At some point or another, every person feels lost or stuck in their career. Maybe you feel you’re headed down the wrong path. Maybe you’re bored. Or maybe you’re missing that spark that makes you excited to go to work each day. Whatever the situation, it’s smart not to ignore that nagging feeling that something isn’t right. Here are six tips to help yourself get out of a career rut and get back on track:
1. Identify what’s bothering you. Sometimes it’s clear why we feel stuck in a career rut, but if you can’t quite pinpoint what’s bringing you down, a bit of reflection is worthwhile. Ask yourself lots of questions, including:
- What do I enjoy about my job? My company?
- What do I dislike about my job? My company?
- What ideas do I have to make things better?
- What emotions do I mostly feel at work (for example, fear, frustration, boredom or job dissatisfaction)?
2. Explore opportunities to tweak your job duties. If a little change in your day-to-day is what you’re craving, talk with your boss about shaking things up. Are there additional responsibilities you could take on? Projects you could be a part of? Find out what your options are to make a few modifications—and whether you’re a candidate for any upcoming advancement opportunities.
3. Update your skills. Feeling restless or uninspired? It might be time to invest in yourself by strengthening your skill set. Ask your human resources department about tuition reimbursement and consider taking a class or earning a certification—or even an advanced degree. That personal challenge could be the boost you need and will most certainly open new doors you didn’t even know were there.
4. Do some goal setting. As your career unfolds, it’s important to periodically spend time visualizing your future. Are you on track for where you want to be in five or 10 years? Put specific goals down on paper. Lay out the steps you need to take to accomplish each and assign deadlines. This exercise can help you reinvigorate yourself, bring your dreams into focus and get motivated.
5. Build your brand. Along with goal setting, it’s always a good idea to think about the big picture of your life and career. Are you clear on your values, passions and purpose? Have you cultivated a personal brand that expresses to others what assets and skills you have? (Be sure to check out our blog post, “How to Build a Personal Brand.”)
6. Put yourself out there. If you conclude that what you really want is a new environment (or you’d at least like to see what else is out there for you), update your resume and start networking. You might find a job/setting/industry that breathes new life into your career. And at a minimum, the process of applying to and interviewing for jobs might shed light on the good parts of your current job.
Your career isn’t meant to be on autopilot, and occasional rough patches are inevitable. So, the next time you hit a career slump, remember that getting out of it is in your control. Take steps to figure out what’s wrong and lay out a plan to fix it—and get back on the road to happiness.