The experience of career stagnation can be debilitating, paired with feelings of worthlessness, frustration and a lack of motivation, according to experts (Getty Images/Tetra Images)
With record-low unemployment rates and overall job satisfaction, according to recent statistics, Canadians seem content at work.
A 2018 survey by job search website, Monster.ca, found that 64 per cent liked their jobs, with 24 per cent saying they’d even do it for free.
But what about those of us who feel like we’ve hit a wall when it comes to our careers? Referred to as career stagnation, the experience can be debilitating, paired with feelings of worthlessness, frustration and a lack of motivation, according to experts.
“It’s similar to what we used to talk about with midlife crisis,” says stress and resiliency expert, Beverly Beuermann-King, of Work Smart Live Smart. “You may have different expectations for yourself that you should have achieved something higher, more pay, more prestige…but it hasn’t worked out that way, or maybe things have worked out…but your life doesn’t feel engaging, or as exciting as you would like it to be.”
For those of us struggling to get to that morning meeting, here’s some advice on how to pull yourself out of that rut (and out of bed), with tips for your employers too.
FIND THE ROOT CAUSE
Career stagnancy takes on many forms, from lost productivity to an attitude shift, says Beuermann-King. Determining its cause comes first, then the remedy, she adds. Whether it’s your boss, team, position, the company, or personal stress, there are ways to approach the future differently, she says.
“Look at where that stagnation is coming from because if it is just the role, then you need to [ask yourself], is this the career I want to be in for the next five, 10 or 15 years? If it’s the company, [ask yourself], can I look at another company, someplace else and move in that direction?”
If you want to stay put, have a conversation with your superior, or human resources, about bringing life to your role, adding responsibility, participating in other projects, or exploring different opportunities within the organization.
If it’s personal stress—even burnout where you’re feeling overworked, resentful, and fatigued—Beuermann-King recommends putting balance back into your life. This goes beyond eating healthy, exercising, getting enough sleep or even picking up a hobby. It’s finding balance within your current reality, whether you’re a parent of young children, financially strapped, taking care of a sick family member or nearing retirement. If it’s time off you need, explore taking a leave of absence to give you some breathing room, she suggests.
“Do you have areas in your life that are giving you that motivation and satisfaction and can boost you up?” she asks. “If it’s impacting your work, can you manage that so it frees up energy for your workplace?”
From an employer’s standpoint, Beuermann-King recommends looking out for the warning signs and having open dialogue with employees to determine what’s happening and where adjustments can be made.
“It’s recognizing when people are on that continuum where they’ve gone from being dissatisfied, to disengaged, to being burned out, to taking a medical leave for depression,” she says. “If you think that it doesn’t happen within your workplace, you are going to miss those signs and you could end up losing an employee who could have been a great employee.”
HEAD UP AND THINK FORWARD
Performing on autopilot could be detrimental to your career, says Craig Lund, president of Marketing Talent, Inc. and co-chair of the Mentor Exchange Program.
The onus is often on you to remain relevant in your role, organization, or industry, being in-the-know and acquiring in-demand skills, he says. Whether pursuing professional development opportunities (internal or external to your organization), attending networking events, or meeting one-on-one with connections, there are ways to stay tapped in, beyond performing day-to-day tasks.
“People get into cruise-control mode in a company and they completely forget to invest in the rest of their career,” Lund says. “If you are just head down, do your job, go home to your family, repeat the next day, you get into that mode, which can be debilitating for your career and your advancement.”
Being “too busy” isn’t good enough, Lund stresses. Investing in your career should be a commitment to yourself and integrated it into your professional life. “This is something you have to plan, you have to put it in your calendar…because you could miss an opportunity whether it’s self-realization, meeting a prospective hiring manager, or learning about a new tool or technology.”
For an organization, Lund says, it’s critical to offer professional development opportunities that not only enhance employee skills used in-house, but that are also in-demand by the respective industry. It shows a commitment to staff and positions the company as cutting-edge with regards to training and talent retention, he says.
“Developing them into an employee that’s going to be valuable outside of the organization…that’s true investment in a person’s development,” he says. “If you are not listening to outside perspective or outside educators, then you are all telling each other the same thing. That is something that could be lost.”
THE LAST RESORT
If you’ve walked the talk and attempted to find opportunity and resolution to no avail, it may be time to move on, says Beuermann-King—be that in looking for a new job or shifting careers.
“If you have tried to have those conversations and you are getting blocked at every turn…that’s when I would say it’s time to move out of the company,” she says.
“I would say start that process before you’ve come to your wits’ end, when you just can’t take it anymore,” she adds, to avoid burning any professional bridges (you need references), or receiving a negative performance review before you depart.
From an organization’s standpoint, if you’ve lost an employee this way, it’s time to reflect on how you could improve your employee-retention efforts, says Lund. Talent retention is abuzz, and keeping your staff builds and sustains your company’s reputation.
“It’s something that is quite critical. We’ve got Gen Z coming up, and millennials value when an employer invests in them, more so than getting a raise,” says Lund. “The best organizations are continuing to invest in their employees.”
ANOTHER STEP FORWARD
Have you recently lost your job, or are you considering a career switch, that will put pressure on your finances? Use strategies from CPA Canada’s practical guide: Survive and thrive: Move ahead financially after losing your job.