Adding value and feeling valued are key to a successful career or business plan. Sometimes, however, you can't seem to perform to your employer's expectations -- or to the expectations that you have for yourself. Maybe your internal drive is lagging, maybe you've been told that you need to improve, or maybe the business is not performing as you thought it would. We've all experienced situations such as these and wondered how we can be better.
Well, wonder no more: we asked five career coaches to share the tips they give others for improving their skills in different professional scenarios. Here’s what they said:
1. When You're in a Rut
Sometimes you feel stagnant in your job. You may still be performing okay, but you feel unmotivated and not at your full potential. If things don’t change, you'll become less engaged and your performance will suffer.
Your first task: discover what you want most from your job. Is what you’re doing now what you ultimately want to be doing? If not, look at the gaps and determine how your work can align more closely with your goals.
Lisa Guillot, a career mindset coach and host of the “Find Your Clear Vision” podcast, asks, “What does a perfect workday look like? What do you do? Where do you go?” Guillot suggests that you “write down (in detail) all the things you would do with this perfect day. Then, look over the list and see if there are things you could be doing now but aren’t."
After you've made your list, suggests Guillot, ask yourself what's stopping you from doing what you really want, and then proceed to remove those barriers. ⠀⠀
One way to address this, of course, is to seek another job. But you may be able to get out of your rut by expanding in your current role to make it better suited to you and your goals. Adding just one or two things from your list to your current job may make a big difference. For example, an experienced dentist who gains satisfaction by seeing others grow may decide to mentor a young colleague.
2. When You Need a Better Job
Sometimes you just aren’t a good match for the job you have. You may have skills and passions that you aren't using. In those cases, the challenge isn't to do better in the job you have but to find another one that fits you better. And that’s okay. The average person changes careers five to seven times.
Sara Camilo, a certified professional career coach and certified professional resume writer, offers some insights into seeking a new job or a promotion. To stand out in an interview, she suggests that you become comfortable selling your skills, experience, and accomplishments as confidently as possible. “To many, it's uncomfortable to brag, and yet it's required to get that promotion or a new job.”
One way to share your story in a convincing fashion is to focus on your gifts and not let yourself be distracted by comparing yourself to others, she says. Another way is to use the STAR interview method (“STAR” stands for “Situation, Task, Action, and Result”). This is particularly useful for questions that begin with “Describe a time when...,” “Tell me about an occasion when…,” and “Share an example of...” You respond by describing the situation you were in, the task you had to complete, the specific action you took, and the result. Also, work on using positive, strong body language and direct eye contact. These things will help you stand out among other job candidates.
3. When You Are Worried or Stressed
Worry and stress get to us all sometimes. Zander Fryer, entrepreneur and author, suggests, "Don't use your energy to worry. Use your energy to believe, create, trust, grow, and heal. If you find yourself worrying about your future, stop and use that energy to believe that anything is possible. Believe in what could be waiting for you on the other side of every hardship so that when it does happen, there will always be a part of you that is excited by the good new things coming into your life."
Specifically, you can switch your focus from worrying to hoping and creating by doing the following:
- Identify negative energy sources. Reframe your problems as opportunities for self-discovery.
- Write about your feelings in a journal. Be sure to question negative thoughts and identify where they come from.
- Name your strengths. Use them to challenge any focus on your weaknesses.
- Engage in creative activities, or try other things that energize you positively. Doing this can reinvigorate your interest in your job.
- Take time off. Even if it’s just a weekend spent away from all obligations, use this time to relax and regroup.
Switching your focus from negative to positive is important. When you bring good energy to your work, you will perform better, and your colleagues will as well, according to Harvard Business Review. By spending energy on believing in yourself and growing, you'll be more engaged in your work interactions and help others to become engaged as well. If you supervise others, spending your own energy to project belief in your work will be even more effective for them. Positive energy is contagious; it will help your entire team to direct their energy toward creativity and growth as well.
4. When You're Good but You Want to Get Better
Jamie Carlstedt, a professional coach for high achievers, reminds us that we must convince ourselves that we’re better than just “good enough” because no one else will do it for us. He says: “If we’re capable of achieving more, it is our duty to fully develop ourselves to achieve our potential. If you know you’re interested in something, pursue it. Own it. Dominate it. Consume it! Become outstanding at it. Don’t stop because you’re ‘good’ — keep progressing until you believe you can’t physically or mentally get any better."
Here are some tips for how to get better at your job, even if you're already good:
- Keep practicing. Do the work consistently.
- Seek feedback. Ask others how you can improve. Put a plan in place, and follow up.
- Look at each component skill separately. For example, if you're a nurse who wants to do your job better, focus on one element at a time. You might aim to improve your patient communication skills one month and then your technical skills the next.
5. When You Face Adversity
We all face setbacks. The key is to learn to survive and thrive during times of adversity. Jewell Carter, a certified life coach who specializes in helping veterans transition to civilian life, says, "Mentally tough people are in control over their confidence and commitment... They can survive any difficulties and always get back up, although they fall a hundred times."
Here are some tips for building resilience:
- Build connections with others. Join a civic group or faith community that can provide support.
- Take care of your body. Self-care isn't just a buzzword. Exercising, eating properly, and getting enough rest all help your body to adapt to stress.
- Conquer the mind. Use meditation techniques or practice yoga.
- Find a purpose. You might mentor others or create a passion project.
Doing your job well is important. But feeling great while you’re at it is crucial. For many of us, our jobs are part of our identities. Performing well boosts our confidence, even away from the workplace. Improving yourself and your work will be a constant effort, but in most cases, it should be a fun and rewarding growth experience. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