How to Deal with Career Stagnation

When you started out on your career path, most likely you were brimming with excitement and enjoyed your job. However, for many of us, there comes a time when your career and job starts to lack its original luster. If you can positively answer the following questions, you may be experiencing career stagnation:

  1. On Sunday night, do you dread Monday and starting a new work week?
  2. When you’re at work, does the day drag by and you can’t wait to leave?
  3. Are you more irritable and gloomy while you’re at work than at home?

In a Business Week article, Jeff Schmitt writes, “Overcoming career stagnation can be as dramatic as a defining moment that alters your path or as simple as a change in routine or attitude. Either way, it requires self-evaluation, planning, and choice.” His words are so true. In order to deal with such stagnation, you may need dramatic change or a more simple change. Yet either pathway first starts with recognising the problem and making a decision to make a change. The following are some steps to help you deal with career stagnation.

# 1 Recognise the Problem

If you were able to affirmatively answer the three questions listed above, it is highly possible that you are experiencing career stagnation. Nothing in your professional career situation will change until you recognise that there is a problem. If you’re dissatisfied with your career, your dissatisfaction will negatively affect every area of your job performance. Ignoring your issue and sweeping it under the rug will do nothing but only prolong your unhappiness in your career.

# 2 Make a Decision to Change

Once you’ve recognised that career stagnation is a hindrance in your professional life, you need to make a decision to change. We mentioned above, you may need a dramatic change or a simpler one. For example, making a dramatic change would be looking for a different job in your field or learning a new trade or going back to school. The change you need may be a simpler one like refocusing on what you originally enjoyed about your career and finding true job satisfaction again.

# 3 Evaluate the Situation

Step three brings us to the meat of the situation. You’ve already recognised the issue and made a decision to change. Now you need to evaluate the situation. Take a piece of paper and fold it in half. On the left side, make a list of all the things you dislike about your current job or career. Be completely honest with yourself. That is the only way to make changes for the better. On the right side list things (may only be a few right now) that you like about your job. Underneath that column on the right side, make a list of why you originally chose to pursue this career or to accept your current job.

Putting everything down on paper illuminates the facts and helps you to separate them from your current negative feelings about the situation. In evaluating the situation, take a step back and don’t review your list until you’ve left it alone for a few hours or days. When you come back to the list, you’ll have fresh eyes to truly see the facts for what they are. If the dislike list is extremely longer than the like list and you don’t even relate to your original reasons for pursuing this path, it’s time to make a dramatic change. If your dislike list is not too lengthy and you can still relate to why you decided on this career, you simply need to bring a breath of fresh air into your professional situation.

# 4 Find Creative Solutions

After the career evaluation, you need to find creative solutions to the issue of stagnation. Ask yourself the following questions if you’re seeking a dramatic solution to your career stagnation.

  1. Is there something you’ve always wanted to pursue but didn’t have the time or initiative?
  2. What other talents do you have? Tap into your creative side and list your other interests.
  3. Do you have the financial reserve to quit your job and go back to university?
  4. If not, can you handle going back to school part-time while working full-time?
  5. Is there any other person in your life whom you can discuss your situation with?

If you are seeking a simpler solution to your career stagnation, ask yourself these questions.

  1. Can you speak with your boss or manager to ask for a new and interesting project?
  2. Are there ways to bring some fun back to your job? Speak to your HR department.
  3. Can you speak with your boss or manager about re-evaluating your job description?
  4. Is there a way for any of your creative talents to be incorporated in your job description?

# 5 Commit to Change

Dealing with career stagnation is a big deal. Most people’s professional life lasts for about 50 years from high school age through retirement. That’s a long time to be unhappy in your chosen career or job. Step 5 brings to your attention the need for you to commit to change. Nothing will change until you take the first step. However, the wheel of change will stop spinning if you’re not involved in pushing the wheel forward with self-discipline and determination.

In a Bloomberg Businessweek article, Jeff Schmitt shares more helpful information on tips toward dealing with career stagnation. His top three tips are: differentiate yourself, socialise and emulate a role model. Check out his article to find out the rest of his 25 Tips to Avoid Career Burnout. Career stagnation is no fun. At least not until you begin to think of all the possibilities that await you once you’ve recognised the issue and have made a decision to change your situation.


Photo Credit: The Star

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