If you have a job, there’s a roughly 50/50 chance you don’t like it—at least according to one sobering study last year. Not only are those statistical odds the same everywhere, but quitting for a more satisfying gig is easier said than done. Plus, it can take awhile to learn the technical skills you might need to land a job you like more.
But there may be a useful shortcut: What if you could double down on the so-called “soft skills”—like emotional intelligence—that you already have in order to improve the job you’re in? It starts with just thinking more strategically about your relationships around the office. Here’s what to do.
Step 1: Make Yourself Invaluable
If your coworkers don’t see you as a valuable team member, you won’t have any leverage to shift your job responsibilities to do more of what you like and less of what you don’t.
Being invaluable starts with being reliable. Do what you say you’re going to do; finish what you start; show up on time; be prepared for meetings; and give serious attention to your manager’s expectations. This all might seem really basic, but it’ll help you lay the groundwork you’ll be able to build on. Your goal here is just to become excellent at the job that you already have, even if you don’t like all aspects of it. Do it faster and better than anyone who has done it before, and before long your boss is bound to notice.
Why is this the emotionally intelligent thing to do? It shows empathy, problem-solving, and collaboration–all things that your manager needs in order to count on you to deliver, especially if you’re gunning for new opportunities or even a promotion. (Plus, truly mastering your craft will come in handy when you need to train someone else to do your job.)
Step 2: Think Like Your Boss Thinks
This isn’t as simple as getting them coffee. It goes much deeper. Begin to notice their habits, like the questions they ask regularly, their communication patterns, what they praise, and what tasks and goals they feel are important.
Yes, this may mean shifting your own habits. If your manager expects an answer to their emails promptly, respond quickly–even if the answer is, “I haven’t gotten to it yet, but I’m on it.” Be adaptable to their idiosyncrasies, even if those might not all be your preferred way of doing things.
If you take the time to understand your manager and anticipate their needs, you’ll be able to be there with a solution when they need one–all without having to actually learn new technical skills. Pay attention to the stumbling blocks that seem to get them every time, the kinks in the process that drive them crazy, and shift your thinking to approach problems from your manager’s perspective. It’s not kissing ass; it’s paying attention–and in that sense, it’s pretty easy.
Step 3: Ask For The Work You Want
Once you’ve totally aced everything included in your current job description, you can start stretching outside of it. And that means speaking up. Start by telling your boss what you want to do more of, then show that you can handle it and explain how it ties with your current position.
This can be small-scale stuff to start with (don’t set yourself up for failure by over-committing too soon). Want to be the go-to person for writing in your department? Offer to edit important documents and emails before they go out. If you do it well, pretty soon everyone will be running important written communication by you, and you’ll establish a sense of authority.
Love brainstorming and idea generation? Offer to lead a weekly brown-bag lunch to discuss challenging projects and offer team suggestions to problems. You might soon earn the reputation in the company as someone who brings together great ideas.
Step 4: Sell Delegation As A Learning Opportunity
Start by getting to know your colleagues better than you already do. Find out what they shine at and what they want to learn.
But it’s not about being nosy or just trying to micromanage your own colleagues–the goal is to identify the people who have the skills to do what you no longer want to. This way you can approach your boss with a few cross-training opportunities already lined up. Position the work you don’t want as a learning opportunity for someone else–a chance for them to pick up skills that will ultimately benefit the company. Just make sure that the person you’re trying to delegate to can do the work with their current workload.
Follow these four steps, and it won’t be long before you’re dreading Monday mornings a lot less. You’ll be doing more things you actually enjoy around the office–and helping your boss and colleagues in the process. If you can make that happen, why quit?
Dr. Lisa M. Aldisert is a New York City–based business advisor, trend expert, speaker, and author. She is the president of Pharos Alliance Inc., an executive advisory firm specializing in strategic planning and organizational and leadership development.