Almost half of Americans are unhappy at work, according to the Conference Board’s latest Job Satisfaction Survey. If you’re among them, perhaps it’s time to act. Whether you’ve been at the same job for years or you’re fairly new and are unsure of your direction, consider doing some spring cleaning with your career. Take some time for reflection and identify tasks or roles that should be swept away, says Cheryl Hyatt, partner at Hyatt-Fennell Executive Search.
“People don’t often think about making changes in their careers unless they’re considering a career move,” she says. “But just like you prepare your home for spring, you should take the same time to prepare your career for the future, too.”
Identify the changes you can make by asking yourself these three questions, suggests Hyatt.
1. What projects gave me the greatest satisfaction?
“Marie Kondo has made a brand out of asking people to evaluate their possessions with one question: ‘Does it bring you joy?'” says Hyatt. “This can be useful to identify what you find meaningful at work.”
Be proactive about doing more of what you love by sharing this information with your manager and by seeking out similar projects. Then make a plan for approaching the less joyful parts of your job; unlike possessions, you can’t simply drop them off at Goodwill.
“If you have a task that’s necessary for your job but doesn’t bring you joy, think about what you can to do so you’re happier with it,” says Hyatt. “Maybe focusing on the feeling of accomplishment will bring joy. Or maybe it’s something you can delegate. The task might bring someone else joy if they have the interest or expertise.”
Hyatt suggests taking time with this exercise. “With physical things, you can make a quick decision whether or not it brings you joy,” she says. “This is more about considering skill sets. If you don’t have the skill set, you could forward it on into someone else’s bucket.”
2. Where were my shortcomings?
It can be uncomfortable to think about shortcomings or even failures, but it’s essential if you want to move beyond them, says Hyatt.
“The distance that an annual reflection gives provides helpful perspective,” she says. “Consider how different practices could change your outcomes. Seek out someone who is strong in the areas where you are weak, and ask for advice.”
Another way to correct shortcomings is to acquire the training or knowledge you would need to become proficient or even excel. Look for classes or books that could expand your skill sets and help you eliminate these weaknesses.
3. What avenues do I want to explore?
Finally, take a look back at your résumé, and decide what you need to add. Where are there gaps, and how can you overcome them? Write down three or four things you’d like to add, then make plans to do them, says Hyatt.
“Reflect where you are in career, and determine what is next,” she says. “You should always be looking at what’s next, but that doesn’t always necessarily mean where’s next. What’s next where you are?”
Hyatt keeps a large sticky note posted in her office that lists the items she wants to accomplish. “They’re front and center, so when I do have pockets of time, I determine how I can fill the gap or who I can contact to rekindle some of the partnerships that I’ve been meaning to start,” she says. “If it’s in front of you, it’s a good reminder.”
While it can be tempting to tackle the easy things first, make sure you’re exploring new avenues in a way that makes sense, says Hyatt. “Sometimes, doing something small is good because it gives you a quick sense of accomplishment,” she says. “But certain things take a little longer or are more difficult to do. For example, when you’re spring cleaning, it’s silly to wash your walls after you’ve cleaned the carpet. You need to do hard things and fill in gaps before you can move onto your next step. Look at job opportunities, and if you’ve got a gap to fill before you can move forward, work toward being able to do that.”
The best time to make changes for the future is now, and thinking about it as spring cleaning can provide the necessary motivation, says Hyatt. “If you’re thinking about changing careers or moving ahead, you’ll likely need more skills,” she says. “Now is always a good time to reflect on where do you fit. Take a look at where you want to go, and decide what’s next.”