How do you know you are in a career rut? Do you dread Monday morning? Are you counting the hours until the weekend? Do you find yourself spending more and more time online, playing games, Facebooking, taking longer lunches and working shorter hours? Have you been working just to keep your job or your management satisfied rather than managing your career? If you answered yes to any of these questions, yet are unmotivated to take action, you are suffering from career inertia.
Inertia, while a critical stabilizing force in nature, is hazardous to your career growth. Maintaining the status quo may give comfort today, but kills your drive and ambition in the long run. Each action-or lack of action-you take has an impact on your career today, and in the future. This year, resolve to shake it up and take control of your career. Here's how.
1. Be Honest with Yourself. Evaluate your current status. Perhaps you've avoided shining the spotlight on yourself these past few years due to the down economy, shortage of jobs and risk. Why rock the boat? Perhaps you long for growth and challenge yet settled into a comfort zone, stagnant, but safe. Possibly you feel that technology has passed you by and it's too late. Then there's the salary, the extra vacation, the familiarity of it all-why give it up? There are intervals in everyone's lives that require that career take a backseat to life, but inertia ensures it becomes a career killing habit. It's never too late to grow.
2. Reconnect with your Career Vision. What motivated you to enter your current field? Where did you see yourself at this point in your career-and how close are you to it? Visualize your ideal position. What would it include? Would you be creating new and exciting products? Learning new processes, tools, technologies, methods? Working with a positive, dynamic team? Have opportunities to grow and develop. What's stopping your dream from becoming a reality? Rediscover your passion.
3. Recognize the Cost of Opportunity. Be prepared to be uncomfortable, to be challenged, to take risks and to make sacrifices. A forward leap may temporarily involve a lateral jump or even a step backward. For instance, to place yourself in the forefront of the hottest technology (that you may not have, but want to obtain), you may have to take a cut in pay, benefits, title, etc. Ask yourself what you are really trying to achieve and what you are willing to temporarily sacrifice to get there.
4. Move towards the Light. Technology advances at lightning speed. If you are not actively learning, you are falling behind. Research future trends, languages, hot technologies, techniques and make every effort to gain knowledge in those areas. There is no downside to being educated, prepared and informed. When and if the opportunity arises, you will be ready.
5. Strategic Moves Keep You on Track for Success. There is a certain stigma associated with job hopping, but there is also one associated with staying in one job, doing one thing for too long. If you find yourself suddenly unemployed after 5-10 years in one job, you may be completely out of the loop in today's market. Strategic moves can be made internally, as well as externally, but you have to be willing to step out of your comfort zone and do what it takes to reach that next level.
6. When Opportunity Knocks, Answer the Door! How many times have you bypassed potential career advancement because you were too busy, too stressed, content or paralyzed by inertia? Somewhere in the back of your mind you know you should step out of the shadows and push yourself forward, but you don't. Maybe next time, maybe next year. Remember, you miss 100% of the shots you don't take and time is ticking.