The majority of us begin our careers with the genuine expectation that we will progress significantly over the years, and eventually manage large teams of people. But, unfortunately, that’s not always how it pans out. We can hit the middle of our careers and still have very little to show for all our effort. While we’re earning money, we’re not hitting our goals. And our early expectations seem somewhat naive.
Being stuck in a career rut, though, isn’t just something that happens. The current pandemic notwithstanding, unemployment has been low in recent years. Workers have had ample opportunities to find new roles. The economy has been good.
So why does your career feel stagnant? And what, if anything, can you do about it:?
You Feel Like You Can’t Leave
When you first join an organization, you feel as though it is full of opportunity to progress. But the longer you stay, the more you begin to see that your prospects are limited. The culture, management team, and overall performance of the firm can get in the way of your plans.
Sometimes, though, you have a horrible sense that you can’t leave, especially if the firm invested in you at the start of your employment. You sort of feel like you owe them your services now and for many years to come.
Just bear in mind, though, that this is often the rationale for companies providing training in the first place. They don’t do it out of the kindness of their hearts. They do it because they want to increase staff retention by making them feel guilty when they leave.
It’s not a bad thing – it’s just the way that the world of business works sometimes. You get an opportunity to earn a decent wage, and, in return, you have to endure a sense of obligation. That’s the deal.
Of course, nothing is stopping you from actually leaving except your feelings. And that might be why you feel as if you’re in a rut. It’s not a lack of opportunity – it’s just feeling trapped.
You’re Not Progressing Your Accreditations
Education doesn’t end when you graduate from college. For many professionals, it continues throughout their careers because it helps to advance them.
Workers, however, who are in a rut probably aren’t doing everything they can to educate themselves productively. And, because of this, they’re falling behind in their careers.
You don’t have to go back to school to earn a significant increase in pay. Today, there are thousands of people completing contractors license courses, and it is adding considerably to their earning power. Once you have certification demonstrating that you have real skills, it changes your economic status. You can start charging a premium for your work, and you don’t have to rely on the going market rate.
If you don’t complete one of these qualifications, you’ll automatically stagnate, even if you’re good at your job. Some industries require a certain level of training before you can take on more complex roles.
You Allow Your Skills To Go Out Of Date
Allowing your skills to go out of date is another education-related factor that can cause your career to enter terminal decline. Bosses in today’s economy want people with up-to-date skills. But if you allow yours to wither on the vine, you’ll become a far less enticing prospect, and may lose the ability to market yourself at all.
Again, you have several options to continue to improve your skills. The first is to go straight to your employer and ask them if they would be willing to enroll you on an internal course. Failing that, you can ask them to pay for or subsidize education. Or you can look for cheap online courses that essentially do the same as expensive colleges, but for a much lower fee.
Letting your skills go out of date is a big no-no, especially since you have already done the groundwork to keep them up to date. A short refresher one month per year is often all you need.
You’re Working In A Shrinking Field
You might be amazing at what you do, but if you work in a shrinking field, then your career will always feel like an uphill struggle. You can be the most talented person in the world. But if new technology is gutting your field, then you won’t have the same opportunities as those who choose to get into fast-growing sectors.
Your best bet here is to think strategically about how you can use the skills that you have to make a name for yourself in another sector. Fast-growing areas right now include the trades, network IT, anything to do with big data and machine learning, and healthcare. Shrinking fields include traditional media, some manufacturing jobs, and consumer-facing service industries.
You’ve Become Too Comfortable
Most jobs are challenging to start. But then, over time, you get used to them. Eventually, they become second nature, and you enter into a period of mastery where you can do them with your eyes closed.
Some people relish reaching this stage. It is an opportunity to put their wage on auto-pilot and focus on other things in life. But for others, it can be too cushy, preventing them from branching out and reaching their full potential.
As a basic principle, human beings need resistance to thrive. Having a holiday now and then is an excellent idea, but it is in struggles where most of us find our meaning. When your career stagnates, therefore, you can feel like you’re not using your energy to its maximum extent. And that is something that can cause great consternation in you.
It is also worth noting that your activities outside of work can open up new career opportunities. There are countless examples of artists and musicians in dull careers who developed their talents outside work and then used them to create new streams of income. Thus, the possibilities are remarkable.
You Took A Job Role, But You Didn’t Fully Understand What It Would Entail
People tend to choose jobs based on superficial characteristics, like the required education and how much they pay. But in the end, it is the fit that matters most. How do you enjoy the day-to-day reality of your work?
Some people find that they actually quite like doing work that they never imagined doing while they were studying. Others come to discover that the roles that they thought were perfect for them are anything but.
People, therefore, can often feel like they’re stuck in a rut when their careers don’t match their expectations. They had a specific idea in their heads for what it would be like, but when it never comes to fruition, it can be disconcerting.
The good news is that there are ways to avoid this. One of the first things to do is keep your eyes peeled during the interview process. You want to carefully observe the culture and see if it is an environment in which you can imagine yourself working. If you notice any red flags, reconsider your options.
It’s also worth considering the themes, values, and missions of the company for which you work. Those tend to play heavily into how people interact with each other in the workplace. You can have some hyper-liberal cultures in which you feel as though you’re always treading on eggshells. And you can have hierarchical companies that seem to emphasize unearned authority. Both of those could be toxic environments for you and put your career on hold.