Career Advice

10 Tips: Managing The Year Of Diminished Career Expectations

There are lots of people writing about how to do resumes or manage a job search, but not too many who are willing to admit there’s an elephant in the living room. But there is, and I’m going to give you a few tips on how to deal with it.

The elephant is your job – the one you’re in and want out of, or the job you’re considering taking to get away from the one you have. Chances are it’s not the job you want, or the one you trained for or think you deserve. It pays the bills, but it doesn’t get you excited. It doesn’t use all your skills. The workplace culture or environment leaves something to be desired. Maybe the commute is killing you and the person in the next cube eats sardines every day for lunch. Maybe you don’t even have a cube.

Welcome to the new job reality: diminished expectations.

We all want a great job but until the economy turns around, a good-enough job will have to do. But no one can afford to treat a job as though it’s just ‘good enough.’ To survive – both in the job and in your head – you’ll have to bring your A game every day. Even if it is a B- job.

Here are some tips for managing in a time of diminished expectations:

  • Use positive affirmations to get yourself through the day. This sounds hippy-dippy but it works. Think positively. Tell yourself a positive story about your job, and it will be survivable.
  • Teach yourself one new skill a month. If you’re not challenged intellectually you probably have spare cycles. Study statistical analysis – it will come in handy when making charts, and it also requires analytical thinking. Teach yourself Excel or Powerpoint – the real skills, not just 101. Set up a website.
  • Start blogging. Writing things down makes them easier to process and brings insight. You can rant, but it’s more productive to write about a positive aspect of your job, or the day.
  • Polish your resume. Do this once a month. Frequent updates to online profiles make you more attractive as a candidate.
  • Help a co-worker. Perhaps one of your colleagues could use help with a task. Maybe it’s something you’re interested or skilled in. Either way you get karma points.
  • Think about what you really want to do when you grow up. Examine your life, your decisions, your failures to decide, your current status. Be unflinching. This will prepare you for the next tip.
  • Write a job description for your dream job. Then read your resume and look for the disconnects. Now you have new tasks and a new goal.
  • Network with people who have the job you want. If you’ve done the two bullets above you’ll be better positioned to make this pay off.
  • Seek out a career coach to help you examine – and possibly reset – your expectations. Maybe you’re way off. Maybe you weren’t an A student but thought you could bluff through to a big job. Not in this economy, and maybe never again. Be prepared to revise your life plan, at least the short-term version.
  • Do something for someone else. There’s huge satisfaction in helping others. Volunteer and you will become thankful.

Got some of your own techniques for coping with unrealized expectations? Let us know.