Several years ago, I was offered a job at a Fortune 500 software company in New York. I distinctly remember the day I received the offer. The phone rang, and when I saw the caller ID, my heart froze. Because it was one of the few local companies with a strong internal PR function, the company was my top choice employer. I’d found the department with which I’d interviewed not through an open job posting, but through a maze of networking and some luck mixed in. As the hiring manager shared the good news, I couldn’t stop trembling. It was one of the best moments of my life up to that point.
Although I wouldn’t start my job for two weeks, I quickly read everything I could get my hands on about my new company and industry, including trade publications, annual reports, press releases and news articles. I searched for bios of my new manager and colleagues online. I re-examined my job description, highlighted the responsibilities with which I was somewhat unfamiliar and developed a tentative 90-day plan prioritizing a few key goals. When my boss invited me to join a team meeting by phone, I happily accepted because I was counting down the days until I’d embark on my new adventure.
My first official day was a whirlwind of emotions, but excitement was most prominent. I wanted to meet everyone and learn everything. That whole week, as I dove into a variety of new situations and tasks, I could hardly believe when my watch said it was time to leave for the day. I was so amped up with passion and enthusiasm that I couldn’t believe I was getting paid to have this much fun.
As time passed, however, things got a little rough. I got mired in unpleasant political situations with gatekeepers, bullies and other difficult types. My efforts to add value and take my department to the next level were thwarted by a bureaucratic culture that feared change. When launching major initiatives, I often had to work 80-hour weeks near the end because my co-workers had procrastinated. By the time I reached my year anniversary, I’d already considered quitting several times. I didn’t think anyone would care if I did. The higher-ups had made it clear that they didn’t want to hear me complain. It was up to me to motivate myself.
Then, in between my second and third years with the company, I received some coaching that would change my life. I was able to take a step back and realize that objectively, I had an excellent employment situation. I earned a good salary, the corporation was thriving, my commute was nothing, I enjoyed the company of most of my colleagues, and I was being challenged. In the midst of my daily angst, I’d lost sight of the big picture, which was that I was fortunate to have this job. Once upon a time, I’d understood this much better, and I made a pact with myself. Every Monday, I would pretend it was my first day on the job.
If you are feeling disillusioned or dissatisfied at work, you can put this strategy to work for you. Remind yourself why you wanted the job in the first place, and why you took this offer over the others. Make a list (either mental or physical—but physical clarifies your thoughts and makes them more tangible) of the things you were most jazzed about on your first day. Close your eyes and imagine engaging in tasks with your adrenaline pumping. Remember how, at the beginning, you wanted to make the best possible impression? Remember how you wanted to impress everyone with your knowledge and skill, and how much you could contribute? Harness these recollections. Force yourself to smile a lot—just like you would at a new job. Where your face goes, the rest of you will follow.
There is a famous quote from David Cuschieri: “The mind is a powerful force. It can enslave or empower us. It can plunge us into the depths of misery or take us to the heights of ecstasy. Learn to use the power wisely.”
Your job is what you make of it. By recalling the days when you wanted to make EVERYTHING of it, you’ll see your motivation soar.
How would you plan to recapture the enthusiasm of your first day? Share your ideas in the comments!