Why you are stuck in a career rut and how to get out of it.

“The job started out so well—but now you’re frustrated, floundering, and confused. Why are your  co-workers ascending to the next rung of the career ladder while you’re stuck in the same spot? Does that sound familiar?  Sure it does for Daphne who has worked in the media for 5 years. She has been at the same position since she started out and she is frustrated, wondering how and when she will get ahead.

Suzy Welch, a contributing editor at O (oprah magazine) and co-author of Winning (HarperBusiness), in the article “Going Nowhere Fast? How to Get Ahead at Work” hints at the fact that she has come across only a few people who have never been stuck in a career rut. Many of us, at one point or another have been affected. And, in order to get out of it, she shows that there is need to find out the cause of our being stuck.
Boredom resulting in lackluster work is one of the reasons she cited for one getting stuck in a rut. Again, does this sound familiar? Welch mentions that once when she was giving career management tips in Chicago, a woman in the audience complained about not getting ahead while fellow employees did. She wondered why. Later, when they sat down to talk, the woman mentioned that she was bored at work, it was routine and so she was not giving it her best.

Frustration with one’s work could also result in one getting nowhere. This is because it results in disengagement from one’s work. A lady related this experience to Welch: “I passed up a six-figure offer at a consulting firm to take this job because I believed I would help change the world,” but because she found the job to be too bureaucratic and she was doing work that went unappreciated, she eventually came to this: “Nothing I do makes a difference. And I’ve lost all interest in trying.” With such an attitude, we do mediocre work and of course, we get nowhere.
Boredom and frustration lead to disengagement from one’s work and when this happens, we become underperformers. It has been said time and again: you just cannot excel at something you are not passionate about. And, because you are not excelling at work, there is no way you are going to get promoted.

While boredom and frustration could be one’s own doing, sometimes, failing to get a promotion could be as a result of the perception one’s bosses have of one. Welch calls this “embedded reputation” and she illustrates by mentioning that sometimes, the level we start out at could portray us the level at which we ought to be. “The powers that be will always look see you as the lowly executive assistant that they hired right out of college. Unfortunately, it’s a rare organization that dares to break someone out of its own typecasting”. Embedded reputations could also be acquired from past failures. For instance, we could start off a project that fails and employers will always associate you with failure. This works against you getting anywhere.

How do you get out of such a rut? Welch advises that one starts over again. “Get out. Start over again,” she says. She realizes that this may be difficult to do but she mentions that she has met individuals for whom starting over was the best decision they ever made. She mentions a colleague of hers, who worked at a Miami newspaper for six years and of course, she got stuck in a rut. When she eventually left for a newer job in New York, she was re-energized and was promoted to editor. She was part of a team that worked on a story that was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. “I saw her picture in the paper; she was smiling with a look of optimism and self-confidence…” Welch says of her colleague that had been courageous enough to move.
However, we always don’t have to move. Sometimes, dealing with the problem, be it boredom or frustration, will help.