Does your case of the Monday blues feel like it’s beginning to infiltrate every other day of the work week? Congratulations, my friend, you’ve found yourself face to face with a career slump. Don’t worry, you’re not alone. In fact, according to CareerBuilder, 55% of workers they surveyed said they feel as if they have a job, rather than a career.
Let’s be honest: we all experience those less-than-stellar days at the office every once in a while. However, if there’s a gnawing sense of dread that has been following you around day after day like a dark cloud, then you are in a work rut – which can severely impact your productivity, limit your upward mobility, and crush your overall happiness in the workplace. After all, if your daily routine feels monotonous, how are you supposed to stay motivated?
Tim Bono, a lecturer in psychological and brain sciences at Washington University, refers to the work slump phenomenon as “hedonic adaptation,” explaining that “We get used to things–even wonderful things–that at one time were sources of immense pleasure and joy…Someone who loves chocolate will grow tired of eating it after a while if chocolate is the only thing they have to eat every single day.”
Rather than pointing the finger and blaming your boss or the company’s culture or the office dog that hasn’t sat in your lap in two weeks, the best thing you can do is take responsibility. By being accountable for your career slump, it allows you to be in control and take actionable steps to move forward rather than playing the victim.
So how do you get back into the groove at work? Here’s what to do.
What Sparks Your Motivation?
To start moving your career in a positive direction, you should start exploring the factors that truly get you motivated. Everyone’s values and career aspirations are uniquely their own, so you’ll have to do some digging into the areas that inspire you. Whether it’s doing meaningful work, earning a certain income, having a specific job title, or being able to lead and coach others, delving into what makes you excited to wake up each morning will help guide you in the right direction.
For many, motivation comes from working towards the goals they’ve set for themselves. By understanding how your current role fits into the larger picture of what you’re aiming to accomplish in your career, you’ll be able to start establishing smaller goals that are designed to carry you forward in your career.
Here are some questions you should be asking yourself: Are you regularly performing work that supports your values and goals, or do you find yourself having to compromise on what you deem most important? What work activities do you find the most engaging, and what steps can you take to incorporate more of these tasks into your daily responsibilities? If you only had 3 months left in your career, what kind of work would you find yourself doing? This last question is particularly important to answer, as it’ll help you shift your mentality from one of procrastination to one with a sense of urgency.
Start Challenging Yourself
Defining your goals is only part of the equation. To truly begin moving forward, you need to put the car in drive and challenge yourself to continuously reach higher and learn more. Why wait for your employer to supply you with the resources to move the needle forward on your training and development? You’re in the driver’s seat, meaning you have full reign over how you want to maneuver your career.
Don’t be afraid to get creative. If you need a little spark to ignite your motivation, enlist the help of coworkers, family, or friends to help keep you on track. Or, why not invite your colleagues to participate in a little healthy competition? Another great strategy is to join forces with a mentor or co-worker you admire, who can provide some advice on benchmarks you should be aiming to reach.
Stop Measuring Your Success Compared to Others
It’s human nature to want to compare yourself to those around you. When you see Rob scoring a promotion or Kelsey receiving continual praise from your manager, rather than focusing on destructive thoughts, direct your attention inward. Hold yourself to your own standards of what you define as success. Not only will eliminating social comparisons be advantageous for your mental health, but you’ll also see a positive uptick in your motivation and productivity.
Last year, to help focus my own energy on the positives, I began incorporating a new activity into my nightly routine. It’s simple, effective, and anyone can do it. I simply grab my notepad off my bedside table and jot down 3 things I either learned or accomplished at work that day. This can help redirect your attention to the value you derive from your career each day. Going to sleep acknowledging the new information you digested or the small goals you accomplished for the day will help you wake up feeling optimistic, goal-oriented, and ready to tackle the new day.
Participate in New Projects & Activities
You feel bored. I get it. Doing the same tasks day in and day out, without ever traversing off the beaten path can feel dull and unexciting. So, why not seek out a new project or task to add some color to your day? Approach other teams and offer to get involved. Or, if your brain is jam-packed with ideas, speak up and start sharing some of your ideas with your manager or leadership team.
This not only showcases your ability to be innovative, but it’ll open the doorway for you to take charge of a new project. There’s no better way to kiss your rut goodbye then to dive into a new initiative at work. And as a bonus, you’ll certainly gain the attention of your superiors and establish yourself as a contender for a possible promotion in the future.
Sure, a job can be a great source of income. After all, Sunday brunches and car insurance aren’t free. But, your career should be more than just a paycheck, and provide you with personal satisfaction as well. You have the power to break free of the career slump you’ve fallen into, and by doing so, you’ll find yourself in a much happier frame of mind each day.