How to Get Out of 3 Common Career Ruts

By Chelsea Babin

Think of a career path like a road trip. You’ll need to make a few stops along the way, sometimes unexpectedly. Things could stall or get boring. There could be an unexpected fork in the road. But, when you’re facing navigation challenges on the road, you can use your GPS as a guide. When you feel like you’ve come to one of these 3 common career ruts, use this as a GPS-like guide to help you get out and get back on the path to success.

1. Bored, Uninterested, or Unhappy: When you’re lacking motivation and your passion for your job is starting to fizzle out, what do you do? You know you’re unhappy with the way things are and uninterested in the things you’re doing on a daily basis, but you don’t know how to fix it. The solution can come in many forms, depending on your root cause. To regain interest or test your interest in other areas, ask your boss if you can lend a hand on projects you wouldn’t normally have a part of or shadow a coworker in a different department. Maybe your unhappiness and boredom stems from staying in the same job too long and not challenging yourself, or working for a company who doesn’t share your values or doesn’t have projects you’re passionate about. Find the root reason of your boredom, unhappiness, and lack of interest and, when you do, the path out will become clear. Whether that’s a search for a new job, a fun side project you can look forward to, or picking up a new skill at work, you can only get out of your rut when you know what caused it.

2. Doubting Yourself or Your Chosen Career: A little self-doubt is normal, especially if you’ve recently accepted a new position or promotion. However, if doubting yourself or your chosen career path seems to be an ongoing occurrence even though you’ve made no major career changes recently, you’ll find yourself in a rut. Luckily, you can get out of this one easily. It’s never too late to make a change, you just need to know what changes to make. If you’re doubting yourself, ask for a review with your boss to see how your performance really stacks up, set goals for yourself and learn new skills, and work on projects you’re good at to regain some confidence in your abilities. You should also make a list of all the accomplishments you’ve made in your career so far. Sometimes, we doubt ourselves because we’re not looking at the whole picture. If you’re doubting your chosen career, take some time to explore! This could be through side projects, researching other industries, taking a class or a MOOC, attending a meet up, or asking coworkers or people in your professional network more about their jobs. See where your interests lie and let those guide you into a new job search or a new hobby outside of work that could reinvigorate your passion and provide the variety you’ve been looking for.

3. Feeling Like Nothing is Going Right: Sometimes it feels like nothing is going right. If your ideas are being shut down left and right, you’re messing up on simple tasks you know how to do, you’re having to do work over again because of errors, or your team just isn’t communicating correctly, you may be stuck in one of these ruts. Determine the root cause. Is it a lack of focus or productivity on your part? Do you need to relearn the basics to strengthen your skills? Is there a fundamental lack of effective communication on your team? Is the company undergoing restructuring or a lot of hiring and firing that is beyond your control and distracting? Once you have a better idea of the external or internal forces that are creating issues, you can create a plan. Often, when it feels like nothing is going right, it’s because more than one thing is changing or going wrong at the same time. And, while you can’t always influence the external factors, you can influence the internal ones. Make sure you’re performing to the best of your abilities, focusing carefully and staying productive. If this doesn’t help to get you out of the rut, talk to your manager or boss about the negative external factors and see if they can be changed. If not, it may be time to find a new job. If so, offer to help make these fixes so you can set yourself and everyone else up for success. Chances are, if you’re in a rut from external forces, some of your coworkers are feeling the same way.

Being stuck in a rut is a terrible feeling, especially at work. However, with a little introspection and planning, you can easily get yourself out of one of these three common career ruts and get back on the path to success!