Close your eyes and think about your job. Are you happy? Miserable? Meh? We all go through ups and downs at work, but if you find yourself constantly dreading work, you may have hit The Slump. First off, know that it's normal; according to a Dutch study, employees in their late twenties to early forties experience lower job satisfaction and higher emotional exhaustion than their older and younger peers. The irony is that The Slump often happens as your career's heating up: As you grow in a job, the competition for promotions increases, which can take a toll on work friendships and create more stress, says study coauthor Hannes Zacher, Ph.D., associate professor of organizational psychology at the University of Groningen, in the Netherlands. A decade is a long time to dread going to the office, so Glamour asked experts to weigh in with specific strategies for these crucial years. Here, a guide to getting your office mojo back.
Pretend You're New on the Job
"The initial phase of work is exhilarating because the learning curve is so steep—we feel more motivated when we're learning. So find new things to master, like public speaking. And it sounds surface, but when you start a job, you tend to dress up, which can give you a mood boost too. Finally, when you're new, you extend yourself to meet up with coworkers. Get back in that habit. Just looking up as you walk around the office makes a difference."
—Nicole Williams, career expert at LinkedIn
Work Smarter, Not Longer
"Avoid playing 'who can work the longest.' Competing for the boss's attention this way is exhausting, and it's one reason people begin to dread their job. Instead, focus on the results of your work. That's what you got hired for. Do good work, and it'll become louder than how many hours you put in."
—Jody Thompson, coauthor of Why Work Sucks and How to Fix It and cocreator of the Results-Only Work Environment (ROWE), a human resources management company
Do Something (Else) You Love
"I've been a stress doctor for 30 years, and I've never seen a patient who had balance in their life outside the office get burned out. Whether it's playing guitar or goofing off with friends, make sure you have something that takes your mind totally away."
—David Posen, M.D., stress specialist and author of Is Work Killing You?
Create the Job You Want
"There's a strategy called job crafting; it means customizing your job, and it can foster more satisfaction. Try these three things: First, change how you work. For example, if sending and answering email bores you, find ways to reduce the volume. Second, change who you interact with—cultivate relationships with people you like, or become a mentor. Third, find the why, or the meaning, in your work. If you can feel that what you're doing has purpose, then that's really a big thing."
—Joe Robinson, productivity trainer, author of Work to Live, and founder of Optimal Performance Strategies
Learn the "Soft No"
"Women often avoid saying no because they are afraid of being impolite, and then they end up with too many tasks. This leaves them less time to advance their careers or regenerate their energy. Practice a soft no by saying, 'That's a great opportunity and I would love to do it, but I'm very busy with project X.'"
—Elisabeth Kelan, professor of leadership at the U.K.'s Cranfield School of Management and author ofRising Stars
Ask Yourself What's Still Missing
"Think about what would really make you happier—such as helming a big project—and then tell your boss. But be honest with yourself: If working less is the only thing that would make you happier, it may be time to change jobs."
—David Burstein, consultant on millennial work culture and author of Fast Future