Snatches of conversations overheard on the commuter ferry the other morning included someone telling his workmate, "I'm just not feeling it" and a woman saying, "As soon as summer comes, I think, 'Work schmirk.'"
Weary as we may be of the work year, now is actually the perfect time to reflect on the year that has been and to think about how we would like the next 12 months to look, says Caroline Sandford, executive director of The Career Development Company.
She says reflection gives us the opportunity to really sit back and ask questions that allow us to learn from the past and create new possibilities. She likes this quote by the late educator Peter Drucker: "Follow effective action with quiet reflection. From the quiet reflection will come even more effective action."
Sandford suggests asking ourselves a few questions to help with reflection, such as what worked well and why, what we loved and felt proud of, and what drained us and needs to be left behind. "Ask yourself how you've grown over the year, whether you're heading in the right direction and how you can get more of what you want."
Sandford uses a strength-based approach in her practice and says we should feel proud of the things we've done well. "Reflecting on and celebrating the things you've done well not only allows you to feel good about what you've achieved, but also builds a positive foundation for moving forward. When we're proud of our achievements it builds our confidence, which in turn means we might push ourselves further and try new things."
From those occasions when things didn't go so well, dealing effectively with difficulties and disappointments comes back to reflecting on the past and asking pertinent questions that allow us to work out the cause of the failure rather than beating ourselves up, says Sandford. "Spend some time figuring out what strategies, resources, support and training would help in the future when faced with similar circumstances."
If you're feeling stressed and overburdened at work, the Christmas break is a great opportunity to recharge and resource yourself for the coming year. Sandford says it's a good time to reflect on why the stress and overburdening occurred and what can be done about it, with a good starting point being to look at work/life balance. "Are you spending too much time at work and not enough time recharging with activities that give you energy, such as spending time with friends, going to a movie or reading a book? If your life has become imbalanced, think of activities you can bring back into your life or new ones you can add in your spare time."
She also suggests having a chat with your manager about any support they can offer and ways to reduce the stress you're under. "Do they have an Employee Assistance Programme you can access? Can you share your workload if it's too heavy, take some time out or reduce your hours? Do you need training or more resources to help you get your work done? Is there another role or option within the organisation that will be less stressful?"
At year's end, some employees may look back and feel that they have been undervalued, unappreciated and underpaid. In order to prove your value to your employer and make a case for increased pay or benefits in the new year, Sandford says you must first have a clear understanding about what the boss and organisation does value and appreciate, and what would be looked favourably upon in considering you for increased pay or benefits.
"Going to your boss and asking just that question could give you some clear answers, rather than it all being guesswork. Start gathering evidence of achievements — feedback from clients and colleagues, meeting of your KPIs, meeting deadlines, saving money, making money. You can then present a case in the new year as to why you deserve that pay increase."
For some, the end-of-year blues might signify more than just fatigue. You might be feeling fed up with "work, life and the universe" and decide to re-evaluate your employment and life choices. Sandford says working with an independent career practitioner can help you gain an in-depth understanding of who you are, what's important to you, what interests you and what your personality is.
"These are keys to understanding what options will work for you. A career practitioner will also support you in increasing your knowledge and understanding of the market and the opportunities that are out there, and identify the steps towards what you want that suits both who you are and the opportunities available."
She notes that currently in New Zealand anyone can call themselves a career practitioner regardless of their experience, skills and qualifications and therefore, while qualifications are not the only consideration when seeking quality career support, they are a good starting point.
"A career practitioner should possess the qualifications, experience and skills to a level that you can trust, based on knowledge and expertise."
Beat stress and fatigue
● Practise meditation or yoga
● Go for a walk
● Read a book or listen to music
● Talk to a friend or a professional
● Breathe slowly and deeply
● Get plenty of sleep
● Eat well and drink lots of water
● Keep a gratitude diary
● Make positive affirmations.