Uninspired? You might be stuck in the dreaded career rut. Work is always going to be work, but if you’re spending 8 hours a day, 5 days a week doing something that’s completely boring, stressful, or unfulfilling, it might be time to reset your goals and get out of your professional rut.
Not everyone has a “calling”, and the idea of a career change might make your blood run cold, but you owe it to yourself to find a job that doesn’t fill you with dread on Sunday night or make you fall asleep at your desk. Ready to get started? Here are some tips for recognizing and overcoming your professional rut.
Are You in a Rut?
Don’t rush to any conclusions and quit your job because you think you might be in a rut. Think about it first. Are you?
- Constantly tired at work
- Avoiding coworkers
- Making no progress
- Reluctant to discuss your job
Just one or two of these feelings doesn’t mean you’re in a career rut necessarily, but if you’re experiencing many negative emotions about your job, it may be time to reassess. Is the problem something that can be fixed by making changes within your career, or switching companies? Or do the problems run deeper? These initial questions will help you think critically about your dissatisfaction, which could prevent hasty actions you might regret later.
Plan Your Strategy
Goal-setting is essential for getting out of a career rut. Before you can make any changes, you need a plan of action—and that action should lead to a tangible goal. Is your goal to change jobs? Find a career that provides you with a healthier lifestyle? Go back to school to pursue a new career? Seek more opportunities within your company? Think about the steps involved with reaching those goals so you can plan your strategy and avoid taking blind action.
Once you’ve got your goals mapped out, you might be unsure about which steps to take in order to get out of your rut. Here are a few ways you can take positive action and reclaim your professional identity:
Ask for More Responsibility
Like your career or your company, just feeling limited by the opportunities you’re being given? Ask for more responsibility, volunteer for new projects, or look for internal growth paths you can follow. Is your company looking for ways to become more sustainable? Do they have new projects you could spearhead? If you show initiative, you’ll likely have a chance to build your skills and do some interesting new work.
Apply for Jobs
Still think your career is right for you, but are not happy with your current company? It may be time to start scoping out other jobs you’re qualified for. There’s no harm in putting your resume out there—remember, the best time to look for a job is while you have one.
Consider a Career Change
A lot of times a professional rut can come in the form of feeling like you’ve made a mistake with your career choice. A career change might sound impossible, but people do it all the time—and are usually glad they did. To get started, write down everything you’re interested in, whether that’s fiction writing or civil engineering. What speaks to you? Do you have to go to school to make the career move? Look into all the obstacles that would be involved with your career change before you make a decision to move forward.
Starting out with a side gig is a great way to test the waters while you’re still working. Are you a budding web developer, graphic designer, marketer, or writer? Whatever your skills are, they can be utilized as a great moonlighting opportunity. After a while, you’ll know if you’d like to take your moonlight career full time—and you’ll earn extra cash while you do.
Focus on a Passion Project
Have you been neglecting your hobbies? Many people do so when they’re just working to bring home a paycheck. Try focusing on a passion project to help you feel more satisfied with your life. Your passion may not lead to income, but it might inspire you to make other changes in your career.
Put Yourself First
So often, people put their careers ahead of their own health and happiness. You’re not doing yourself or your company any favours if you don’t put yourself first, however. If you’re stuck in a career rut, don’t just live with it. Make a pledge to be in a place of professional excitement by this time next year—not in a professional rut.
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Andrew Deen has been a consultant for startups in almost every industry from retail to medical devices and everything in between. He is currently writing a book about scaling up business and his experience implementing lean methodology.