Are you feeling unhappy about your job or your career? Does it feel as if you are going nowhere in your job no matter how hard you work or the amount of time you devote to performing your very best? Or have you just given up and resigned yourself to the present circumstances?

Most people want a reliable and steady job, one that provides a feeling of security and a sense of accomplishment. A job can serve a variety of purposes and that includes meeting a need for income or serving as part of a specific career plan and becoming a step towards meeting career goals. Over time a job can become the basis for a stable career, one that allows for the development of new skills and provides new opportunities. While stability in a career is important, what happens when that job you value becomes stagnant and no longer feels interesting, or you find that the tasks you are expected to perform do not bring out the best in your job performance?

You can try to use positive affirmations and force yourself to feel better. However, trying to feel good about a job that you know you have outgrown or cannot meet your career needs is not a helpful strategy. It is possible that a daily job routine can become so mundane you either think of getting away from it or you give up feeling hopeful and instead begin to feel stuck, especially when it seems there are no other alternatives. You can also experience these feelings if you feel under-utilized in your current role, overlooked for future roles, or believe you have made a wrong choice. A challenge for feeling that you are stuck in a career rut is that the negative emotions or feelings can have a direct impact on your attitude and eventually your job performance, if it is allowed to continue unchecked.

Feeling Stuck in a Job

When a job becomes a steady career it may be a product of longevity or a series of opportunities that creates stability. This allows a person to develop a routine, habits, and a rhythm of regular productivity. A challenge for maintaining this work pattern is that over time it can feel like more of the same – the same job and the same tasks without anything new. It may be a new day at work but consist of the same job duties, challenges, and/or problems. It also likely that you are no longer learning anything new or developing new skills. In contrast, the job may be going well but you are stuck in a mental rut, which means you're going through the daily motions but your productivity has declined. You may have worked in the same manner for so long it no longer feels you are effective in what you are doing.

When You've Run Out of Ideas

Another type of career-related challenge is referred to as a creative rut. This can occur with a job that is going well or one that has grown stagnant. It is a time when a person no longer seems to have any new ideas or simply lacks inspiration. Every job requires creativity to some extent, from the development of new product concepts to marketing new services, along with the resolution of workplace issues and meeting organizational developmental needs. Even work within the customer service field may require creativity when addressing customer needs. When you are assigned new projects or tasks and your job duties begin to result in frustration, or an inability to develop new and innovative solutions, this may signal a need for change. This produces a feeling of being mentally stagnant, even if the desire to do well in your job is still present.

A Negative Mindset and Disposition

When you believe you are stuck it can be associated with feelings of being bored, anxious, or simply uninspired. It can be easy to experience a lack of enthusiasm about a particular job or the required tasks, if you are feeling stuck. People who develop this disposition often become disengaged from their job and then they start to watch the clock, looking forward to the end of the day as if they are now being held a prisoner. What happens if this attitude or mindset is left unchanged is that personal productivity can decline as interest in the job begins to dwindle. If there is a negative impact on job performance, due to a lack of new ideas or a sense of diminished creativity, it can result in negative feedback and reviews – even missed opportunities. How you perform is influenced by how you feel.

Five Warning Signs

Anyone who has experienced feeling stuck, they may wish to experience change, a sense of hope or renewal, a renewed purpose for their job, new ideas, or a time of being re-engaged in their work. What is needed at this point are new habits, a changed mindset and way of thinking, or anything else that prompts creativity and sparks new ideas, outcomes, and solutions. A problem that is associated with feeling stuck in a rut is that it can lead to long-term decline and influence a person's disposition at work, especially if they do not take some form of action to correct it. The following are some of the warning signs that you are feeling stuck in your job or career.

  1. No Change in Tasks or Duties:If you have been in the same job and you are performing the same tasks without making any progress in your job, then it is very likely you may be stuck. It is helpful to consider whether or not it has occurred by choice. Here are some questions to consider: Are you seeking out additional tasks or opportunities, or are there none available? Have you talked to your supervisor or manager about doing more in your current role? It does not always have to involve taking on more job tasks. For example, could you lead a project or meeting? The point is to be proactive now and get out of this rut.
  2. Career Fear:Are you living in fear of not making progress, not being able to advance, or even the fear of making a change in your job or career? Fear can be a powerful de-motivator and create negative feelings that lessens your self-confidence. It can stop you from taking advantage of opportunities, especially if you stop looking because of fear. It can take some practice but you can learn to work with fear – if you can develop an objective rather than emotional position. Don't try to figure out the exact cause of your fear as you may never know what first sparked it and that may actually cause you to become even more frustrated.
  3. When You Stop Learning:Are you no longer interested in pursuing your ongoing professional development? That is another reason why you can become stuck, you've stopped doing something that can provide value for your career. The purpose of ongoing professional development is not to please anyone else, rather it is meant to be a means of bolstering your resume as you acquire and/or further develop your knowledge base and skill sets. It can also provide you with networking opportunities as you connect with other professionals.
  4. You Are Experiencing Stress:Are you experiencing prolonged stress, anxiety, or feelings of apprehension? If so, any of these signs can be an indicator you are having a negative reaction to your circumstances or current situation, or you are not moving forward in your job or career and feeling stuck. It is possible that many jobs are of an inherently stressful nature; however, if you are highly motivated and enjoying your job you would have a better ability to manage the potential for stress. The point is to recognize stress as an indicator and develop a plan to address it.
  5. Work Is No Longer Enjoyable:Do you no longer enjoy going to work or performing any aspect of your job now? There are many reasons why you might feel this way and one of them is an indicator of your dislike and/or disengagement from your job. This does not mean you have to feel happy every workday but if the job was actively causing you to feel fulfilled – you would be more likely to enjoy it, or at least tolerate it until you can find a way to make changes. When work is no longer enjoyable it is time to review the goals you have established for your career and develop an action plan

