How are you doing, doldrums-wise? Do you feel like you’ve lost your business mojo and aren’t sure about ideas for getting your mojo back?
If that describes where you are right now, here is a bit of good news. Based on multiple conversations we’ve had with business people in their 30s to 50s, you are not alone.
The common refrain: I’m working my butt off, I’m continually crazy-busy, but never feel as if I’m doing great work. I’m getting by, that’s all; and I’m wondering what the point is.
Not surprisingly, the concerns we hear are decade-specific:
- Thirty-somethings are wondering what the work, the stress, and the anxiety are about -- and whether any of it is worthwhile.
- Those in their forties are looking at automation’s threat. They are trying to determine how long it is before AI and robots replace them and stay a few steps ahead.
- The nearly universal concern for the fifty-year-old group? Whether they have a hope of staying relevant through the rest of their careers as everything constantly changes.
Quibble with the specifics if you must. But consider for a moment the people you know in the workforce. Don’t these sentiments hold up?
Ideas for Getting Your Mojo Back by Decade
It seems everywhere that the pace is faster, expectations are always rising, and it’s challenging to deliver and celebrate stellar work. Too often, it can seem as if you’ve become so focused on shipping that raising the bar gets shuffled to the bottom of the pile—and sometimes, it’s more about swerving to avoid crashing into the bar.
What can you do?
For starters, here is our been-there-done-it-for-years advice by decade for getting your mojo back.
30-Somethings: Focusing on What Matters to You
One way to bring meaning to your work? Look inward for the meaning and direction that don’t seem to exist in the swirl of work craziness around you. When you anchor your professional course to what matters in your life, you can better make deliberate career decisions that stay true to your priorities.
It may sound like a ridiculous prospect. But we have a lot of personal data to back it up, and two things are crucial for making the strategy work:
- Knowing what’s most important for you to accomplish to excite and motivate you
- Actively creating the flexibility and diversity to allow yourself control over your career’s through-line
When it comes to identifying what’s personally important, mine questions such as these for potential answers:
- What motivates you every day?
- Where do you find the greatest joy, fulfillment, and contentment?
- What long-lasting, significant things do you want to accomplish?
Relative to maximizing your flexibility and diversity, think through:
- What are the smartest / most fruitful intersections of what’s important to me, my skill set, and market needs? (Venn diagrams are useful here.)
- What skills might I need to develop for the next thing I’ll do after this job?
- How can I manage my finances to give me the strongest possibilities to leave a regular paycheck behind temporarily if a job pushes me away from what matters for me?
Combining a clear view of where you want to head with the agility to quickly make big changes prepares you to make career moves that maximize personal fulfillment and minimize the anxiety of figuring out where your next paycheck will come from.
40-Somethings: Staying Ahead of the Neighbors (aka Bill “Robot” Jones)
When the dinosaurs walked the earth (okay, really when the 1800s turned into the 1900s), a major league baseball player named Willie Keeler uttered his memorable success formula, “Keep your eye on the ball and hit ‘em where they ain’t.”
While Keeler didn’t have a clue about AI, his advice is brilliant when devising a personal strategy to stay ahead of robotics and automation. Futurist Bernard Marr, in a Forbes online article, shares a two-part future career strategy:
- Look ahead to where automation is headed
- Develop (soft) skills in the areas where robots and AI will struggle to perform for the foreseeable future.
One quick test Marr offers to identify where humans will continue to retain an edge over automation (according to Stanford’s Andrew Ng): mental tasks that take the average human more than one second to complete.
If your job requires mental complexity beyond simple THIS-input-leads-to-THAT-output functions, you’re on stronger footing.
When it comes to areas where bots will struggle, Marr suggests developing any of these skills:
- Empathetic personal communication
- Critical and strategic thinking
- Vision, creativity, and imagination
- Technology management and maintenance
- Personal physical skills
Want to go deeper in rethinking what you can do? Intriguingly, the skills Marr outlines are very close to the list of strategies in Idea Magnets - 7 Strategies for Attracting and Cultivating Creative Business Leaders. Maybe TODAY is the day to finally get your copy on Amazon and jump start retooling your career.
50-Somethings: Clarify What You Are Giving Up
In your fourth or fifth career decade, you were expecting (we know) a senior-level job that would let you coast to retirement. If you have that, WHOA! Good for you!
But if you realize that the careers you studied in school no longer exist, you have a big decision to make: Are you going to go out loudly or quietly? (Please note: by “loudly,” we don’t mean “complaining ceaselessly about how hard you work at your age and how everything needs to stop changing because it’s inconvenient.”)
Going out loudly means actively and enthusiastically embracing the learning you need to stay relevant for the next ten to twenty years. And that simply will not be one-and-done learning; it will involve perpetual updating and adaptation.
How will you free up the time and mental space for that? Answer two questions:
- Ask people in the workplace (and maybe at home) who will be brutally honest: What behaviors and practices do you see me doing that don’t really contribute highly meaningful value any longer?
- Ask yourself: What things have I said for years that I want to do, but haven’t done, and now know that I’m never going to ever do?
Take your answers and give up on those things. This will create room to throw yourself into the new learning and development you must do to stay relevant into your sixties and seventies.
Yes, last year moved by frantically fast. This year will be exactly the same. Identify your most significant career anxiety source. Craft a simple strategy to re-energize and get closer to back on top ASAP. – Mike Brown