For many professionals, there comes a time when work no longer feels interesting or exciting. You might lightly dread Monday mornings or find yourself bored with tasks that were once challenging. If that sounds familiar, you might be in a career rut. With a few proactive steps, you can re-energize your career and rediscover the joy in everyday work.
Find New Challenges
Boredom is often at the root of a career rut. When you've mastered all of the challenges that your position offers, it's time to take charge. Ask your boss for more responsibility, or seek out colleagues doing interesting work and request to be involved. If you're motivated by success, use upward mobility as a motivator. Identify the experience or knowledge gaps that are standing between you and a promotion, and take it upon yourself to fill them. New professional goals give you something to work toward, which can dispel a feeling of stagnation.
Lighten Your Load
For some professionals, an overly demanding workload can lead to a career rut. In this case, the problem might not be your job — it could be that busy work is distracting you from core responsibilities. This situation can arise from a number of scenarios: your company is operating with a too-small staff, you don't say no often enough or your boss is offloading too many jobs, for example. Start by listing your current tasks, and find ways to get rid of those that don't fall within your job description. If a recent firing of an administrative assistant has left you with filing and phone-answering duties, request that your boss hire a temp worker. Then, start saying no to unnecessary meetings and additional projects. This process frees you up to focus on the tasks you love most, which can be enough to break you out of a rut.
Ask for Guidance
Sometimes, a career rut stems from the feeling that there's no room for progression in your current company. If you can't see the next step up the career ladder, start by talking to your boss or the HR department. Explain the situation, and ask for guidance. Your boss may be able to point out a next step that wasn't clear to you, such as a lateral move that's suited to your abilities, opportunities for cross-training or leadership development programs. The company may also offer professional seminars or course reimbursement. Don't be afraid to ask — your employer has invested in training and development, so it's often in the company's best interest to do whatever is possible to keep you on board.
Know When to Leave
In some cases, leaving is the only way to get out of a career rut. You may have maxed out all opportunities for advancement, or the available options might not match your professional goals. If your bosses refuse to promote you, either because of past mistakes or an inability to acknowledge your qualifications, it's also a sign to get out. Starting a job search can be scary, but it's also an exciting opportunity to shake up your career plans and reignite your interest in work.
A career rut is frustrating, but not impossible to overcome. By making a good-faith effort to solve the problem before you leave, you can maintain relationships and a great professional reputation.
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