Five Solutions When You Are Stuck

1.   Find a Creative Outlet:People often begin to feel stuck when their mindset or habits do not change. It is difficult to know when habits we rely on are no longer serving us well, until we reach a critical point where we are mentally or creatively stuck. Developing a creative outlet outside of work or something that sparks inspiration is a helpful approach you can take.

2.   Develop New Duties, New Routines: At work it can be beneficial to take on or request new job duties or tasks. This can be accomplished by not being afraid to talk to your supervisor about your job as they will likely be supportive of your success and improved job performance. On your own you can try a new routine or change how you perform, becoming conscious of the rut you are in and knowing that it only needs to be a temporary condition.

3.   Try Reflection: Another helpful strategy is to try reflection and remember why you accepted your current job. There was something that prompted you to accept this position, even if you accepted it just for the income. This will serve as a starting point for your self-assessment. As you continue to reflect upon why you began this job you can then ascertain if there were any expectations you held about the future of it. Then consider how your time in this position has evolved. Did it live up to your expectations?

4.   Consider Self-Assessment: As you reflect upon your job you will likely recall both positive and negative events, if applicable, but the idea is to determine what you have gained from this job and pinpoint the time when you felt frustrated or you were no longer making progress. This is an important step because you will either realize that there was a triggering event or you will find that nothing has changed and that is the reason for your present feelings. This allows you to begin changing your focus regarding the purpose for this job.

5.   Pursue Self-Development: It is easy to stop learning when you get stuck in a rut so another helpful strategy is to read something related to your career field, whether it is a book, magazine, or online resource. The best way to self-correct your mindset whenever you feel stuck is to redirect your self-development efforts and focus once again on your job duties and career plans. Break down your daily routine and find a new method of approaching your tasks as a means of generating new thought processes.

Try your best not to allow your mindset to become stagnant. Your personal best at work is something you should strive to improve upon and manage regardless of circumstances on the job or within the organization. Everyone experiences a lull from time to time in their career and the key to avoiding becoming stuck is taking proactive action and redirecting your thoughts for the purpose of professional and personal self-renewal. It never feels good to have a job that isn't rewarding, especially when your hard work goes without appreciation or recognition. However, you are always in control and it is up to you to find a way out of a rut and you can by starting with and maintaining a positive state of mind.

About Dr. J

Dr. Johnson has worked in the field of higher education and distance learning since 2005. He specializes in distance learning, adult education, faculty development, and online teaching. Dr. J's roles included Chief Academic Officer, Dean, Faculty Director, Faculty Development Manager, Dissertation Mentor, Faculty Workshop Facilitator, and online instructor.

Dr. J has extensive experience with curriculum development, having authored courses and curriculum for bachelors, masters, and doctorate programs. He also developed a Faculty Performance Model, Faculty Orientation Program, Faculty Training and Mentoring Program, Faculty Professional Development Courses and Workshops, and a Faculty Remedial Program.

Dr. J has a Ph.D. in Postsecondary and Adult Education, a Certificate in Training and Performance Improvement, and a Master of Business Administration, MBA. As a scholar practitioner, Dr. J was published in a scholarly journal and he has been a featured presenter at an international distance learning conference. He has also published over 200 online articles about adult learning, higher education, distance learning, online teaching, and career development.

About Affordable Quality Writing

Dr. J founded Afforded Quality Writing in 2003 to offer skill-based resume writing and strengths-based career coaching. Dr. J helps hundreds of clients each year by providing a well-written and highly effective resume, along with instilling in them a renewed self-confidence and sense of purpose.

Dr. J's Featured Resources

Dr. J's new book is available as a downloadable PDF, and as an eBook: Transform Adult Education: Expert Teaching Strategies for Educators

Dr. J also published the following resources:

  • Transform Online Teaching: Expert Strategies and Essential Resources Every Educator Needs
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  • Getting Down to Business: A Handbook for Adjunct Faculty Who Teach Business
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