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Stuck In The Muck

Get your career out of a professional rut

Erica LaCentra headshot
Erica LaCentra
Stuck In The Muck

It can happen to anyone at any time. You may feel unmotivated, despondent, or just generally dissatisfied with how your career is going. While it’s normal to experience ups and downs in your career, a growing feeling of dread about your job usually indicates greater issues. When you start feeling as if your day has become repetitive and tedious, and you’re generally stuck, you have likely fallen into a career rut. Now before you panic and think you must make a huge change, it’s important to know that it’s completely normal to get into a professional rut.

According to a survey conducted by Oracle, “more than 75% of surveyed employees feel stuck, both personally and professionally.” However, to ultimately pull yourself out of this rut and move your career forward, you need to first identify why you are feeling stuck. So, what exactly causes someone to get into a professional rut and how can you fix it?

Identify the root cause

While it may be hard to pinpoint why you’re feeling this way, there are numerous reasons why you may feel stuck in your career. One of the most common reasons is because people no longer feel challenged. This could be because you are no longer able to reach new professional milestones, your current role has no room for growth, or you simply aren’t learning new skills. Whatever the case may be, not having a driving force which makes you want to do more is typically what creates that stagnant feeling.

It can be very challenging to want to continue a career where nothing changes, and you feel you have lost the purpose behind your work. There needs to be an obstacle to overcome, meaning to why you do what you do, or that next goal to propel you forward. Without challenges and purpose in your job, you will likely be wondering what’s the point. Thankfully, once you have identified why you feel stuck, you can take the appropriate steps to move forward and identify what that plan looks like.

Weigh pros and cons

Now that you’ve figured out why you’re in a professional rut, it’s time to determine what is keeping you there and ultimately what steps you need to take to get out of it. This also can mean you may have to take a long hard look at your job if the obstacles you have determined can’t really be fixed in your current career.

However, before you immediately decide to quit your job, list what you feel are obstacles making you feel stuck. For example, if you no longer feel challenged, what is preventing you from taking on new projects that would reinvigorate you? If you feel as if you aren’t growing, can you invest in yourself or work with others in your organization to learn new skills? If you feel your career isn’t progressing, can you speak with your manager about opportunities for growth within the organization? There are usually actionable and often immediate steps you can identify to get back on track and start moving in the right direction again.

If you are able to outline ways to get out of your rut within your organization, it’s important to connect with the people within your company who can help make those plans a reality and commit yourself to keeping on track. Focusing on that bigger picture and having support as you start working your way out of your rut can help you get to that next level.

So, what happens if you have identified obstacles preventing you from moving forward and they aren’t anything that can be fixed while in your current job? It could be time to weigh the pros and cons of your situation and try a new opportunity to get unstuck. While it can be scary to leave the comfort of a job you know to pursue something new, if you likely can’t get out of your professional rut without a change, it’s time to approach the situation logically and use decision-making framework to determine if a new job should be in your future.

Ask yourself the following: Do I need a new purpose for my career? Am I no longer excited by how I spend my time or the problems I am solving within my job? Would my experience be better suited to a different role, and could I make a greater impact somewhere else? Does my organization allow me to grow and do the people I work with make me better?

Chances are asking yourself these tough questions will give you the answers you need to know if you want to take steps outside of your current organization. If that is the case, lay out what your next steps are to find new opportunities that better align with what you are now looking for. It may be challenging in the short term, but it will be infinitely more rewarding long term.

Push forward

Whether your professional journey to get out of a rut in your career requires you to look inward or outward for the next steps, it’s important that whatever you do, you need to be determining a path forward and sticking to it. Yes, career ruts are normal, but they don’t have to be something you just live with. Develop your plan of action, have a clear vision to get what you want, and pursue it. The only way to get out of a professional rut is your own action and momentum, so take the time to focus on your own progress and move forward. 

This article was originally published in the NMP Magazine August 2023 issue.
Erica LaCentra headshot
Erica LaCentra

Erica LaCentra is Chief Marketing Officer for RCN Capital.

Published on
Jul 28, 2023
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