How to Recognize and Survive Career Doldrums

What to do when you feel like you're stagnating professionally

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Do you feel like you’ve plateaued in your career? If so, listen up. Sometimes the writing really is on the wall.

If you’re a knowledge worker, perhaps you’re not getting the same old satisfaction from the analytical, information-driven work that you do. Or, maybe you’re feeling disconnected to your purpose: You’re not where you thought you’d be at this point in your career. Alternatively, if you’ve simply reached a critical life milestone and the landscape just looks differently now, know that these feelings are normal and quite common. Whatever the reason behind your “down in the career dumps” mood, knowing how to recognize and survive this period is critical to your long-term professional success.

However, you’ve got to know what you’re looking for.

Here are some common signs of the doldrums and what you can do it about them:

1. Burnout and fatigue. Are you feeling perpetually tired, overworked or even depressed? Do you wish it would all just go away? If you’ve lost interest in your primary duties or the outcomes that drive the work that you do, then you’re likely experiencing burnout and fatigue. If so, augmenting your work schedule to allow for greater periods of non-activity and recovery could be the answer. Additionally, if changing the scope of your work is a possibility, it can be an important shift likely to inspire new energy and a fresh perspective for more fulfilling work. Finally, incorporating extracurricular activities into your lifestyle, as well as regular vacations, could really help to create joy and balance. Tennis on the French Riviera anyone?

2. Boredom. You’ve seen it all and done even more. Meh. Monotony is the name of the game: You know your job so well that you could do it in your sleep. But, there’s an upside here—you’ve probably got a great skill set (expertise) that can be used in another context. Find another way to add value to the company. Maybe it’s for a new department, division, or location. Look for a way to build and leverage innovation, even if you’re the one who has to bring it to the table.

3. A strong affinity for “greener grass.” You’re enticed by a new role, career, or industry and see it as being more compelling than whatever you are currently doing now. You’re way past boredom and fatigue. Seriously? You’re on your way out the door. But, before you open it, make sure that what you’re feeling is not fleeting. Ask: Are my feelings based on a substantive, pragmatic analysis that will yield the outcomes that I seek? Could career counseling be appropriate? What about a lateral move? Review your options before taking the leap.

4. Overwhelming desire to overhaul and “bliss build.” You’ve has a great career (or simply had enough!) and you’re vision is crystal clear: You want to recreate your career in your own way, from the ground up. Forget the stability of the 9-5; you’re ready to take innovation and risk to the next level. The million dollar question: Are you ready right now? The decision to forgo the comforts of a regular paycheck and employer-paid benefits is a serious one. Hurdle #1: Make sure that you have the expertise to facilitate the work. Hurdle #2: Make sure that you have suffient passion and purpose to sustain your vision. Hurdle #3: Do the research and make the necessary preparations (there will be many). However, don’t let fear dictate the process. It takes courage and true grit to delve into the realm of the “unknown” and deal with the challenges that come with being your own boss. But, if you’re truly ready to take the road less traveled, I say: Go for it!

Career doldrums can really cramp your style, but if you can recognize and deal with them accordingly, you’ll be back on track in no time.

To your success.

Karima Mariama-Arthur, Esq. is the founder and CEO of WordSmithRapport, an international consulting firm specializing in professional development. Follow her on Twitter: @wsrapport or visit her website, www.wordsmithrapport.com.