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Think back to the beginning of your career. There’s a good chance you were filled with notions of what the future might hold and how you might advance into that dream job. Now, fast forward to the present day and ask yourself, “are those dreams still alive?”
For many workers, the middle portion of their career can feel like aimless wandering — spinning your wheels and never getting anywhere. In some cases, it may reach the point where you lose the motivation that fueled you early in your professional life and you hit a plateau. If you’ve reached that point (or feel you will soon), read on, we’ll teach you how you can change things around and reignite some passion for your job.
It’s easy to fall into a rut at work if you aren’t paying attention to how your job makes you feel. If you’re wondering whether or not the time to make some changes at work might be upon you, start by looking for some of the classic signs of career burnout:
You aren’t excited about work: It’s natural to not feel enthusiastic about having to head into work sometimes, but if your job is a constant drain on your satisfaction, then it’s most likely that you’re on the verge of burning out.
You don’t put in effort on the job: When you aren’t excited, you stop caring about the outcomes at your job and you’re less likely to give it your all when you’re at work.
The quality of your work has fallen: The lack of effort you’re exerting at your workplace typically leads to a marked decrease in your performance and work quality.
You’re always tired: Burnout often manifests as a kind of persistent mental, emotional, and physical fatigue.
You’re experiencing physical problems: Burnout may also come with physical ailments, such as insomnia, headaches, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, and gastrointestinal pain.
While burnout isn’t always a sign that you should change careers, it is a signal that you should be doing some things differently. Signs of burnout often go hand-in-hand with other indicators your career has stalled:
Your workload has become unmanageable.
You’re on bad terms with your boss.
Your salary hasn’t increased despite your exemplary performance.
You have limited opportunities for improving your skills or for career advancement.
You have few chances to use the skills on the job that you do possess.
Your organization is in decline.
If you notice these symptoms compounding, it’s probably time for you to take action. Let’s discuss ways that you can tackle career stagnation head on.
Now that you know how to recognize the signs of career stagnation, you’ll need to learn how you can deal with it. There’s no single right answer, but a combination of the following techniques may help you get to where you want to be.
Sometimes, all it takes is a new perspective and some modified behaviors to get yourself out of a career rut. For example, you might notice that you’re getting stuck because it’s hard to concentrate on repetitive tasks like tracking marketing KPIs.
Altering how you tackle your responsibilities, by using a new method like the Pomodoro Technique, for instance, might help make even those boring parts of your job feel fun again. In turn, this may help you get focused and back on the path of furthering your career.
Similarly, small changes like just getting a bit of exercise or adding routine meditation to your schedule can help alter your mindset and get you back into the groove of giving your all on the job. When small changes aren’t enough to make the difference, though, then you’ll have to escalate your efforts and start communicating about your situation.
If you feel your stagnation is a product of external forces at work, then you’ll need to talk to your boss about what’s wrong and what needs to change to get your career back on track.
It could be the case that the job is encroaching on the other areas of your life, in which case you’ll need to coordinate with your boss to set some boundaries and restore that precious work-life balance. Alternatively, though, you might feel that your skills aren’t being properly utilized or that you aren’t being provided with fair opportunities for advancement.
You’ll need to state your case for increased responsibility, higher pay, or a shot at a promotion. Prepare yourself well for that eventual conversation with your boss, and update your resume so you can easily explain why you are worth what you’re asking for.
If you don’t expect things to change at your current workplace, however, it may be time to search for greener pastures, which means reskilling and starting your job search anew.
If you feel your current job has run its course, that doesn’t mean you have to abandon all of your career goals. You might consider going back to school for additional training that makes you a more desirable employee or helps you transition to a new field.
With newfound skills, you may be able to negotiate some changes at your current job and improve your situation. Even if you can’t, though, your improved resume is likely to turn some heads at the offices of other potential employers.
Career stagnation tends to sneak up on you, so try to be proactive about moving forward within your field. Take whatever chances you have to learn new skills, and keep your resume up to date so you’re ready whenever a new career opportunity comes your way.
Don’t be afraid to recognize your worth as an employee, and seek out the path that will make the best use of your skills and experience.
About the Author
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Jori Hamilton is an experienced writer residing in the Northwestern U.S. She covers a wide range of topics but takes a particular interest in covering topics related to business productivity and marketing strategies. To learn more about Jori, you can follow her on Twitter and LinkedIn.