Sometimes, being good at your job can be a lonely and frustrating experience. You fulfill your job duties exceptionally well—going beyond the bare bones tasks—but for a variety of reasons, you are unsatisfied and gaining no forward momentum. The bad news is you’re in a career rut. The good news is there are things you can do to get out of it.
Sophia Nelson, public speaker and author of Black Woman Redefined: Dispelling Myths and Discovering Fulfillment in the Age of Michelle Obama (BenBella Books; $24.95), offers four ways to shake off the stagnant energy and get the boost you need:
SWIMMING IN THE SMALL POND
ACTION: Get a good mentor.
There are pros and cons to working at a small company, with one of the biggest being the ability to utilize your creativity. When your job description encompasses several roles, you have no choice but to be creative. However, one of the biggest cons to working for a small company is that sometimes you reach the top of that company’s career ladder very quickly, and there’s no opportunities or resources to move ahead or do anything new or different within that company.
Cherish Samuels, a project engineer in Chicago, found that the small company she worked for just didn’t suit her professional goals. “I made a little progress during the year-and-a-half I was with them, but I regularly asked for the freedom, support and resources that were necessary to grow the company in the new Midwestern office and I wasn’t getting what I needed.”
Nelson advices workers like Samuels to seek guidance from a mentor. “Get a good [one] who will invest in you as a professional and help get you to the next level.” Nelson believes this is especially critical for black women in the 21st-century workplace.
If you don’t have an in-house mentor to help you hone your skills, but you definitely want to stay at your company, get some outside help. Work with that person to come up with creative projects/ideas that will help stimulate growth in your professional development as well as the company.
BOXED IN AT A LARGER COMPANY
ACTION: Create a new position for yourself or expand your current one.
At large corporations, where employee handbooks are inches thick, there is often a very specific tried and true manner in which they expect the duties of each position to be executed. It’s possible to feel like a cog in the machine after a while even if you are good at your job and are well-compensated for it.
“One of the things I advocate for strongly is that black women have the courage to change the game, not play it,” Nelson says. Changing the game can mean a lot of things—one of them being making your own rules. This might seem extreme and dangerous in a rigid corporate environment, but there is a way to play it safe, she adds. Use that awesome mentor you have to figure out ways to fully utilize your available resources and simply just start doing what you want to do.
For example, if you think it makes more sense for you to run your ideas by the appropriate department before a presentation, even though it’s common practice to do so afterward, by all means, do it beforehand. You end up being viewed as progressive and creative, and you get input into your project by another set of eyes, which ultimately helps to shape the way you think about how you present and construct your work. It’s a win-win situation.