Everybody feels stuck at work from time to time. You feel like you don’t enjoy doing the work. You feel like you’re not growing, or like you’re not challenged anymore. According to a study by Oracle, more than 75% of people feel “stuck” personally and professionally. That’s led directly to a phenomenon called “quiet quitting” — what we used to call disengagement. Too many people have already quit but keep showing up for the paycheck.
And when you think about getting unstuck in your career, you might default to looking for new work. But there’s an alternative. You chose that job for a reason. And often the secret to getting unstuck in your career isn’t to look for new work, but to look at your work with new eyes. To rediscover the reason you chose that job.
In this article, we’ll examine six ways to get unstuck in your career mostly by re-examining something about your current job.
Find New Inputs
The first way to get unstuck in your career is to find new inputs. This means finding new inspiration, ideas, and knowledge to input into your brain. Often, we stop learning far too early in our career. We get the job we want, or the promotion we want, and we scale back on our own personal development. But the world, our industry, and our role keeps changing—and so we need to keep learning to put up with the change. You may not be able to take on new work right away, but you can take on new learning right away and do your current job better…which might even make it more enjoyable.
Focus On Your Who
The second way to get unstuck in your career is to focus on your who. One of our primary motivational drivers is the desire to promote and protect the well-being of others. We’re prosocially motivated. We judge how much of an impact we’re making based on who is served by the work that we’re doing. And often when we feel stuck in a job or career it’s because we’ve lost sight of exactly who is served by our work. So, refocus on your “who”—that person or team who is most helped by your work. It could be by increasing your interactions with them, or by building reminders into your day of how your work serves them. Keep your “who” top of mind and you’ll keep yourself motivated.
Volunteer For New Tasks
The third way to get unstuck in your career is to volunteer for new tasks. This might seem counterintuitive at first. You’re feeling stuck in an unenjoyable job, why work harder? But it turns out that a lot of your boredom can come from a lack of challenging work to do. You may have started that job feeling engaged and challenged but as you’ve grown it became routine and boring. The only way to get back that engagement is to take on new challenges. And if you’re not being assigned them, you may need to start volunteering for new tasks just so you can get some level of challenge back in your work—and hence get a little less stuck.
Reshuffle Your Personal Board Of Directors
The fourth way to get unstuck in your career is to reshuffle your personal board of directors. Everyone has a personal board of directors. It might be a formal group, or a mentor. Or it might be a group of colleagues or friends who you discuss career issues with. We all seek out guidance from a few people. But if you’re feeling stuck it may because that board is out of ideas. You may need to add a few seats to that board or remove a few seats—so that you can make room for new ideas and new plans to get you unstuck.
Talk To Your Boss
The fifth way to get unstuck in your career is to talk to your boss. If you’ve only been in the role for a few months, this doesn’t apply to you. But if you’ve worked there for a year or two or longer and you’re feeling bored and unchallenged, it may be time to talk to your boss about what you’re feeling and what ideas you may have for resolving it. This growth conversation will help first by giving you more feedback on your role and how to excel more. But it will also help because it’ll keep your name top of mind when new development opportunities present themselves.
Make A Move
The final way to get unstuck in your career is to make a move. If you’ve tried a few of these other tactics and you’re still feeling stuck, it may be time to make the move to a new job or the same job in a new organization. One of the challenges of organizations is that new opportunities don’t present themselves when you’re ready, they’re created when a change happens. And waiting on that change can take some time unless you’re willing to make a few moves to different organizations where the change is already happening. So, if you’ve tried everything else—especially talking to your boss—it may be time to try the final tactic.
But it’s worth reiterating that it’s not the best strategy, because you’re jumping from a known stuck to an unknown opportunity. You might feel even more stuck in that new role. And if you do make the move, make sure you’re ready to change and grow personally as well. The other five tactics on this list work because they’re not about changing the external, they’re about changing the internal. The secret to getting unstuck is rarely to change your job; it’s much more often to change yourself—to find new ways to feel motivated and new challenges to take on, which will help you do your best work ever.
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