Career-Rut Symptoms And How To Move Past Them

Whether you went to college or otherwise aced technical or trade training, the fact remains that you worked pretty hard to break into the career of your dreams. The problem is, no matter how much we want something, it is rarely exactly as we envision it to be once we get there. This is true the more time a person spends in a particular position — and when dissatisfaction goes unanswered, it often causes people to abandon careers that they were once pretty jazzed about.


In fact, a whopping 81% of people surveyed by Indeed changed careers because they were unhappy, and 58% of people are even willing to make less money to find a better fit. This perfectly illustrates that while money is obviously an important component of any job, it's not the end-all-be-all. Feeling professionally fulfilled, challenged, and appreciated are all just as important — sometimes even more so. Fortunately, it's absolutely possible to break out of a career rut and hit a new level entirely with a little bit of introspection, planning, and communication with key players. If you see any of these signs of a rut, it might be time to shake things up and get back on track.

Rut #1: Your position has gotten stale

Back in the day, it wasn't unusual for a person to take a job and stay in that same position with the same company for decades. This has blessedly changed — who would want to do the same job for years on end? This sounds like a recipe for a stagnant, unfulfilling career. In fact, experts often say that a person should be ready for a new role after two or three years in a given position.


This doesn't mean that the employee isn't loyal to the company — they often move to find a new position within the same organization that meets ever-evolving needs. In fact, taking on a different position affords the employee opportunities to add new skills and further develop existing ones, which is a win-win for everyone involved. So if you're starting to feel like you can do your job blindfolded and with one hand tied behind your back, talk to a supervisor about upcoming opportunities. They're not mind-readers, so tell them that you're interested in expanding your horizons and work with them to come up with a plan of action.

Rut #2: You feel out of touch

Everything grows and changes exponentially these days, so it's frighteningly easy to wind up behind the curve in a hurry. Satisfied workers are constantly learning about new concepts, technologies, and other things related to their given field. If you are starting to feel like you're treading water to keep up or just want to stay on top of things, sign up for a training course or advanced degree program, attend professional seminars and conferences, or otherwise find new avenues to learn and expand the old knowledge base. Often, companies will sponsor some or all of the cost associated, so definitely talk to a supervisor about that possibility.


Another way to get back in touch is to join an organization or two that's specific to your line of work. You might consider one associated with other demographic factors (women in business, for example). Find out what other members are doing to stay fresh — if nothing else, it'll be great networking. 

Rut #3: You're not sure where you're heading

When you're not sure what's next on your career path, it's easy to feel uninspired and dissatisfied — but that's where you don't have to go it alone. Sometimes it's necessary to forge one's own path, but other times, it works plenty well to follow the advice of those who have gone before you; there's no need to reinvent the wheel. In fact, a mentor with an established career is an invaluable asset from the first days of professional life until retirement. Often, people with more experience in a given industry or role can help troubleshoot various issues, whether it's to do with the job function, co-worker problems, or other obstacles.


Not sure how to ask for a raise? Consult your mentor for input. Worried about how to handle a difficult client? Find out if your mentor has had a similar experience and how it worked out in the end. If nothing else, it's incredibly valuable to have a guide — plus, it's a good experience for the mentor, too.

Rut #4: The team dynamic is off

A good boss can make or break a job, and the same can be said of coworkers. Sometimes it seems like they don't respect your ideas, and others routinely fail to turn in their share of the work on time, which reflects poorly on you. Others just won't stop chatting with you and let you get your work done. Whatever the case, you might be in a rut if you're dreading communicating with the people you work with. Fortunately, a lot of interpersonal office relationships can be soothed by getting to know each other a bit better.


Ask teammates about their communication preferences. For example, some will want meeting recaps via email, but others might prefer a face-to-face chat. A lot of employers have their staff take a personality test to better flesh these details out, such as a Meyers-Briggs or an Enneagram assessment. Then there are the tried-and-true employee bonding experiences, which can help to loosen people up and forge stronger teamwork. However, if at any point a coworker becomes hostile, inappropriate, or otherwise abusive, talk to a manager and human resources immediately.

Rut #5: You have a bad attitude

Let's face facts — as much as we always want to place the blame for discontent on someone or something else, occasionally, we're responsible. A lot of unhappiness has to do with a person's frame of mind, and your view of your work is no exception. Take some intentional steps to renovate your mindset and you'll likely find joy where you are. Instead of lamenting that you're not getting anywhere with your career, envision what you want in the next year, five years, ten years, etc. Write it all down or make a vision board, then take steps to make it happen. Instead of complaining endlessly about things you can't change, focus on the positives.


For example, maybe you don't make as much salary-wise as you'd like, but you have top-tier benefits. Or maybe the work is a little bit on the boring side, but it's a low-stress position that you can leave fully at the end of the day. Dwelling on the negatives will just compound them, so make a concerted effort to avoid that if there's no real corrective action to take. Of course, there's always the option to leave the job or industry to pursue something that will get your motor running. People change a lot as they age, so it only makes sense that our goals and aspirations will, too.