Getting out of a career slump

By Kate James | Jul 16, 12 11:14 AM

When you’re not enjoying your role, it’s unlikely that you’ll be motivated. So you procrastinate and you under-perform and you feel a little less great about yourself.

Over the past couple of months, I’ve met several clients who are at an extremely low point in their careers. When I asked them to rate their career satisfaction out of ten (where ten is completely satisfied), these people chose a score of between zero and three. Which, as you can imagine, means they’re pretty miserable at work.

Career dissatisfaction is a problem for many people. There are literally thousands of us who struggle to get out of bed day after day to go to jobs that we loathe. I know from talking to these clients that once you’re unhappy at work, it creates a cycle that’s self-perpetuating, and it can get worse before it gets better. I’ll explain what I mean.

When you’re not enjoying your role, it’s unlikely that you’ll be motivated. So you procrastinate and you underperform. You surf the internet, start emails that you don’t finish, shuffle papers from one side of your desk to the other and find inane things to do like chatting to colleagues or dreaming about your next holiday. You finish your day feeling uninspired by your performance – and you feel a little less great about yourself.

You go home and you don’t have the energy to go to the gym or yoga or to enrol in that cooking class you’ve been thinking about and instead you eat comfort food and sit on the couch watching bad TV before going to bed. Maybe you’re even a little bit snappy with your partner and/or your kids.

The weekends aren’t so bad – you do your best to put work out of your mind from Friday night but by Sunday afternoon, you’re starting to dread going back.

I know this story well because I hear it every week and it troubles me that people leave it so long before reaching out for help.

Take a minute to consider the level of your career satisfaction. If it’s any lower than five, you need to take some steps to improve things.

1.     Start by asking a friend (preferably not your partner or your parents – they will be less impartial) if they can spare an hour for you to talk through your career concerns. We don’t want this to be just a complaint session. Begin by working through the following questions together.

2.     What are the elements of your ideal role?

3.     What are your strengths, values, skills and passions?

4.     How would you fill your days if money wasn’t an object?

5.     How do you want to make a difference in the world?

6.     What are your options?

7.     What resources do you need in order to be able to change roles (savings, further qualifications)?

8.     Come up with at least ten possibilities for alternative roles. Don’t stop until you have ten.

9.     What is one thing you can do this week? eg. Update your CV, make contact with someone who works in your ideal role and ask them out for coffee.

10.    If you’re completely stuck, seek professional help.


Kate is a Premium member of Business Chicks, request her online business card and connect with her here.

Kate James is the director of Total Balance. She works with clients to understand their unique strengths and values so they have a sense of clarity about their life and career direction.

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