Self Assessment: Is Your Career Stuck in Neutral?

Self Assessment: Is Your Career Stuck in Neutral?

Taunee Besson, CMF, Senior Columnist

Q: I've been doing some self assessment, and if feels like my career is stuck in neutral. The down economy has forced my company to lay off workers, and my job is no longer satisfying or challenging. I'm no longer developing and I don't know how to improve the situation, short of a career change. How do I get out of this rut without quitting my job, buying a Harley and moving to Costa Rica?

A: It sounds like you're in desperate need of stimulation: intellectual and emotional. However, while your assessment may be that a career change is necessary to get out of your rut, this isn't always the case.

While I can't give your company points for not helping its workers grow, there's no reason that you shouldn't strive to develop your career anyway. Why not make an assessment of your company's needs, than focus on a career change within your current organization? Getting to know people in other parts of your company can help you find fresh ideas to implement, and increased exposure can help you push for a promotion as well. If you feel like you need a career change to get ahead but don't to start over at a new company, try following these tips to broaden your horizons at your current employer:

In a time of rampant reorganization and re-engineering, there are typically many opportunities to help your company figure out how to do more with less. Volunteering for this kind of a job will put you together with co-workers you might not normally meet, and can open your eyes to the "big picture" your company is facing. Understanding what your employer needs can put you in the running for jobs you may have never considered (or been considered for).

If you're hoping for a career change, it's a lot easier to be pulled from your department than push your way out of it. Fellow task force members can help you ditch your dead end job for a more challenging and exciting position – but they have to know you first.

Most companies have sports teams, Christmas party and company picnic committees, or volunteer groups who work together as part of community outreach. These company-sanctioned groups are a great opportunity to get more involved with your employer, learn new skills and gain important networking contacts that might put you in line for a promotion.

Any time your company offers training that could help you improve your skill set, you should jump at the opportunity. You'll find yourself teamed up with professionals from many departments, and have the chance to develop your job skills for free. This puts you on an inside track to rise up in your company and take on new responsibilities.

Virtually every career has a professional organization you can join to keep up with industry developments and network with like-minded professionals. Trade groups can be a great source of contacts and information about your chosen field, and they offer the opportunity to develop new career skills quickly. Attend regional and national conventions whenever possible.

The state-of-the-art in many professions is constantly evolving, and staying current is essential to advancing your career. Not only will taking classes help you develop the necessary skills for a career change, however, it will help sharpen your intellect as well. Nothing cures boredom better than learning an entire new skill set from scratch – and attending classes will help you develop contacts and increase your marketability as well.

  1. Join a company-wide task force
  2. Get involved extracurricular activities sponsored by your company
  3. Sign up for in-house training
  4. Join an organization representing your career or industry
  5. Pursue continuing education classes or an advanced degree

Take Care of Yourself

When your career is atrophying, this can easily affect your mental and physical well-being, too. If you feel like your workplace ennui is beginning to spread to your home life, too, try the following tips to regain your gusto:

Schedule them into your week just as you would any worthwhile business activity. And don't change your plans because a client wants you to "save the day." When you are 70 and looking back on your life, you'll regret missing you daughter's game a lot more than refusing to be on-call for an important client.

Being committed to a mission beyond your job gives you a healthier perspective and exercises some "mind muscles" that you're probably neglecting at work.

Mental and physical decay go hand in hand. An employee who's depressed because they hate their job is more likely to eat poorly, sack out on the couch and drink more than normal in order to make the "pain" go away. If your days seem a lot less active than they used to, take heart – just because your work is unsatisfying doesn't mean the rest of your life has to be lousy, too. Explore new cuisine, get yourself to the gym, and re-engage with the world.

  1. Spend more time with people you love
  2. Pick a hobby, sport or volunteer activity
  3. Work out, eat right, and cut yourself some slack

If your self assessment tells you that you desperately need a career change, figuring out how to take the next step can be a challenge. But following the steps listed here can lay the foundation to break out of your paralysis, and get your career development into high gear.

Senior Columnist Taunee Besson, CMF, is president of Career Dimensions, Inc., a consulting firm founded in 1979 that works with individual and corporate clients in career transition, job search, executive coaching, talent management and small business issues. She is an award-winning columnist for and a best-selling author of the Wall Street Journal's books on resumes and cover letters. Her articles on a variety of career issues have appeared on numerous career/job websites and trade and business journals. Ms. Besson has been quoted numerous times in The Wall Street Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Business Week, Time, Smart Money, and a number of other websites and publications.

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