How to Identify (and Jumpstart) a Stagnant Career

It’s a depressing reality that at least once in our lives, we are going to realize that we have hit a roadblock in our careers. It is easy to see the light at the end of the tunnel when you are young and the world is ahead of you. This gets a lot harder when you reach your thirties (or beyond) and you have a family to provide for.

There is no one coming to save you from the dreary everyday spent slaving away at an unfulfilling career. You have to be your own hero and save yourself! Don’t panic. There is a way forward.

The first step is identifying a stagnant career, and the next is simple: finding a way out. Here are a few tips for discerning whether your current job is beyond repair and, if so, how to leave it behind.

You’re No Longer Learning

Are your skills growing over time? Are you learning something new every day, every week, or even every month? If you are not constantly testing the limits of your skills and finding new things about your marketplace and the world at large, it is time to reevaluate your path.

A career is a trajectory. It is a journey. A job is just something you do. It can facilitate your larger career goals. However, if it isn’t, you need to change course. When you are not learning new skills, you are either at the peak of your career or your time is being wasted. If you are perfectly content with your current position being the highest position you’ll reach in your lifetime, there is no need to worry. If not, you are probably wasting your time treading water.

You Are Not Being Challenged

If your tasks are the same from day to day with no deviation, there is reason to believe your current position isn’t cultivating skills that can be used in higher positions within the company. An easy way to discern whether or not this problem can be rectified is approaching your manager about taking on more responsibility within the company.

This works twofold: you will learn whether or not your manager values your ability to the point where they feel comfortable accelerating your skillset. You will also learn whether there are any growth opportunities within your company. Speaking of which…

There is No Upward Mobility

Do you see a future in your current situation? Maybe you have not seriously considered contending for a promotion, but it is time to start. If you can’t imagine your supervisors investing in your future, there is no point investing any more time in them or their company. You are wasting your time!

So, what can you do to inject some much needed life into your dying career?

Make a Plan…then Stick to It

Even with a family to support, you can prioritize a fast-paced and fulfilling career for yourself. In fact, your loved ones will benefit, too! As the head of a household, your happiness trickles down. It teaches your little ones that they, too, can have it all—if they’re willing to fight for it.

Craft a realistic plan for the next two years. First, plot your end goal. Then, make a list of steps needed to reach it. Be realistic, of course, and don’t pull any punches. What do you need to get there? Do you need to beef up your credentials? Some people have gone as far as to invest in a fake diploma. There are plenty of options: taking classes for other certifications in your field, asking to shadow people who have the job you want, etc.

If you decide that you would like to negotiate with your superiors for a more fulfilling upward movement, ask yourself if you can live with the truth if it does not swing in your favor. If you take the plunge and promise to leave the company if you are not assured of an upward movement in the near future, you need to hold fast to that promise if they can’t abide by your terms. 

Don’t bluff, because they will try and call it if they can. You don’t want to be the one who cried wolf. You definitely won’t get any respect after that, and your path to move upwards within the company will be even narrower.

Know that if the negotiation does not work out in your favor, there are still other options to make money. You just need to have the imagination and the guts to chase new avenues, regardless of how scary they may be! There is always someone out there with a success story. Why can’t it be yours?

Try a Lateral Move

If you are not sure whether you’re ready to abandon your company completely, inquire about other positions that you might be interested in. These may be lateral moves, but you can explore different options tangentially related to your current position and feel out what you truly value in a job. Plus, you can spend some time cultivating a related skillset that may come in handy if you eventually decide to leave the company.

Written by
Jeremy Kaplan

A 50-something year old lifestyle, career, and education blogger based in Atlanta, Georgia. Years of experience in the office setting working with others and still loving it year-after-year.

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