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3 Steps to Be Happier at Work!

Want to be happier at work? If so, you’re not alone. According to a recent Gallup poll, 85% of Americans admit to hating their jobs.

If you’re part of the 15% that love their work, awesome! If not, read on for three steps to find more happiness in your career.

#1 Get clear on what you really want from work – and life!

Sometimes we get so used to surviving a less-than-ideal work situation that we forget to stop and actually consider what we actually want. Many of us haven’t given the question much thought since our college days, if we even did so then.

By the time I was in my late twenties with years of Finance experience under my belt, I couldn’t tell you what I wanted from career. All I knew was that I was so unhappy and unfulfilled with my life as a financial consultant. 

Since grade school when I got on the “Straight A Student” train, I was always striving to do what was next and best – get the best grades, graduate early, get multiple degrees, land an impressive job, make more money, get promoted, and so on.

I was chasing the promotion, the raise, the prestige – with little regard to what would actually make me happy. If I was ever going to make a change, I had to get clear on what I wanted, what I liked and didn’t like about my job, and what I wanted from life.

Even if you have no idea what kind of job you’d like, you can start with questions like:

How do I want to feel?

Who do I want to be?

How do I want to spend my days? And with whom?

What are my top values and priorities in life?

Does my current job align with those ideals? If not, am I okay with that?

What is success to me? At work? In life?

Then get more specific about your current role and what you’d like to change:

What do I like (and dislike) about my current role? Why?

What would I like to see more (and less) of in my job?

What steps have I taken to change this for the better?

Is this situation salvageable?

#2 Reflect on how you got here.

One of the most common things I hear from new clients is that while they know how to get a job (they’ve done so many times!), the problem comes about 3 months to a year in to the new job. That’s when they start feeling the familiar sense of boredom, dread, and disillusionment with their work.

The way to avoid this is to reflect on your life path thus far, so you don’t make the same mistakes again. Think about how far you’ve come, what you’ve accomplished, and what got you to this point where you’re not as happy as you’d like at work.

I remember doing this exercise in my late twenties, when by all outside measures, I had a very successful career. I was living in New York City, making well into six figures, traveling every week for work, meeting with C-level executives, and presenting to Boards. It was everything I thought I wanted (plus it looked so good on paper!). And yet, I was so unhappy and unfulfilled.

When I got real with myself, I realized that there were many things that led me to this point – among them: a strong desire to please my parents, the momentum of life, and the biggest one, measuring my worth by others’ ideas of success.

Until we’re honest with ourselves about not just why we’re unhappy, but the beliefs, motivations and actions that got us here, it will be difficult to make substantial, lasting change.

#3 Experiment with small tweaks before making bigger changes.

Once you’ve gained some clarity on where you are, how you got here, and what you really want, it’s time to take action! Even if you’re sure it’s time to quit your job or try your hand at a brand new career, I recommend starting smaller before turning your whole life upside down. 

Experiment with modest tweaks and habit changes first. This will not only make things better in the short-term, but will give help you build the confidence so that you’re even more ready if you do decide to get a new job.

Here are some things to try:

  1. Schedule what’s important. It’s time to walk your talk. If you say your health and relationship with your significant other are important, mark time off to get to the gym three days a week plus plan regular date nights. Treat that time as you would a meeting with your boss – don’t miss it!
  1. Set boundaries and learn to say “No.” When we feel overwhelmed with to-dos and decisions, it often comes down a desire to make everyone else happy, even if it comes at the expense of our well-being, health, and relationships. 

Decide on your top priorities and goals for the month, and every time an opportunity comes up to add something else to your plate, ask yourself if it will bring you closer to your goals and how you want to feel. If not, don’t take it on. Say “No” – no explanation necessary.

  1. Get support. Just because it needs to get done, doesn’t mean it needs to be done now or by you. When looking at your never-ending to-do list, ask yourself if there’s anywhere you can get support. 

That could mean paying for help like a babysitter, cleaning service or meal-delivery plan or it could just mean asking your family to help out (and being okay if the dishwasher isn’t filled to your specifications!), and getting creative with neighborhood carpooling and childcare.

