Reviving a Stagnant Career
By Tim Lutenski
In the modern world of work, no matter how satisfied we are in our careers or committed to our work, after a certain amount of time almost everyone experiences a period where work no longer holds the challenge or provides the excitement it once did. Generally this involves a “loss of self” in our professional lives; we tend to lose our passion and feel listless, inactive, and sluggish, believe we are not developing or growing, have difficulty maintaining motivation, and assume that our work has lost some of its fundamental meaning. Striving to overcome such feelings and reinvigorate ourselves so that we can again find passion, meaning, and work satisfaction can be a tremendous challenge, but also one that enables us to experience needed growth. When working with clients, as well as when dealing with the demands and challenges of their own careers, career counselors can successfully enhance vocational satisfaction and fulfillment by establishing the proper mind set, engaging in self-evaluation, reassessing skills, and taking action.
Proper Mind Set
You are responsible for shaping your own version of success and creating positive outcomes to form your best life and career. This requires conditioning your mind for success through visualization, discontinuing old, ineffective patterns of behavior, being willing to take risks, and trying new approaches. Harness the power of your mind and utilize mental energy for controlled, optimistic, and forward-thinking. Be willing to make the effort to recognize what is working, let go of what isn’t, take on new learning, actively explore options, and move on to new commitments.
To overcome career sluggishness and find a “new place,” get in touch first with your personal world and then develop a broader vision of yourself within the work world. Re-define and re-position your work roles by doing some soul searching and pinpointing sources of your dissatisfaction and frustration. Examine how your underlying mind set and fears are driving your reactions, understand the obstacles you face, and recognize your readiness for making changes. Write out what your ideal work would look like, however, avoid forcing things to happen and save your energy until you're truly ready to work on your own terms.
Those who identify the skills they are passionate about and who can effectively communicate these to employers, position themselves to find and engage in work which provides greater meaning and satisfaction. Know your skills and exercise good judgment as to how and when to use them in the workplace. This can allow you to build meaning in work, make job tasks more relevant, negotiate or simplify tasks with little value, spend creative time on meaningful tasks, and commit work efforts to better fit your passions and vision. Focus on core competencies - concentrate on developing your strengths, not improving areas of weakness.
Any significant life change requires that you do something new in order to experience something new. Many people who are floundering and struggling at work want to make significant changes, yet keep their same habits, patterns, and routines. Try to create a basic action plan which includes clear, realistic goals and steps to accomplish them. Track your progress by setting benchmarks and reward yourself when you achieve them. Determine strategies for getting where you want, the time involved, and the trade-offs you may need to make. The key is that you must initiate and take action – nothing will happen unless you make it happen. Some methods and strategies to refresh, refocus, and reinvent yourself include the following.
Find a role model - Identify and model the behavior of someone who has successfully overcome similar roadblocks.
Become an expert - Speak at conferences, publish articles, serve as a media resource, and conduct workshops.
Build outside relationships - Go outside your company to broaden your skill set, raise your profile, and build strategic relationships to nurture professional growth.
Communicate and seek support - Find a trusted confidant who can reserve judgment, offer support, and provide recommendations. Support is an important part of bringing passion to life.
Mentor others - Give back and find meaning by sharing your time and expertise with others.
Track your successes - Keep a success list to offer perspective and provide hope.
Monitor your self-talk - If your inner voice is negative, it can lead to self-fulfilling and self-destructive behaviors.
Change your routine - Assess how you spend your time and energy and what you can do differently.
Read - Be proactive in stimulating your mind and rejuvenating your spirit.
Take a class - Meet new people, spark your creativity, and become invigorated with new ideas and challenges.
Find a passion and volunteer - Get involved with what concerns you and make a difference.
Let go - Work, don’t struggle; do your part, give it your best energy, then let it go. Quit blaming and nursing grudges. Find the positive and move on.
Remember the larger picture - Find solace in a world larger than your own. Remember the blessings in your life: your spouse, children, family, and friends. Give them your time and attention.
Dialogue with your employer – Talk with your supervisor about how your talents and interests can better serve organizational needs. And be sure to keep your resume and skill sets up to date.
You can overcome a stagnant career and move forward by making small improvements, adding to your skill set, and being open to new experiences. It is important to be proactive in using these strategies, but also important to have a reflective and open-minded attitude set. These strategies can help provide intrinsic motivation and satisfaction, leading to a refocusing of your work energy, and a better understanding of yourself and your goals.
Tim Lutenski is an Instructional Specialist at St. Clair County Community College and also operates a career consulting business. He teaches career based courses, workshops, and seminars, provides career services for individuals, groups, and organizations, and is a community volunteer who assists those with special vocational needs. Tim conducts professional seminars at conferences and for associations and organizations, and writes articles for various professional and academic publications. He has an M.A., in Organizational Leadership and an M.A., in Counseling Psychology, with professional certifications in tutoring, employee supervision, training, leadership, career coaching, mutual gains negotiations, and community mediation. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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