You’ve found a comfortable niche in your career and are confident in your current position, but more often than not you’re feeling like you’re in a rut—that you’re not learning anything new. We all experience ebbs and flows in our career, but the feeling of being stuck and dissatisfied can lead to a lack of productivity and motivation. Sometimes we even start wondering if we’re in the wrong job. Before you make a drastic decision to look elsewhere, it’s important to look at what you can do to grow your career right where you are.
Setting strategic career goals and continually challenging yourself to learn new skills is critical to staying motivated and enjoying your work. It also ensures that you’re positioning yourself for potential promotions and, if another job is indeed on your horizon, preparing yourself with marketable skills. Here are some tips for getting—and staying—out of a rut and finding new momentum in your career.
Get outside your comfort zone
Don’t get comfortable with what you know—pushing yourself to grow and expand your horizons will keep you on the cutting edge of trends and advances in your industry. The good news is, there are numerous free or relatively inexpensive ways to do this; Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) is an online platform that offers a myriad of free classes modeled after courses from institutions such as Harvard and MIT. Studies have shown that professionals are flocking to this flexible format that allows for self-paced learning and the ability to continue working full-time. Find a course that interests you—or perhaps more importantly, that intimidates you—and use it to build your competencies and establish new and better career goals. For a small fee you can take a course for certification which will always look impressive on a resume and LinkedIn profile.
Shadow a team member
Performing the same tasks and responsibilities every day can easily become uninspiring and lead to a sense of tunnel vision if you’re not careful. Consider spending a “day in the life” of one of your co-workers—shadow them (virtually during COVID-19) as they go about their work and see your organization from a new perspective. Not only does this offer you a different view of your workplace and broaden your understanding of its overall mission, but it can also spark new interests and even encourage you to consider roles you might otherwise never have thought about. Gaining a greater awareness of issues your team members face is also valuable in learning how to creatively help them find solutions.
Join a professional organization
Professional organizations have experienced a resurgence in recent years as professionals seek a place to grow their networks in innovative ways. Groups like Summit offer the opportunity to develop strategic social capital, grow professionally, and learn from peers. Beyond these more formal platforms, there are countless professional organizations on LinkedIn and Facebook promoting active engagement and a dynamic exchange of ideas and insights. Learning from your professional network is crucial to stay up-to-date with what’s happening in your industry and establishing important contacts that can lead to future opportunities, mentoring, and potential referrals.
Stay up to date with the latest trends
In the past, getting a job was heavily reliant on your education—what degree you earned, and frankly, where. Today, business is changing so rapidly that jobs that were available ten years ago are becoming obsolete and as technology advances at a record pace, what you learned five years ago may soon be irrelevant. What this means is that now hiring managers are more interested in how you’re continuing to learn than a static degree you got in college. Cultivate a mindset of continual and active learning by intentionally engaging with the latest developments in your area. Subscribe to industry newsletters, innovative podcasts, and cutting-edge blogs. Be open to learning about the most recent trends that may initially not interest you. Chances are, in a year or two, they’ll be standard practice.
Learn a new skill just for fun
Learning happens everywhere and need not be relegated to your professional environment. In fact, the more you engage in new ideas and activities just for fun, the more you expand your capacity for a holistic and well-rounded life. There’s no excuse for not knowing how to do something any more. You’ll find a Pinterest board or YouTube video for pretty much anything under the sun these days. Always wanted to learn another language? Do it. Learn how to grow a bonsai, crochet, reupholster furniture, bake, ski, paint. The sky’s the limit—so you might as well learn how to skydive while you’re at it.
Advancing your career is as much about your openness to change and a posture of curiosity as it is about performing well in your current position. Waiting for someone else to help you stay motivated will likely leave you in the professional dust. Create career goals that keep you ahead of the curve and establish you as an innovative leader.