Sunday was the first day of spring, which if you follow tradition is the time when you get your house in order after a long, cold, bleak winter. But what about your career? We’ve been in a long, cold, bleak economic winter since the fall of 2008. When does that spring thaw happen?

Even if you’ve been lucky enough to hold a job through this unemployment crisis, that doesn’t mean everything’s been a bed of roses. According to a recent CBS News report only 45% of currently employed Americans are happy in their jobs/careers. That’s the lowest it’s been in 22 years. Most likely the reason is people don’t feel comfortable taking a leap into the unknown when the job market is so precarious. So even if they aren’t happy with their current work they stay where they are.

A logical choice, however if you’re feeling stuck in your career, but don’t feel comfortable moving on quite yet (after all, unemployment is still 8.9%, the lowest it’s been in two years, but still too high to get cocky about finding a new job) there are things you can do to keep yourself motivated at work without changing employers. Here are four ways you can “spring clean” your career so that you’re able to wait until unemployment is down to a respectable 3% before make any drastic moves.

1) Identify the Missing Pieces

If you’re unhappy at work, it’s usually because there’s something missing from your workday that gets your juices flowing. Do some soul searching and figure out what that is. Be honest, is it because your job isn’t challenging? Do you let yourself get passed over for promotions? Do you lack confidence in your ability to do your work? Whatever it is, you’ll never figure out how to improve your situation until you identify what your situation is in the first place.

2) Be Patient

If you feel like you’re at a dead end with your job (or career) it’s probably because you can’t make changes right now. Naturally, when uncomfortable circumstances arise you want them resolved immediately, but sometimes that’s just impossible. So don’t confuse a bad temporary situation with a hopeless indefinite one. If you can’t get what you need at the moment, then figure out what’s standing in your way and set a goal to make changes when the time is right. For example, if you want to leave your current job, but don’t feel you can because you have a kid in college, then set a goal to make changes after your kid graduates. But in the mean time, make less dramatic (but still significant) changes in the interim WITHOUT expecting all your problems to disappear overnight. The short term solution to motivation could be as simple as taking some classes that will help you be ready for the big changes when the time comes.

3) Don’t Freak Out Over Setbacks

If you relate hindrances to permanent failures, then you’re hosed. Too often people consider setbacks as roadblocks that prevent them from trying anything further. Instead, look at setbacks as opportunities to get creative and maybe even take some “safe” risks. If you’re really bored with your job, a setback could be just the challenge you need to get you moving in a productive direction. Consider the reasons your attempt didn’t go the way you’d hoped and then let that experience inspire you instead of defeat you.

4) Ask For Help

The poet John Donne wrote “No man is an island” and that goes for everyone at work, too. So if you’re feeling overwhelmed or in over your head then ask for help. No one is going to think you’re weak or stupid because you can’t make it happen all by yourself. The results are much worse if you know you’re destined for failure if you go it alone, but you plow ahead anyway. You’d be surprised how many people want to help. You just have to be proactive and ask. Worst they can do is say no, in which case you just ask the next person in your chain of support. (And if you don’t have a chain of support create one. There must be someone at work who can help you.)

Even if you love your career, your job can sometimes get old. Rest assured that’s only natural. So once the new growth of spring starts to make itself known, it never hurts to do a little “career spring cleaning” to inspire growth of your own. You never know what you’ll discover later in the year once you plant the seeds of ambitious goals.

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