Employees are distracted, and it’s no wonder. They don’t have to read the news; they see colleagues who are disengaged, actively searching for greener pastures, and quitting. Meanwhile, executives still are trying to make sense of a business model that accommodates fully office versus hybrid-office workplaces. Despite their current efforts, more than 70% of workers are unhappy with their company’s location flexibility and plan to seek other opportunities within a year.
How do employees who choose to stay in their jobs nurture a grounded career path in the midst of so much change? Managing uncertainty is something that I’ve become familiar with over the years. In fact, it’s become a way of life from an early age. Raised by a single mother who had four mouths to feed on a janitor’s salary prepared me in ways that I never could have dreamed and informed many of my practices as a young professional and a seasoned executive at a top-20 company in the U.S.
Meeting personal and professional goals while the workplace shifts calls for an uncompromising focus. Here are three ways you can find your center of gravity in a constantly evolving workplace reality.
Ask yourself the telling question
When there isn’t solid footing to be found in the workplace, you can create it yourself. It’s been said that “the two most important days in your life are the day you’re born and the day you find out why.” Knowing your why is the key to discovering your calm center and making infinitely better career choices. Consider this telling question to begin exploring your why: “What is something I’m good at that I would do for free?”
The next step is to look at your answer and how it aligns with your current job. Ask yourself if your career enhances your ability to live your why. Are there any gaps between what you love to do and what your position calls for? If so, make a list of the areas where you might create a greater connection between your skill set and your job description. Research what training options you have and consult with your boss. Ask if they’re willing to make any helpful mentoring introductions or facilitate training. If they’re not in a position to help, don’t stop there; consider taking online courses or enrolling in degree programs through traditional providers.
Be your own chief repeater and completer
Research tells us that we believe what we hear more often. In the same vein, businesses complete what they repeat, and the same holds true for individuals. Why not be both a business and an individual? When you think and act like a business and visualize being the CEO of your own career, sticking to your path has greater clarity because you apply a single rationale to everything you do.
The mission of any good business centers on creating value. If you’re the CEO of You Inc., think in these terms: what can you do or provide that your employer will want badly enough to pay you for doing it or providing it? This mentality helps you raise your game and focus on your career path and your personal mission. Reinforce your mission by creating space to write it down and think on it regularly.
Look for ways during the normal course of conversation to restate your purpose with trusted friends, or what I call my “kitchen cabinet.” These people know my why, hold a mirror to my behavior, and help honor what’s important to me. More than 70% of study participants who sent a weekly progress report to a friend reported successful goal achievement compared with only 35% who kept their goals to themselves and did not write them down.
Put a good chip on your shoulder
We’re all familiar with what it’s like to interact with someone who has a chip on their shoulder. They’ve got something to prove, and it often plays out in negative ways. Instead, challenge yourself to have a good chip on your shoulder if you’re looking to create stability in your work life. Put that good-chip tenacity to work by focusing on two things you can control—your attitude and effort. Sure, you’re out to prove something in the traditional sense, but a good chip manifests in ways that make you more valuable to your employer and You Inc.
I appreciate it when employees can be part of the bigger-picture conversations. Help your leaders run toward big problems. Do your homework about the company’s marketplace and familiarize yourself with its challenges so you can be among the first to weigh in or step up when opportunities present themselves to lend a hand. Show your attitude and effort by looking for opportunities to learn what’s most needed.
In the midst of today’s disruptions and fluctuating expectations, don’t wait any longer to identify your why and look for alignment at work. You’ll not only find this connection to your why a grounding experience, but you’ll also discover that an uncompromising focus on your attitude and effort leads to greater opportunities that are personally meaningful.
Steve White is president, Special Counsel to the CEO of Comcast Cable and the former president of Comcast West Division.