  1. Take care of yourself at least as well as you take care of Rex. Seriously. Self-care gets a bad rap because we all imagine indulgent massages and bubble baths. While all that is great, I’m suggesting something way more basic.

If you have a dog, you know what I’m talking about. I’m sure Rex gets plenty of sleep, good food, time for play, - and forgiveness when he’s made a mistake. Do you offer that same level of basic self-care, patience and compassion for yourself? If not, why not? It’s time for a change. No matter what’s going on at work, everything is a million times worse when we’re tired and hungry.

No matter your situation at work, I encourage you to work through the steps above. You may be pleasantly surprised. 

I’ve had clients begin working with me because they were sure that they needed a new job, only to realize that with a few tweaks, boundaries, and intentional time outside of work, they can be quite happy in their current role. And if after all of this, they still decide it’s time to make a change, now they’re armed with more clarity and confidence to take that next step.

Want more? Whether you’re ready for a new job or just want to step into leadership, a polished LinkedIn profile is a must. Join us for the free Job Joy LinkedIn Challenge where you’ll get one tip every day to update your page. By the end of the challenge, you’ll have a completely revamped and aligned LinkedIn profile to attract perfect-for-you opportunities. There will be lots of support, surprises and giveaways! Sign up here:

Kristen Zavo is a career coach, talent consultant, and the author of Job Joy, an Amazon best-seller. After spending nearly two decades in traditional corporate roles, working for some of the top Fortune 500 companies like Lehman Brothers, NBC and Luxottica, she now helps unfulfilled high achievers to find work and build careers they absolutely love. Learn more about her and her work at 

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How to Network Like a Pro in St. Louis!

Networking can be intimidating—are people actually comfortable walking into a room of strangers and sparking up conversation? Attending networking events makes you get out of your comfort zone and test your boundaries. But did you know that this allows you to not only grow professionally but personally, too? 

There is always so much happening in St. Louis, and there are professional development or casual networking events all the time. Here’s a list of some of my top spots and suggestions on where to connect with other creative professionals: 

  • Meetups: There is a Meetup group for everything and anything under the sun, so check out their website and search for any particular topic you’re looking for such as “digital marketing” or “technology.” You are bound to find some kind of group or event to join! 
  • St. Louis Women In Tech Exchange: I attended a “Women In Tech” event earlier this year and my eyes were opened to a whole new world of community and support. This Meetup in particular was founded for women in technology looking to be empowered and celebrated for their place in tech. 
  • STLX: Are you interested in learning more about the User Experience space? Whether you’re a designer, developer, researcher of product manager, STLX is an excellent resource to meet others who are just as passionate as you are about the user experience. Plus, they host speakers to share market trends and resources to better your work! 
  • Eventbrite: This amazing website is home to thousands of events in the area. While you’re looking for something to do on Saturday night, take a peek at the business and networking section. 
  • 314 Digital: Stay up-to-date on all things digital marketing happening in the “314” with an organization dedicated to education and career development. 314 Digital hosts free monthly breakfast panels on various topics in the digital space. Last month I attended their event on reaching consumers in their purchase journey with high-level digital marketers on the panel and was able to meet marketing professionals from all over STL! 
  • Venture Cafe: Check out Venture Cafe every Thursday from 3:00 to 8:00 p.m. for weekly gatherings to connect innovators in a collaborative and engaging environment. Let them know if you’re new and one of their staff members will help introduce you to the group. It is a fun and helpful way to spend a Thursday! 
  • Creatives On Call: We are here to help you thrive while you strive. From the moment we first meet you’re officially part of the COC family! Join us for our monthly Coffee With Creatives events and Portfolio Revamps at local coffee shops, free Digital Workshops or our biannual Happy Hour at some of your favorite spots around town. Stay tuned on all the events we have to offer you to make networking easy!

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Mid-Year Temperature from Our View: Agencies vs. In-House

We are half-way through the year and many of those in the creative industry and those resourcing for creative talent are assessing whether the expectations of 2019 were on target.  Our discussions with agencies, in-house creative/marketing department managers and HR tells us that we are in a much different place then where we thought we would be at the start of 2019.

