5 Ways to Turn Your Nightmare Job into a Dream

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stuck at work Even if your current job makes you miserable and you dread getting up in the morning to face it, it's not a good idea to quit and go searching for something better. A job, any job, is just too precious these days. But fear not -- Alexander Hiam, author of Business Innovation for Dummies and instructor at the University Massachusetts, at Amherst's Business School, can make you turn that sow's ear into a silk purse.

"I encounter many people whose jobs are nightmares for one simple reason: They cannot express their creativity in their work," says Hiam. "A dream job is, according to my research, really any job in which the employee can become fully engaged, using all their strengths and not having to close doors in their minds in order to go to work each day"

So, how to turn a humdrum, boring job into an opportunity to engage your innovative, creative self before the routine becomes a nightmare? Here are some of Alexander's tips:

1. Start by innovating at your own desk. Make a discipline of changing your own routines at work by finding new and better ways to do things. One change a week is a good minimum to shoot for. Target small things that don't need official permission so that you can experiment without getting entangled in red tape.

2. Keep notes about your desktop innovations, including observations about how well they work. Reject ideas that don't prove to be significantly better than the old way, but share your results with others when you have documentation that you're onto something good.

3. Make regular suggestions about workplace-wide improvements and innovations. Set a quota for one good suggestion each week. Don't fall into the inertia trap that keeps most employees from thinking about better ways of doing things. Be the center of creative energy in your workplace.

4. Seek new experiences in your existing job. Even the most set-in-its-ways workplace has occasional need for someone to do something out of the ordinary. Volunteer to solve a problem, join a cross-disciplinary team, or go out and set up a new office. If you never pass up an opportunity to try something new, you'll never feel trapped by your routine.

5. Bring your expertise to a new arena through evening or weekend volunteering. The ad agency staffer who wants to explore a career in the arts should roll up her sleeves and volunteer to help promote exhibits at the nearest art museum, for example. It's amazing how much you can bring to and get out of a few hours of volunteering when you seek stretch opportunities for yourself. And often it takes a number of part-time and short-term extra-work activities to forge that new career you will find more interesting.

"Many people will find that these five actions take the sting out of their job by making them feel more fully engaged and challenged by it," concludes Hiam. "If, after honestly trying all of these actions for several months, you still feel like you're suffocating in your work, then maybe it really is time to start looking for a workplace that allows you to express yourself more fully. But start by changing yourself, and only change your job if you are certain there's no room for the kind of development and engagement you seek."

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