A stagnant career is a common problem among professionals, and this article aims to help those battling it.
You’re sitting at your office desk, blankly staring at your computer screen and second-guessing your life choices— especially those of your career. At that moment, when you’ve lost all motivation to continue with your decisions, career stagnation hits you hard.
Do you feel like you’ve had enough?
Whether working from home or commuting to the office every day, there comes a time in some people’s careers when they question their judgment around their professional decisions. It builds up gradually as major obstacles at work test your patience or even as mundane tasks pick away at your frustration with each passing day. Until one day, you realize that you have had enough.
You might find plenty of reasons why you have reached your limit at work: it could be your boss, colleagues, a broken coffee machine, the compensation, overtime hours, or everything at once. Or, it could be none at all.
While there may be external reasons guiding your frustration at work, it could also indicate your fuel is running out. And ultimately, it takes a little introspection to discover what might have been a projection of one’s doubts all the while. So let’s explore why you feel like your career is at a standstill.
What could be the cause?
- Lack of clear goals: Do you feel aimless at work? Do you often ask yourself why you’re doing what you do? Does the lack of direction in your professional life make you feel incompetent?
With time, some of us lose focus of our motivations, making it difficult to stay oriented.. And when that happens, our interest wanes, and we feel disconnected from work. In addition, we feel lost due to the absence (or shortage) of one of the most intimate things we can have— dreams. And that deficiency drives us to feel disoriented.
- Absence of challenges: Regardless of how tiring challenges can get sometimes, they are also why we keep pushing to do and be better. If your work is not challenging and offers you a dull and monotonous work routine lacking creativity and freedom of expression, you can feel burned out. Unfortunately, this can also take away your ability to innovate and think outside the box.
Challenges frustrate us into trying things differently until we come up with a solution— a process that takes time and energy, gradually refining our abilities as we progress. And before we know it, we’re better than we were yesterday! This system keeps our intellectual drive alive, slowing down of which can rust our spirits. And this also brings us to the next cause of feeling stagnant in your career-
- Understimulation: It’s no secret that some people sell themselves short, despite their skills and abilities. Individuals overqualified for a job carry out tasks below their skill (and pay) grade. And when one’s existing skills are not put to good use, the foundation is weakened upon which new skills can be built.
The result of this negligence? There is no growth in professional terms. And no growth means no fun, leading to boring work life.
- Insufficient compensation: Money is a vital driving factor in many people’s professional lives, and that’s completely okay. But when people work hard to multiply their rewards, and that doesn’t happen, the desire to put in any effort fades away. And rightfully so.
You might feel that your career has stagnated because you are not paid well or enough. And this is a very legitimate and common reason to feel listless, especially when you’re doing your best.
- Overstimulation: Where, on the one hand, you feel underworked, some professionals lose their patience due to being overloaded with work. Cranky bosses, inconsiderate coworkers, and a massive pile of work contribute to overstimulation. And when work starts penetrating one’s personal life, things on both sides get challenging to manage, ultimately leading to burnout.
There needs to be a balance between under stimulation and overstimulation, and that optimal stage is where all the contentment lies.
- No acknowledgment/appreciation/reward: Money isn’t the only form of compensation for jobs. Not feeling appreciated at work for your contribution and not receiving (monetary or non-monetary) rewards for your efforts are justifiable reasons to feel low and underappreciated.
While money pays bills, acknowledgment feeds one’s ego, which is crucial for keeping one energized and in high spirits. Ego is not always negative; it plays a pivotal role in building self-esteem and self-worth— the lack of which can cause self-doubt and loss of confidence.
6 Things You Can do to Overcome the Stagnation in Your Career
- Make your intention known; make a promise to yourself and others: What do you strive for? What drives you to wear work clothes, attend meetings, and take on challenges at work? What do you aspire to do and be in your professional life? Each individual is driven by an innate desire to achieve something. And once you vocalize that intention to yourself and others, you build accountability for making those desires come true. Doing so can positively push you towards your true goal, even if you’re occupied with immediate distractions.
- Set up clear time-bound goals: Many people take their occupation as nothing more than a source of livelihood. As much of a driving element as it is, working to earn money simply can only fill your pockets, not stimulate your mind.
Short—term and long-term goals give a person the reason to look forward to each day, every challenge. Over time, our plans change with priorities and needs, but we’re never aimless. So it’s imperative to harness that sense of direction in a specific order, so you never feel like you’re going nowhere.
- Know what you want and how much it will take to get there: The other day, I was on a video call discussing the value of setting realistic goals with a client when my 8-year-old daughter Marissa showed me her handstand that she had been dedicated to learning over the past couple of weeks. Of course, it wasn’t perfect, but it led to her diligence and commitment to the goal, and I could tell she wouldn’t give up until she mastered it.
Jeff Bezos said that most believe they can master the handstand in about two weeks if they work hard. However, it takes six months of regular practice to become adept at striking the pose. Suppose somebody thinks that they can learn it within two weeks. In that case, they are setting a high standard for themselves while running the risk of quitting when the goal is not met within the presumed period of success. It also kills one’s desire to achieve high standards because they’re selling themselves short by looking for an easy way.
So, if you wish to meet a goal successfully, you must form and proactively communicate realistic beliefs about how hard something will be. Acknowledge its difficulty level and assess it against your capability. It makes things much clear, doesn’t it?
- Constantly upgrade yourself and show up every day: If you wish to keep up with the rapid changes in your industry so you don’t feel left behind, you need to step up your game. Work on acquiring new skills, polish your existing skills if needed, and stay updated with the recent trends to keep yourself ahead of the game.
More importantly, use your drive and diligence to show up daily, putting in the work and hours to symbolize your commitment to the goal. Meanwhile, it is also important to remember that the difficulty level of your goal should not waver your resolution. Some journeys can be longer and more tedious; the key is persevering with patience. Good things take time, so hustle and wait for yours!
- Use the above as a source of internal motivation: An individual is at their peak performance when internally motivated to achieve something. The above tips aim to give you the willpower to take up challenges and push through difficult times, not because you have an external reward to seek but because you are driven to become a better version of yourself.
When you are motivated internally, your career stagnation— which could indicate something lacking from within— becomes easier to overcome. This is because you identify the cause of your issues and tackle them from the root up, motivating yourself to seek gratification from within instead of depending on external elements as a reward.
Every moment passes rather slowly when you are dissatisfied with your professional life, often caused by career stagnation. Reaching within, however, can help you discover many things about yourself as you find a solution to your situation.
As a closing remark, I’d only advise you to be unique and memorable in your approach and deliver what connects others to your values. Make an impact worth remembering! The true reward lies in watching yourself bloom with each passing day, crossing hurdles, and giving yourself a reason to test your limits and break free of what might be holding you back.