I remember that feeling. That first little heart-stab as I slid into my desk chair the Monday after the IRCE. It wasn’t the dread of a Monday (no sarcasm, I love Mondays), it wasn’t the sad, creeping banality of the office, and it wasn’t the urgent scowl of an overstuffed inbox.
It was an inarguable, acute pain in my innards telling me, “Okay, that’s enough. You’re done here.”
For the five-plus months since then, I’ve been muddling through my professional responsibilities like one of Zyrtec’s allergy sufferers, keeping my days filled with tasks like tissues in pockets, wiping away the symptoms of alienation from my position— frustration, hopelessness, complacency.
Since five months qualifies me as an expert, here’s how I suggest that you do the muddle better than I did:
Figure out what you want to do instead.
Why? Because if you know what you’d rather be doing, there’s still the possibility that you could do it with your current employer, and maybe even in your current role.
Also: Experience. You’ll want more of that.
I didn’t figure it out. I maintained pre-conference course and speed, resumed day-to-day operations and management as if my inner sea change were a wave to ride out.
As a result, my entire personality failed — I got snappy, negative, defensive, and bored. No riding that wave.
Manage This New Thing
Let’s say you’re like me, and you’ve got an array of skills and responsibilities, but you’re spread too thin — not in the “I’m so busy, like, all the time!” way, but in the the “Sheesh, I’m pretty darn good at This New Thing and I like it an awful lot, why don’t I do more of it?” way.
Take on some extra projects involving This New Thing that you like best, back off your 120% effort on your other projects just a smidge, then leverage the ensuing awesome achievements in your lobby to do more of This New Thing. Note if/when the 80% effort seemed to work for the other stuff, or if X employee picked up your slack like a superstar, thus might be better suited for the tasks.
This could be your et voila! This could be all you needed. You can go on and love what you’re doing again.
Or you could be me.
Just keep doing This New Thing
Now you get to hear more about doing it the slow way, the June-July Me way.
I’m some sort of an all-in-one social and content machine, a T-shaped marketing generalist, if you will, so I had a ton of tentacle skills and responsibilities that I could have concentrated on, any one of which could have given me a better grasp on where I wanted to go.
Two weeks into my personality fail, I took three whole days off — first time in 16 months — to reach out with those tentacles.
I asked a lot of questions, invested myself in research, buckled down to figure out what hit me so hard.
Then I got busy on the user-centric content marketing and design that I was fascinated by, and I started putting my deep-dives into practice:
I crafted our first personas. I outlined a calendar of blog posts, email workflows and corresponding social for them. (No, we weren't doing that. Yes, I am a research-backed one man band, in this weird short-term). I set my sights and Sketch boards on our site’s usability, then a mobile outline, then microtext, then funneling customers.
Now do Your New Thing for others.
Maybe you figured out how much you would rather be selling your company product to live customers, so you asked your boss to put you on the sales team for a few hot minutes, and it worked.
Hip-hip hooray! You sold like a star! Everyone patted you on the back, rainbows burst with shiny gold coins!
Then your congratulatory boss told you to head right back to your cubicle to hit those spreadsheets again, because they piled up while you were away.
Some companies are dependent upon rigidity.
Understand that they didn’t hire you for your This New Thing capabilities, and, as it turns out, they plain don’t need ‘em or can’t afford them.
TOUGH TRUTH: Widgets sell on ugly websites. Expensive doohickeys are still added to horrific, laborious cart processes.
As long as paying customers make it to the end (those, poor, tortured folks), your company may just want you to keep the lights on.
I welcome you to August-September Me Land.
We have one rule here, and it’s thematic:
Keep doing It.
Don’t quit your day job, because you’re not an irresponsible child and you know that we all have to do things that we don’t want to at times. We’re moving past a muddle here, not setting fire to professional standards.
Instead, involve your New Thing — I’m still recreating our old content posts, rooting out spam-tasmically keyworded pages, and soliciting user feedback because it keeps me sane and focuses my brain on the kind of skills that I’d rather be building. In tiny, small corners, I'm creating the kind of experience I’d rather our customers had.
You’re going to have to make serious effort wherever you go, the trick is to make that effort with genuine belief behind its purpose.
Look at who’s doing what you want to be doing really well. Use their product/service, stalk their team on Twitter, define your possible contributions. Make a fair assessment of your ability to fill a role there.
Then apply. Apply with heart. Follow-up like a school kid gunning for an A.
What’s the worst that could happen? They’ll think you’re super-interested? A geek for it? They’ll turn you down because you don’t have enough experience?
That’s the sound of someone continuing to polish the skills they need to knock socks off.
I’m doing My New Thing when I’m analyzing user stats, between meetings where I’m told that I don’t want to know what our users think of the site. I’m doing My New Thing when I send a hyper-generic email blast with secret versions for target users.
Humblebrag: I’m doing My New Thing out of my own time and pocket, without support because I believe in it.
Warning, though: It’s only worked to make me a better human so far.