Whether you secured a job in your intended industry, or are still left scratching your head as to how you ended up in your current role, losing the love you once had for your career can be costly to your finances and mental health.
Here are four ways to bust out of a career rut:
Identify the real issue.
Sometimes, a career rut happens because you’ve taken enough “wrong turns” to end up in a role you don’t enjoy and aren’t suited for based on your interests and talents.
Oftentimes, career ruts happen because you’re not identifying and addressing the real cause of your unhappiness.
In the bestselling business book The Lean Startup, author Eric Ries suggests a problem solving method called the “5 Whys” to explore the root cause of a problem beyond its surface level symptoms.
To use the method, identify a problem in the form of a question. Using your response, you’ll “drill down” to the real issue, by asking “why”, five times.
Here’s what your “5 Whys” analysis might look like:
- Why do I dislike my corporate finance job? (Because I feel like my job is pointless.)
- Why does my job feel pointless? (Because I’m bored and unchallenged.)
- Why am I bored and unchallenged? (Because I do the same tasks every day.)
- Why do I do the same tasks every day? (Because my boss hasn’t given me anything new to manage in five months.)
- Why hasn’t my boss given me anything new? (Because I haven’t communicated my desire and readiness for more responsibility.)
In this example, an unhappy candidate would likely have jumped ship for a new company that felt more exciting or offered work that appeared to be more meaningful.
However, the real issue uncovered was a lack of communication with management, which in turn, left the candidate bored and unchallenged.
Left unidentified, familiar frustrations for this candidate would likely resurface from job to job because the real issue wasn’t addressed, and thus, couldn’t be fixed.
Utilize your downtime.
If you’re in a career rut because you’re still searching for the job relating to your college major, long to make money from a hobby, or want to be in a role that focuses more on helping people rather than the bottom line, exploring such desires in your free time can banish career burnout.
Nancy A. Shenker, author of Don’t Hook Up with the Dude in the Next Cube, suggests being a “patchwork professional” to identify what type of work nourishes your spirit.
” It’s a great way to gain varied experience and potentially, supplement your income. If you do a great job, someone may create a full-time position for you, recommend you to another company that’s hiring, or write you a wonderful reference,” says Shenker.
If you long for a job in political strategy, for example, get involved in campaigns at the local level on weekends. If you dream of starting a business, get investment advice, research local networking events for small business owners and speak candidly with those who have accomplished what you aspire to reach.
Your dreams may not come true quickly, but you’re taking baby steps to lay the groundwork to set a new career plan into motion. In time, if you find that you’re still interested, you will have expanded your working knowledge of a new endeavor or industry.
Should you eventually determine that a different career avenue isn’t the solution, branching out of your day job will be still be time well spent, as you have likely expanded your knowledge base, network, and overall energy for trying and learning new things.
Change your outlook.
Self-talk can be a huge determinant of what you “make” of your career rut and whether or not you transform it.
According to author, corporate consultant and behavioral expert Beverly D. Flaxington, simply making positive mindset changes empowers you to control your reactions, experiences, and interactions in a job.
When you’re in a career rut, it’s common to have a negative outlook on almost everything that happens at work, but that attitude only serves to deepen your frustration, damage your professional relationships, and blinds you to seeing — and seizing — new opportunities and alternatives.
Put your ego and defenses aside and write down all the ways your current outlook may actually be fueling your career rut.
When you are cognizant of counterproductive behavior, you become mindful of the foggy lens you’re viewing your rut through and will recognize that every source of your frustration is only temporary; it’s not worthy of ruling your life, or your mood.
Set goals on your own terms.
Ever year, people continue to set “New Year’s Resolutions” — even though the statistics are against their success.
The psychological reasoning, however, is simple: the prospect of change is exciting! Your boss has probably outlined a list of key milestones he or she would like you to accomplish, but what goals have you identified for the year?
Write down all the things that would give you a sense of personal pride in your career, whether it’s completing the corporate athletic challenge, getting a raise or title change, presenting to key executives, or heading a volunteer committee.
Psychotherapist and author of Be Fearless: Change in Your Life in 28 Days suggests that it takes a solid month to implement the sort of real, consistent change that brings about new life experiences.
Set your focus on the steps that will get you to your milestones, month by month. By setting professional goals that are independent of your boss or company’s overall plan, you may find a renewed sense of personal purpose and uncover new areas of interest to pursue in your current career.
Stephanie Taylor Christensen is a former financial services marketer based in Columbus, OH. The founder of Wellness On Less , she also writes on small business, consumer interest, wellness, career and personal finance topics.
The above article is intended to provide generalized financial information designed to educate a broad segment of the public; it does not give personalized tax, investment, legal or other business and professional advice. Before taking any action, you should always seek the assistance of a professional who knows your particular situation for advice on your taxes, your investments, the law or any other business and professional matters that affect you and/or your business.