Feeling unhappy at work? Maybe your projects don’t excite you. Or your colleagues are constantly dragging you down. Or your organization’s values are misaligned with yours.
No matter the exact source of your discontent, you might feel like you need to change everything about your career to feel happier. You may feel tempted to switch over to a new company and change your role while switching industries, and while you’re at it, move across the country to start a brand-new life.
Too often, when you’re feeling unhappy with any professional situation, you may be tempted to start over completely, upending your entire career to have a clean slate and a fresh start. However, before you completely overhaul your entire career, consider making some small changes that can make a big difference to your day-to-day satisfaction.
Small Tweaks Can Change Everything
Many years ago, I used to play tennis quite seriously, and my coach used to talk with me about the natural tendency to overcorrect when you’re learning the game. If you hit your serve too long, you often end up hitting your next serve into the net. The same goes for a lot of sports. Small tweaks are often enough to create a completely different outcome.
Similarly, in your career, making small adjustments to your career can help you slowly move your career to a better place. You don’t have to always attempt the daunting task of completely reinventing yourself. Here are three examples of realistic tweaks you could make.
Jump Onto A Different Project
Many years ago, when I was working in health policy consulting, I was initially focused on client work. However, when an opportunity came along to get involved in a company-wide corporate rebranding initiative, I expressed an interest in getting involved. I eventually got sign-off from my manager to adjust my project load so I could get more involved in this initiative.
I still spent most of my time doing consulting work, but even being able to spend a few hours a week on a project I was really passionate about made all the difference to my level of work engagement. This eventually planted the seeds for my career in brand marketing.
If you’re not feeling super energized with your current work, try to identify other types of projects floating around across your broader function and organization. If you find one that piques your interest, have a conversation with your manager about whether getting involved is feasible now or in the future.
Another approach you can take is to keep your role, industry, function, and location the same, but just switch companies. Sometimes, you may be perfectly happy with your actual job, but find yourself at odds with the culture, vision, or values of your organization. Or maybe you just feel like you’ve contributed all the value you can.
I was once working in a brand marketing role at a luxury desserts start-up in London, starting to feel like the role was no longer gelling with me. So, I switched to a larger, more established company, still in London, still in luxury desserts, still in brand management, and still within marketing. That was enough, at least for a while, to make me happier with my day-to-day professional life.
Changing organizations can be enough to radically change your day-to-day experience. Making an external move does involve some heavy lifting that includes reworking your job materials, networking, researching different companies, and interviewing. However, sometimes, a fresh start is enough to change your day-to-day experience at work.
Shift Within Your Company To A Different Team
While not always easy to pull off, you could try to shift within your company to a different team. This isn’t always within your control, and you have to consider the internal politics carefully, but it can be done.
I’ve done this myself a couple of times in my career. In one company where rotations to different brands were not uncommon, I proactively expressed an interest in being assigned to a specific manager whom I admired. I also had a situation where I lobbied to take on a different project which resulted in me having an additional manager with whom I really enjoyed working.
Sometimes, just working with a different manager can make all the difference. That could mean riding things out until you move to a different team, or proactively lobbying to work on a team with a manager or colleagues you really admire. While it can take time and patience, it can make all the difference. The people who surround you each day at work can have an enormous impact on your overall happiness in the office.
Significant Change Starts With Small Actions
Fixing your career doesn’t always require you to take massive actions. Small changes can make a huge difference to your fulfillment, satisfaction, and overall well-being. Making a series of successive small tweaks can also collectively add up to a significant change that radically alters the nature of your day-to-day work life. All you have to do is start somewhere.
Originally published at Forbes.