Q I have a job in my field, but after 15 years am feeling rather bored with it. It's not practical to do a career change right now; what would you suggest to re-engage?
A Look for variety within your current realm, and also think about going deeper where you can.
The inner game
First, understand your feelings about your work situation. What is driving the boredom? Repetition of the same workday in and day out? Lack of professional growth? Or there may be other factors, such as disengagement from your co-workers or issues with your boss.
Consider the highs and lows of the average workweek, defining aspects you'd like to keep and those you'd like to change. Then reflect on skills and interests that are not employed in your current job.
Define your ideal work environment, taking into account the tasks you'd be doing and fit with your personality. Then match it against the current. For example, if you're responsible for helping maintain a system and you would love to be developing a new product, you've identified a possible area for a shift.
Finally, look at work in the broader context of your life. Are you engaged and enthusiastic in other areas? If this boredom is more pervasive, you'll likely want to take a broader look to understand the bigger picture, possibly including a visit with your doctor to rule out mild depression.
The outer game
Now, make a plan for ways you can make modest but energizing changes in your work situation. Start by looking for some new areas of focus that you could begin to incorporate. Consider talking with your boss about task forces or committees that would broaden your exposure to new ideas. Volunteer for new assignments; this could help give you more energy.
Also think about ways to deepen your engagement with current tasks, exploring ways to acquire more expertise or move to a greater level of complexity. Familiarity can take the edge off of interest, so try looking at your work with a fresh eye to understand new paths you could take with it.
Consider the social side of work, as well. If you don't have a group of friends at work, begin to build more social connections, which can help build your positive energy level.
It might be time to consider a new job, even if you are staying in your field. If you're happy with your company, watch for new opportunities; participation in task forces, etc., will help build your visibility with potential new managers. Also look for opportunities at other companies. If you decide to stay put, you then are choosing to stay rather than feeling stuck.
Finally, make sure that other aspects of your life are providing the right level of support and interest. If work is somewhat flat, be sure that you're doing things that are fun outside of work, and are spending time with people you value. Consider taking up a new activity in order to keep learning and growing.
The last word
Even small changes can break through boredom, so look for variations in your work to regain your enthusiasm.
What challenges do you face at work? Send your questions to Liz Reyer, a credentialed coach and president of Reyer Coaching & Consulting in Eagan. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.