, and you might be surprised at what it tells you.

Do you stay or do you go? No matter what you decide, the grass is always greener where you water it.

Patti Johnson is a career and workplace expert and the CEO of PeopleResults, a change and human resources consulting firm she founded in 2004. Previously, she was a senior executive at Accenture and has been recently featured as an expert in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, NBC, Money Magazine and Working Mother. Patti is also an instructor for SMU Executive Education and a keynote speaker on “Leading Change.” Her first book, Make Waves: Be the One to Start Change at Work & in Life, hit shelves in May 2014. Visit her website at PattiBJohnson.com.