To set the scene, we finished out 2018 with the expectation of a massive development and building of in-house creative and marketing agencies/departments for the upcoming 2019.  Many agencies and marketing firms began to unravel or started to lean up.  In-house agencies started scooping up the lead talent to build their internal teams.  This cycle in our estimations has been turning for the last two years.  From Creatives On Call’s perspective the permanent hire portion of our business doubled year over year as corporations drove the demand for good talent within.  It was (and still is) a firm belief that in-house agencies teams were going to replace outside AOR.  Predominate reasoning was that agencies were less relevant to the corporate needs; doubling down the talks that agency costs incurred excessive and bloated pricing structures and disruptor options of online sourcing platforms such as Upworks were compelling arguments for bringing fresh ideas to the corporate table via outside resources.  

In-house agencies believed (and positioned their worth) that they had better insider baseball because they possessed the advantages to obtain highly sensitive information and to stage creative within an incubator like environment.  The talents’ view of agencies vs. corporations was quickly changing as well; and the truth was that corporations did provide better salaries for digital & tech talent, better benefits with job security and better life work balance.  The in-house shop implies a promise for faster speed to completion along with corporate accountability.  The most important in-house factor was that corporations were collecting the freshest talent resources, as in the newest talent (college grads). College grads are firmly turning their backs on the once highly desired cool agency work-lifestyle vibe for corporates coveted life outside of work options and benefits and/or the now viable career choice of gig-work.  

But, (and with a strong emphasis here) the second quarter of this year we’ve seen a distinct flip-flop on the east and west coasts (the Midwest is taking it’s time to revert).  Corporate work is minimizing and in-house shops are trending to lean on agencies again.  It most definitely begs the question as to “why?”.

 I asked both our agency clients and corporate clients what their thoughts were on the change and an interesting list of reasons emerged:

  • Corporations had higher expectations of output from the newly expanded internal teams.  It’s tough to get a team to gel in short order – corporate expects it regardless of how difficult it is to accomplish.
  • Most In-House departments were built by agency talent that did not “understand” corporate politics and operations.  And they tend to “buck” the systems of corporate.
  • Operations (and Finance & HR) realized it was a much easier and quicker boat to turn with an outside AOR over the addition and reduction of staff when costs need to be toggled. 

The largest find that seemed to drive the flip was focused around the feeling of luke-warm success of the hired in-house leadership.  Rule number one that corporations are learning – don’t hire an agency Creative Director as the leader of a corporate creative department.  It’s a tough expectation of a CD to learn the ropes of operations and management.  And ultimately, when they struggle with the operational challenges they lean into and revert to their creative talents as a diversion to the management aspect.  Corporations see a flash of creative drive initially from the CD but once that flame is spent the embers and ashes are not enough to provide the leadership that an in-house department needs.  Counter to these points are those in-house teams that seemed to thrive; and those hands down possessed leadership that was stacked with marketing or operational managers, often blended with past creative industry experience.

The findings that we made were that many of the CD leaders suffered and marketing & operational leaders thrived – all heavily based upon if they could adopt formal process.  Operational leaders are trained and honor the needs of the business; complying generally with accounting, internal billing and procurement rules.  The success of CD leaders was tough –it can be said that their strengths were their weaknesses.  CD leaders were reported to have a tendency to be creative all the time, in such areas as accounting and internal billings.  The creative ideas that did not follow process tested the limits of HR, legal and often times political correctness. 

The outcome of 2018-mid 2019: Many of the CD leaders left the corporate in-house world.  Going back to their roots of agency life was a comfort.   Many agencies are welcoming their alumni back with open arms because with the reunion of ex-corp CDs comes with the creative corporate work that they started when in-house.

Moral of the first part of the 2019 story – what goes up must come down, and around and back up again.  Agencies are picking up speed as corporate expands outside budgets again.

Happy remainder of 2019 to our agency and corporate clients and most importantly the creative talent!

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