Career Expert Outlines How To Create Your Own Route In The Workplace

No job is perfect. Whatever your work situation, there will be good times and bad. But if you're consistently unhappy on the job, you may have fallen into a rut and even considered joining the quiet quitting trend — essentially, putting in the bare minimum of effort needed to keep your position.

However, is quiet quitting really going to get you to the job of your dreams? Your five-year plan will probably be pretty uninspiring if it revolves around continuing a job you hate. Instead, some professionals are trying to take ownership of their work life and gain more satisfaction by dictating their own career paths. As illustrated in the concept of quiet thriving, which offers tips to make the most of your job, intentionally creating and developing your role at work may help you feel more invested, enthusiastic, and fulfilled.

To learn more, we spoke to Scott C. Hammond, Ph.D., a professor of management at the Jon M. Huntsman School of Business at Utah State University. As an award-winning author, teacher, and consultant in the realm of business, Hammond has developed some keen insights into blazing your own trail at work. If you want to take more ownership of your career, here's what he suggests.

Find your strengths

If you're a perfectionist or work in a high-stakes position, you may feel a lot of pressure to do everything right every time — even if it involves a task or skill you haven't focused on before. And if it's a project that doesn't come naturally to you, it can take a lot of energy to produce a result you're satisfied with. However, pouring time and attention into tasks that you're weak at is a fast way to unnecessarily increase your stress and start down a path to burnout. Instead, it pays to curate your job responsibilities around your innate strengths.

That said, it may take a little exploration to get a full picture of your talents and know what you're really capable of. As Scott C. Hammond says, "You might think you know what you can do well. You only have a partial picture. Your parents, your professors, and your partners only see a part of you, and it's usually not the part associated with your job. So you really need to explore with your colleagues and clients what you do well."

To broaden your horizons, let yourself try new things at work and see whether they play to your strengths. But if you're worried about overloading your plate, don't feel pressured to volunteer for every assignment. You can always test the waters of your skill set by helping out a colleague. And don't beat yourself up if some tasks aren't a good match for your talents. Hammond notes, "It is much more important to know what you are good at than where you can fail."

Find your path

As you hone your strengths in the workplace, this will help inform the career moves you want to make down the line. Leave yourself some flexibility to follow unexpected leads, but don't get lost in the woods or leave things up to chance. Most likely, the perfect job won't be handed to you on a silver platter. So you'll need to take some proactive steps to move forward.

Scott C. Hammond explains, "It has been said, 'You make the path by walking.' This is true. You don't make the path by wondering or wandering. Go somewhere in a job to find out where you want to go." Think a different job might play more to your strengths? Consider a transfer. Have an opportunity to work closely with another department? Learning about their workflow might open new doors and inspire new goals.

Even Hammond himself had to rework his expected career path after an eye-opening professional experience. "In my early years, I was sure I did not want to be a university professor. My grad school mentor asked me to teach a class, and I needed the money. Ten minutes into my first class I realized this is what I would be doing for the rest of my life and loving it."

Find your passion

As you catalog your talents and try out different angles for your career, it can be easy to get distracted by a job's perks. Maybe your current role pays well or has a convenient schedule, making you more inclined to stick it out. But true career engagement requires more than just the qualities that make a job look good on paper. If you have no enthusiasm for the work itself, you'll never feel satisfied with the trajectory you're on.

In addition to a position that utilizes your strengths and aligns with the path you want to follow, you also need passion. This can sometimes appear in unexpected ways and may change your preconceptions for the future. "A friend of mine rose quickly in the corporate ranks. He was challenged but not happy. Then he volunteered for the local search and rescue team and was hooked," Scott C. Hammond recalls. "He earned his EMT, then his paramedic certification. He quit his job and went full-time with the fire department, taking a 70% cut in pay. Today he is a superhero flight nurse for a medical helicopter. He loves his job and he loves his life." If your current job isn't sparking this kind of passion in you, it may be time to branch out and discover what kind of work truly resonates with your values and purpose.

Find your peace

When you're trying to build an ideal work life, your attention may naturally be focused on the trials and tribulations of your work day. But even if you're the type who prefers to keep your career and home life distinctly siloed, they're still bound to affect one another. And this isn't a one-way street — just like dissatisfaction or drama at work can impact your overall happiness, turmoil at home can also follow you into your shift. As such, part of creating your own route to success at work demands finding some contentment outside of the job.

"Success in the workplace is not promised to anyone. There are no guarantees. Make sure you have peace in the other part of your life," says Scott C. Hammond. "Know that whatever is happening outside work comes to work with you. Your moods, attitudes, and ideas follow you like a shadow. You can build a happy home, solid relationships, and a peaceful spirit regardless of your work situation. That will follow you to work, and bless your work colleagues. Sometimes that is reward enough."

Have an escape route

Finally, creating your ideal work life requires recognizing when a particular role just isn't for you. Sometimes, despite your best efforts, a job may not end up being the right fit for your goals and aspirations. And that's okay! In this case, the key is letting yourself move on — especially if the current job is putting you in a toxic headspace.

Of course, it can be scary to leave a familiar role and jump back into the job market. To make matters worse, working in a position that makes you unhappy can actually dampen your ability to see a positive path forward. "Trauma, even stress, narrows our vision," Scott C. Hammond observes. However, it's important that you don't get bogged down by uncertainty and remain in a bad job purely out of fear. "If you are slowly cooking in a corporate hell, leave. It takes trust and faith to step into the unknown, but bad workplaces can kill you. Literally."

Research published in Translational Psychiatry seems to back up Hammond's assertion, asserting that chronic stress can contribute to accelerated aging and health problems. So if your job is giving you more anxiety than fulfillment, it may be time to take these career-building tips with you to another employer.