7 ways to pull yourself out of a work rut
"Have I used up all of my sick days?" "Can I ask my boss to work from home today?" "Should I say I'm not feeling well so I can come in late?"
If your workday usually begins with one of those questions, you may be stuck in a rut at work ... and it may be following you home.
The good news: Everyone's felt unmotivated or unhappy at some point during his career, and it doesn't necessarily mean it's time to find a new gig.
While searching for a new job is always an option, it's not always the right answer. You may take your problems with you, and you may end up in a rut again. Taking on the same duties or a similar role at another company "will equate to jumping from the frying pan to the fire," says career coach and strategist Lisa K. McDonald.
Consider the following seven tips to help you get out of your professional funk:
1. Figure out what you want.
"Do you want to feel as though you are contributing more? Do you want to work on more interesting or important projects? Do you want an opportunity to do something different? Identify what you need," McDonald says.
2. Take (more) responsibility.
If you aren't being challenged enough, know that the ball is in your court. Don't wait for your boss to hand you new goals. Establish them for yourself and welcome every new opportunity you can. "Employees need to assess their goals, set new ones [and] bigger ones, and then engage with the most senior person and be upfront with their rut," says motivational speaker and author Grant Cardone. "The best way out of a rut is to take on more responsibility and lead -- don't retreat."
3. Be proactive and vocal.
Break up the monotony by throwing a new task onto your plate. Let your co-workers and your boss know that you're ready to lend a hand wherever you can. "If you want to work on different projects, talk to your boss or project manager," McDonald says. "Identify how you can contribute to these projects and let them know you would like the opportunity to participate. If you feel you have outgrown your skill set, look for new skills to learn."
4. Take advantage of education benefits.
Office perks can help you dig yourself out of a ditch by allowing you to broaden your skills. Consider earning a professional certification or finding other ways to further your education.
"If your company offers tuition reimbursement, take classes that will enhance your résumé," Palmer says. "If you do not yet have an advanced degree, you might consider using the tuition reimbursement program to obtain that degree to increase your marketability."
5. Get involved.
Getting more involved at your company doesn't necessarily equate to a bigger workload. Consider the other opportunities you have access to, including committees, employer-sponsored community service programs or mentorship programs.
"If you have a number of years of experience in your field, you can increase your job satisfaction by passing along your experience to employees who are newer to the organization," says career coach Cheryl A. Palmer. "There is fulfillment in helping others, and mentoring other employees can make your time at your current job more enjoyable."
6. Count your blessings.
Don't get bogged down by the negatives you encounter day-to-day. Instead, focus on what your position or your employer gives you, and take time to be grateful. "When you start looking at the positive things that your job provides, it will help you make that attitude change and move out of your rut," says life coach Sean Nisil.
7. Consider whether to make a move.
If you've been in a rut for longer than you can remember, ask yourself some tough questions. Does your current job support your values? Does it allow you to be yourself? Have you taken action and you just can't seem to change things? Depending on your answers, it may be time to make your move -- even if it's a lateral shift. "When your job isn't offering anything to get you closer to a bigger goal, then it is time to move on," Cardone says. "You can't let the job rut lead to a life rut, which is what ultimately happens."
Tony Valdivieso is a writer and blogger for CareerBuilder.com and its job blog, The Work Buzz. He researches and writes about job search strategy, career management, hiring trends and workplace issues.
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