There comes a time in our lives when challenges appear to be never-ending and insurmountable. As you trudge along to another Monday morning, do you feel a sense of constricting dread to enter your work premises? Do you enter into a ceaseless debate with yourself to find one exciting activity to undertake during the day? Disengagement with work can show up in many forms. From stretching a two-hour task to a 10-hour exercise fraught with revisions and queries to rushing to submit a project at the last minute.
When you are struggling to reach the end of the week and then praying against all odds to have a peaceful, work-free weekend, you are swimming in the tides of what is called a ‘career rut’.
So how should you untangle yourself from the strangling ties of career stagnation?
Identify the problem: Invest some time in identifying the core reason for your disengagement with your current career status. Is it really the work in your present job role that is mind-numbingly demanding or is it the demanding 2-hour commute that saps all enthusiasm out of your being? Indeed, it is no small feat to even acknowledge that you are stuck in a career rut and your career growth has reached a status quo. Most people brush away the signs in denial, often thinking it to be a temporary phase that will eventually pass. If you are cognizant of the bottlenecks, then you are in a much better standing than most people. So, dig harder and unravel the specific triggers in your current situation that result in these episodes of disappointment.
Introspect and question yourself: At the end of a work-day, assess your performance to trace the activities that gave you satisfaction as opposed to ones that just led to conflicting discussions with no result. If you spent a small portion of your day doing your favorite part of the job while being occupied with monotonous, un-challenging work for the rest of the day, then take the initiative to raise this concern with your superiors or co-workers. Ask yourself whether you feel you are at the same place you were a year ago in terms of your job responsibilities. Think if a part of this is because you were passive and not pro-active enough to step-up and state your accomplishments and strengths to demand a promotion. Do you think that the tools and learning avenues available in your organization are not targeted to your functional area which, in turn, is stifling your efforts to bring innovation and creativity to your work? Many organizations, these days offer learning programs to high-performing employees to augment their skill base along with providing reimbursement in case an employee wants to enroll in a technical course with an external institute.
As part of this self-evaluation, you should aim to decipher your career goals- where your interests, skills, values and aspirations converge. Take personality and aptitude tests like the one by The Myers and Briggs Foundation to gain a deeper understanding about yourself. If your current job is seeming less meaningful, explore the idea of a lateral move to another department concentrated in a different function. Be vocal about this alternative to your superiors and seek their support in understanding the formal process of application and cross-functional training. However, if you find yourself facing the wall because of an unsupportive manager or spiteful co-workers, then perhaps it is time for you to look for another job.
If you have gathered sufficient experience and expertise in your industry and have relative financial comfort, examine the benefits of being self-employed. If you have been appreciated for being the creative, ambitious and tenacious leader of your team, then you are more cut out for entrepreneurship than you think. Of course, it may translate to some unstable months, financially speaking, so ascertain the financial cushion you would like to build to take the brunt. Be open to undertaking some freelance or contractual work during this time to stay in touch with industry developments and monetarily place yourself in a better position.
Create a vision board for yourself, having studied all these alternatives. Chart out the gap between where you are and where you want to be. Usually, this gap can be classified in two ways. Firstly, you need to assess the magnitude of experience required in your functional field to get that dream job or scale further to a higher position in your organization or even start your own enterprise. Secondly, what are the skills and corresponding proficiency level necessary to land that coveted job or promotion.
Take Action: Once you have garnered a stronger clarity of your professional interests, take conscious steps to advance towards your vision. Study the job market. Scour through job descriptions of the positions you want to target. Polish up your resume to highlight your competencies and accomplishments in light of those. Visit the VMock platform for specialized guidance in this respect. Reach out to your network of business contacts, seniors, alums and career coaches for inspiration and constructive feedback of your strengths and eligibility. In terms of striking an edge in your current job to gain that desirable motivation, delve into tools that help you become more productive and efficient. Applications like the Evernote (for organizing key information), Dispatch (for a more organized inbox) and Abukai, (expense reporting) can come in handy.
Indulge in your interests: When you are overwhelmed by anxiety over an unfulfilling job, it serves your interests to take a break and unwind. Take up activities that relax you, excite you. Join an art class, delve in your passion for wildlife photography. Approach your local community school and volunteer to teach there. You can explore applications like Meetup and Eventbrite to meet like-minded professionals who might help you navigate to a job or company that leads to career success and happiness.