August 04, 2008, 2:00 PM — You know the feeling: It was fun while it lasted. You used to look forward to coming to work every day, but now you drag yourself in. You gladly took on challenging technology projects and were eager to provide whatever the department needed; now you balk at unexpected responsibilities. As many IT professionals can attest, even the most exciting position can lose its zip over time. Whether the honeymoon lasted for two months or two years, the question is what to do about it now.
First, don't assume that your dissatisfaction stems entirely from unchangeable aspects of the job. Instead, take some time to figure out what you can do to breathe some life into the situation. If you're still feeling disengaged after you've made that effort, you'll know it's time to move on to a new challenge. To get started, here are six essential tips for "job CPR":
Create your own job description. The most satisfied IT professionals are those who have molded their duties to suit their talents and interests. If you relish certain components of your job, seek out ways to increase these activities and decrease those you dislike. Most managers want their employees to optimize their potential and will support these efforts as long as they produce results.
Set a target. Do you know what your next step up the career ladder will be? Establishing a tangible goal provides a sense of purpose, a key component of job satisfaction. It also helps you advance in your profession. Consider where you'd like to be in five years and how you plan to get there. Achieving your objective may require new technical training, enhancing your interpersonal skills or networking more. The steps you take will not only build your self-confidence but also strengthen your chances of earning raises and promotions.
Pal around. Friendships with co-workers can help you focus more on team success and less on your individual work concerns. This doesn't mean you have to spend all of your free time with colleagues; in fact, many on-the-job friends rarely socialize outside of the office. Work friends serve as a built-in support system when times are tough and increase the amount of enthusiasm you feel for your job on a daily basis.
Manage stress. Some work-related stress can't be helped, but much anxiety is self-induced. Rule No. 1: Don't worry about things you can't control, such as your manager's opinions. Another good practice: Confront challenging projects head-on. It's tempting to procrastinate when you have a particularly difficult or unpalatable task on your to-do list, but the sooner you tackle it, the faster you can move on. Finally, take periodic breaks, even when you're busy. You may think you're saving time by skipping lunch, but stopping to recharge will help you feel refreshed and focused on the task at hand.
Take a chance. Professional growth entails smart risk-taking. Often, an action that can advance your career ? such as requesting a raise, giving a presentation outside of the IT department, inviting your boss to lunch or taking the lead on a high-profile project ? will fall outside of your comfort zone. While it's normal to fear failure, don't let negative feelings deter you. Great satisfaction can be gained from overcoming personal challenges and breaking new ground.
Seek assistance. Talk to trusted mentors and colleagues who can provide candid feedback on your situation. They may have faced similar challenges in their own careers and be able to recommend ways to bounce back. In addition, discussing your concerns and frustrations openly can help you develop your own solutions and alleviate feelings of isolation.
Reviving a job that seems to have flatlined won't happen overnight, and in some cases, it won't happen at all. But by making the effort, you'll gain a clearer sense of what inspires you to do your best work, as well as the conditions that drain you. Whether you stay with your current position or seek a new opportunity, you may find over time that you're making positive changes that not only enhance your motivation but also set you on a path toward achieving your career goals.
Katherine Spencer Lee is executive director of Robert Half Technology, a leading provider of IT professionals on a project and full-time basis. Robert Half Technology has more than 100 locations worldwide and offers online job search services at www.rht.com.