Success for Short Timers: How to Stay Motivated While Moving On
By: Heather Mundell, CPC


Are you a "short-timer"? You are if you have decided to leave your job in the near future, whether next week or next year. You may have a dream job in mind but you aren't ready to leave your current job. Maybe you need more money in the bank before you make a major change, or more experience or skill development to move in a new direction. Perhaps you're waiting to hear whether you've been accepted at a graduate school.

Maintaining high performance at work when you know you won't be there long term isn't easy. Staying focused on a dream job when your current job is mentally, physically or emotionally demanding can be downright challenging. What can you do to stay motivated as a short-timer and pursue your dream job?

In my life coaching practice, I have worked with many professionals who are challenged with balancing their performance in their current job with planning for their next and very different job. Here are some of the most common obstacles they struggle with and strategies we've developed to help them on their way to their dream job.

"I'm having a hard time staying motivated at work."

In their book Whistle While You Work, Richard J. Leider and David A. Shapiro explore the idea of looking for ways to change your job when you aren't able to change jobs altogether. Consider what new opportunities you might be able to pursue within your current position or organization that would be useful to you in your dream job. For example, if you are a sales manager who wants to be a professional musician, are there opportunities to perform at company events or clients within the music industry to cultivate? Depending on how big a change you plan on making, this effort can require some real creativity. Just remember that if you can find ways to create connections between your current job and your dream job, that will go a long way toward keeping your motivation up.

If you find yourself suffering from "short-timer's disease", which is characterized by the tendency to lose momentum and motivation at work when you know you will be leaving in the near future, do your best to stay engaged. People who suffer from short-timer's disease tend to focus exclusively on the negative aspects of their job and organization, which drags down them and everyone they work with.

Instead, focus on following through with your commitments and being helpful. Doing what you said you would do, coupled with looking for opportunities to assist, helps avoid the slippery slope of complaint. Remember that you have already committed to staying in your position for a certain length of time, so make the most of it. Focus on what you can do to make the experience as positive as possible.

"I don't have the time or energy to work on my dream job."

Most of the individuals I coach hold demanding jobs and spend an inordinate amount of time and energy at work. They can't see where they can squeeze in the time and effort it will take to make their dream job a reality. Like them, you will need to make some different decisions about how you spend your time and strike more of a balance between doing tasks that have short-term benefits and tasks that support your long-term dreams.

Cultivating excitement about your dream and achieving clarity about its vision and mission are two essential steps to making changes in how you spend your time. Why is this important? As Paul Levesque and Art McNeil offer in their book, Dream Crafting, "People on a mission are people who know what to discontinue."

To help you know where to make small changes, record how you spend your time for an entire day. How do you effectively use your time and where could you be more efficient? Take a look at the time you spend checking e-mail, surfing the Net, reading national or business periodicals, and watching television. Assess what you do that drains you and explore how you can make those opportunities more energizing. Are there projects you can delegate at work? Are there meetings you drive at work that you can tighten up? Are there colleagues' meetings you attend where your attendance isn't strictly necessary? Every small change gets you closer to balancing your everyday concerns and your vision for your future.

"I'm overwhelmed by how much time and effort it will take to achieve my dream job. I'm afraid that I'll never be able to make it happen."

Many people put up with the status quo because they feel afraid, intimidated, or just overwhelmed. When you make bold changes in your life, you need a support system. To develop your support system, start by identifying your "champions." Who do you know who wants to see you succeed? Who do you admire for making difficult changes or bold moves? Who has the knowledge or expertise you lack that will help you stay motivated to land your dream job? Call them up for support, encouragement and ideas.

If you have tried some of these strategies ­ even found a few champions ­but you are still feeling overwhelmed by the prospect of pursuing your dream job or you just don't want to go it alone, consider hiring a professional coach. A coach will help you form a clear vision of what you want in your dream job and support you taking action to make that dream job a reality. A coach can be one of your most effective champions!

Heather Mundell, CPC
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