You’ve got it all, professionally speaking. Your boss is your hero, you’re surrounded by crazy talent, you have upbeat team members, and you make enough money to actually buy and do the things you want. You’ve got flexible hours, plenty of vacation time, and you never have to work weekends or late at night. Life is good! Really, really good. It’s just not terribly exciting.
You see, your work is easy. You can knock out your to-do list while doing desk exercises and taking bets for the office football squares, all before lunch. You yearn for more challenge and responsibility. You’ve talked with your manager but, despite the fact that she’s an amazing supervisor, you’re still not getting the stimulation you need.
It was OK for a while: You shopped for a puppy online, designed your future home, and googled all the random things you’ve ever wanted to know. But you’ve finally become weary of the situation. Cruising was fun for a while, but now you’re just bored.
Is it time to look for a new job? Maybe, but there’s just one, glaring problem: There’s no guarantee a new position with greater responsibility will include the many perks you currently enjoy. It’s a big risk. One that you shouldn’t consider lightly.
Before you jump ship, try truly taking advantage of your situation and seeing if you can improve it—and, no, I’m not talking about cutting out early on Fridays or taking two-hour lunches every day. Take your boredom and turn it into an opportunity. In fact, you could and should use your down time to make your situation better—both in the office now and when you do eventually start job searching (even if that doesn’t end up being for a long time).
1. Connect With Everyone
Instead of googling everything under the sun, use some of your time to strategically build your network. Who would you like to meet or get to know better? Make a list.
Now, how can you make it happen? Where can you connect with these people? How do you strike up a conversation? What can you offer them for their time? Jot some strategies under each name on your wish list.
Once you’ve identified your targets and game plan, get busy executing. The more people you know at your company and in your industry, the more opportunities you’ll have. Maybe you sign on for a side gig that keeps you occupied and distracts you from mulling over the lack of inspiration in your full-time role.
Maybe just speaking with people in your industry at different organizations opens up your eyes to what else you could be doing in your position currently. Perhaps you haven’t tapped your potential. Or, perhaps contributing your expertise to solving a problem in another department may be enough to re-energize you.
2. Learn as Much as Possible
No matter how advanced you are, you can always build upon your knowledge. What do you need to know to do your job better? What do you need to know to advance more quickly? Use the time once you’ve run through your to-do list to stockpile knowledge instead of just stockpiling funny GIFs. Look for a professional organization that offers continuing education opportunities.
If you can’t make it to an in-person conference or training, dive into online options. edX, an online learning platform offering classes from multiple, elite universities, just released a MicroMasters program offering graduate-level content at your fingertips and on your timeframe. Not sure you’re ready for that? Check out 13 more great sites for taking online classes, or start at The Muse to browse a curated selection of courses.
Even brief tutorials can give you an edge. TED Talks or quick tutorials on YouTube can help sharpen your skills or enable you to gain a new perspective. And of course the very thing you’re doing right this minute—reading career-advice articles on sites like this one—can add to your professional advancement and business savvy. Additionally, reading industry-focused blogs will help you stay current in your field.
3. Solve Problems
Take a good look at your organization. What are some problems that need solving? Every company has issues that range from smaller, practical pain points (we need to add lighting to this area of campus) to larger ones getting national attention (how do we increase academic retention rates?). Identity an area to focus on and offer a solution or an improvement. If it’s a relatively small fix within your department, take the reins and make it better.
Maybe you’re a spreadsheet whiz and you’ve noticed your colleagues are Excel-challenged and would benefit from learning a few shortcuts. So, you make them a cheat sheet and offer to give them individual tutorials in your spare time. You’ll increase your colleagues’ knowledge and efficiency while building your reputation as a smart, collaborative, and solution-focused employee.
If it’s a bigger issue you wouldn’t dare tackle without communicating with the appropriate people, you can still exert influence. Dig into the research, talk to others, and write a proposal or develop a prototype. Pitch it to your boss. Even if she doesn’t adopt your idea 100%, you’ll demonstrate great awareness and initiative while building your portfolio.
After taking these steps, you ideally will feel more fulfilled in your current role. If you’ve invested your time and energy into building relationships, expanding your education, and being proactive in addressing your company’s needs and are still waiting to be challenged or given more responsibility, perhaps it’s time to get the ball rolling on your job search. And thanks to the above and beyond you accomplished in your spare time, you should be a highly competitive candidate for any position you pursue.
It’s highly probable that your efforts will open more doors than you can imagine, and that the opportunities will come to you—you might even get poached and be in a position to negotiate all or some of the perks you currently enjoy. You just have to be ready to pounce when the timing is right.