Push beyond job boredom by exploring new areas and developing new skills

Here's a secret: Despite all those articles about how to cope with the thrills of challenging jobs, and the profiles of careers frothing with excitement, a whole lot of people are simply bored with their jobs. Simultaneously, a whole lot of people simply have boring jobs -- boring, uninteresting, bald, dry, monotonous, dull, tedious, humdrum, and (help!) soporific. Janet LaRouche, a longtime New York career counselor and author of ``Strategies for Women at Work'' (Avon, $9), thinks these people are suffering from a false sense of security. ``People resist change because they feel secure, even though they're bored,'' she said in a recent telephone interview.

The ultimate security, she thinks, comes from not putting up with boredom, but from learning new skills, exploring new areas, and developing new expertise. ``If you continue to learn to explore new areas and gain more confidence and more skills, that makes you more marketable. Your real security lies in that growth,'' she says.

Most boredom with a job lies with continuing to do things you already know how to do, says Ms. LaRouche. Since all jobs can be learned, sooner or later, that means that all jobs, narrowly defined, are potentially boring.

The way out of this dilemma is to learn to recognize opportunities for growth and take advantage of them. ``Boredom has to do with an earlier error in judgment,'' Ms. LaRouche says. ``Sometimes we back away from opportunities for fear of not being able to do a good job. Then we pay the price, later on.''

Such chances, as she defines them, are rarely handed over with the word ``opportunity'' stamped on top. ``If your boss is grumbling about one thing or another, or if you have complaints -- how come nobody did that, or this place doesn't have any blah blah -- those are opportunities, waiting for your creative solutions.''

Often people will respond to such challenges, only to have their ideas ``slapped down,'' Ms. LaRouche adds. ``Then they get frightened, and never try to solve a problem again. One could think instead about what was wrong with the idea, or the way it was presented.''

An idea is more likely to be accepted if it does the following:

Meets the boss's or the department's needs and goals. ``You may have an idea on how to solve something that's bothering you, but if it doesn't fit with the boss's goals, or, worse, if it conflicts with them, it probably won't go through,'' she says. This is especially common if the idea costs time or money that the boss thinks would be better spent elsewhere.

Includes the resources to implement it. ``If you come in with the idea that your department should increase its efficiency, but don't have any specific ideas on how that should be done, or discover that you need, say, five more [word processors] to achieve maximum efficiency, chances are your idea won't go anywhere.''

Is easily implemented by you. ``The more you can do and the less you have to impose on your boss or others, the greater the chances are of success.''

Is bounced off your boss. ``The most creative ideas -- and the most creative jobs -- come from having a good relationship with your boss where you can regularly toss ideas around, and your boss can reject the bad ones without rejecting you.'' It's also important to make sure that whatever is essential in your present job is still covered while you're off grabbing all these opportunities, Ms. LaRouche warns. That may mean that you have to work overtime temporarily, or that you must find ways to offload or delegate some of the tasks you now do.

``You have to keep looking for ways to expand your department and look for ways to grab whatever comes along,'' says the counselor. ``There's ultimately more security in your own development,'' she reiterates. ``Even if you lose your job, [if you've learned new skills] you'll have that much more to sell.''

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