Career Development

Stuck in a Work Rut? Back Yourself and Get Out of It!


Originally posted on Leaders in Heels, this article can be viewed here.

Most of us have been there at some point in our working lives. Really excited about a new job or career opportunity only to find, after learning the ropes and building the skills required to traverse them blindfolded, that we’ve fallen into a rut.

What once seemed exciting no longer is.

Like that overused ‘boiling frog’ analogy, a quiet sense of indifference, dissatisfaction or desperation can creep upon us in increments. It’s often not that we are completely miserable; we’re just not pumped. Sure no-one goes to work every day about to set the world on fire, but if you’d prefer to stay home in your PJs most days then it’s probably a sign that something needs to change and you need to change it!

Your job.

Your career.

Or perhaps just your outlook.

Too often we underestimate the price we pay when we stay on in a role that we’ve outgrown or with an organisation or industry that no longer aligns with our passion and vision.  We tell ourselves that we’re lucky to be where we are. That we’ve worked hard for it. That the money is good. That it’s secure. That nobody loves their job all the time.

All perfectly ‘fine’ reasons, assuming you’re content to settle for ‘fine.’

But if you’ve been feeding yourself those reasons for quite some time then perhaps you haven’t considered their flip side. Rather than focusing on the risks you’d be taking on if you left the familiarity of where you are, consider the risks you are taking on if you stay.

As Kathy Calvin, President of the United Nations Foundation shared with me during our recent interview, “When people aren’t happy in their jobs it’s not just obvious to them, it’s obvious to everyone around them.”

Staying in a job that isn’t bringing out your best not only does you a disservice, it does all those around you a disservice while simultaneously depriving someone else the valuable opportunity to step into the role you’re languishing in.

Getting out of a ‘job funk’ doesn’t necessarily mean leaving the place you are in, but leaving the spot you’re in and moving to a different place on the ‘career lattice.’  It could also mean deciding to be more proactive in stretching yourself and doing things that set you up for future roles – joining a board, expanding your network or learning a new skillset. Then again, sometimes you just need to bite the bullet and take a brave leap of faith in an entirely new direction.

In my late 20s, and a little (okay, a lot) disillusioned with my marketing career, I decided to head back to university to study psychology. I wasn’t sure where it would lead. At the time I knew nothing of the world of coaching (beyond the sporting arena) and had no clear idea where this new path would take me. I just knew I wasn’t okay staying on the old one, despite the security and salary it provided.

Over the years I’ve met hundreds of women (and a few men) who’ve made similar moves to extract themselves out of a career rut. While they’ve all faced road bumps, not once has anyone ever expressed regret.  The only regrets have been not doing it sooner! Needless to say, all have taken courage.

Courage to say no to something good to create space for something better.

Courage to take a risk.

Courage to trust that when you start moving toward whatever ignites your ambition, interest or passion, you’ll discover new opportunities, make new connections and unlock new possibilities for yourself that you never would otherwise.

And I have no doubt that there are many, many, women in the Leaders in Heels community who would be testament to that.

So, as Kathy shared with me, make a decision to take ownership of your career before someone else makes a decision for you.

Paint a vision for your career and life that inspires you then decide to put yourself ‘out there’ (that is, outside your comfort zone!) and do whatever you can to start building your own brand of luck. Just don’t kid yourself that playing it safe and staying where you are, however ‘fine’ it is for now, doesn’t exact its own risks.

To quote Gloria Steinman: “Dream big, If you don’t dream big you’ll never have the ability to get ahead!”

Margie is one of our contributors, read about them all here.  Interested in becoming a contributor? Click here.

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