If you are able to go to work every single day of your career with a spring in your step, a positive mindset and an abundance of enthusiasm, then you should bottle it up and sell it, you’d make a fortune. Reality is that at some point all of us will fall into what is often referred to as a career slump. The signs normally include a feeling of inertia, lethargy, dissatisfaction and loss of motivation which leaves you lacking drive and energy each day to be your best let alone achieve more success.
Chances are higher if you are midcareer with 15 -20 years of work behind you and the same ahead of you. There are several potential triggers cited by people who hit career slumps. The repetitive nature of a job, lack of change and diversity, or maybe feeling stuck or uninspired by a role, a company or a boss. Often it can come hand in hand with a level of frustration with the people around you. Or an admittance of boredom with the topics you engage with every day. For some, the lack of ability to play to their strengths or an identified imbalance where most days are spent doing stuff they don’t like doing versus what they love to do.
It’s your mood and performance which you may feel take the real hit. But it’s your long term goals and untapped potential which actually suffer the most.
If you have hit a slump, or feel like you are sliding towards one, it’s important to take action. To face it head on, be curious and dive in to understand why and then what shifts are needed to be made. If left unacknowledged and unattended, if you take a ‘wait and see’ view, any level of dissatisfaction, inertia and lethargy can spiral very quickly into misery, resentment and detachment. Never a good position to be in when health and wellbeing should be a priority and when you have so much more to give and achieve in career and life.
I’ve got 3 questions to ask yourself when that feeling of career slump takes hold which will help you navigate this state effectively.
Am I fully present in my work?
This question is all about understanding your role in your career slump. On the journey to understand why you feel a slump in your career, It’s easy to point the finger of blame on your role, other people or some other external force. But what if the root cause was how you were showing up each day? Could you be too busy and distracted to maximise the opportunities in front of you? Mindfulness is the art of being in the moment. It allows you to check in with what’s really happening. It takes you to a position which frees you from anxiety and where inner critical judging chatter is suspended. In this state, we can often see past the boredom, other people and negative noise. Become more resourceful, see more of the positives and reframe a situation into something more opportunistic. It helps guide ourselves more effectively through the slump. So take a step back and take time to be fully present before dismissing the job and career you once loved.
How have I changed?
Your career is a journey. A journey where you grow and evolve. Therefore, it’s natural for us to find that we have changed along the way. What use to make us happy and satisfied at work may simply no longer cut it. A career which felt right for many years may still tick all the boxes for the old you, but not necessarily who you are right now. Exploring your personal evolution and how you’ve grown as an individual in skills, strengths and passions plus how your priorities have changed, will shine a light on what you need right now to feel satisfied. We need careers to meet our personal success criteria at any given moment. Only then can we keep the internal fires, motivation and energy topped up. With self awareness comes the ability to create shifts towards greater satisfaction big or very often small changes to lift you from a slump.
What’s your career vision and plan?
I love this question. I often use it on a discovery call when someone says they hate their job or feel unsatisfied. Nine out of ten times the mid-career professionals I am talking are dumbfounded for a few seconds. They may default to ‘make money and feel secure’, ‘get a promotion’ or ‘to have made a difference’ but then are baffled they don’t actually know what they truly want and where they are heading in their career. Detail is lacking. Vision is lacking. As we roll along in our careers, initially at top speed with enthusiasm chasing the promotions and recognition which we believe will make us happy, we lose sight of exactly where we are heading and why. Taking time to reflect, review and redefine your career vision every year means you can check in on your progress, spot the points of unalignment which fuel dissatisfaction and helps you be the confident driver of your career.