In our careers and life, in general, we will have times when we are working towards goals, maybe it's buying a house, working towards a promotion or studying and other times when we perhaps feel as though we are going through a quiet period when we take time to just be and enjoy the fruits of our labour. But sometimes quiet periods or plateaus can bring negative feelings such as dissatisfaction and boredom. To the outside world, everything may seem fine, and perhaps the job isn’t that bad, but something is missing or there is some frustration brewing.
When is a career plateau more than a quiet period? When the feelings we have are causing us emotional and/or physical distress it is time to take action. But what action we take will depend on what is driving these negative emotions. If we can uncover the reason we are feeling this way then we can be clearer about an effective course of action.
Here are 6 common reasons people feel frustrated in their careers and my recommendation for how to move forward.
1. Not feeling challenged.
Being unchallenged can start to create feelings of resentment. We may start to question if our talents are being recognised. For others, boredom can set in and we start to feel less connected to the job and potentially we may find that we stop caring or putting in the same amount of effort we would have previously.
My top tip if this is you is to start with a conversation with your manager, don’t assume they know what is happening. Be specific about how you are feeling and how you would like more challenge in your work. This could be taking on more responsibility or working on a project. Don’t limit your thinking to activities within your specific area, look wider across the organisation.
2. Not sure of your career progression opportunities.
Maybe in the past, you have always had clarity on your next move, but for some reason, you aren’t sure what opportunities are available to you next. As a result, you are starting to question what is next for you, but you like the organisation and are not ready to say goodbye.
Instead of focusing on the question what next, take a different perspective and think about what interests you, which parts of the organisation do you feel connected to, or intrigued by and would like to know more about. Go exploring and take on a curious mindset and develop your understanding further about different areas of the organisation. A mentor from outside your own team can be a great way to help you achieve this and can uncover new pathways or opportunities for working on cross-functional projects.
3. Company restructure.
A restructure should not be underestimated on how unsettling it can be for those impacted, particularly as roles and responsibilities change and/or team dynamics. With a restructure we need to permit ourselves the time to progress through the change curve and the chance to get familiar with the new and find our way and place in it.
These feelings may just be temporary. Talk to others to understand how they are feeling and how they are adapting to the changes and while you are giving yourself a period to get used to things, focus on something outside of work to create more balance in your life, this can bring perspective and stop work being your main focus.
4. Unsupportive boss.
You may have hit a plateau as you perceive you don't have the sponsorship of your boss, maybe you would even go as far as to say you don’t get on. The priority in this scenario is to understand if there is anything you can do to change the relationship. While you may think it’s up to them to change if you wait for them to have the same perspective you could be waiting a long time. Are you clear on what the problem is? Try to drill down and be very specific and think about examples. Then consider what exactly needs to change in order for you to feel more positive in your relationship. If you are able to have a conversation with your manager to discuss the problems then this is the quickest route to move forward however, sometimes this is not possible. If the issue is of a serious nature such as bullying or discriminatory then this is something to discuss with your HR team or your manager's manager.
Sometimes the problem arises because a manager is simply not aware or is not sure how to handle the situation. The formula I share in this blog can be adapted to this scenario.
5. Done with the politics.
Knowing how to play the game in your organisation is a reality for many, but for some people, this can be a frustration and feelings of not being able to be your true self or having to constantly think about your stakeholders can be tiresome. If you feel the politics in your organisation has caused you to hit a plateau my recommendation is to understand if this is something unique to your particular part of the business or is part of the organisation DNA. If this is only unique to your area, do you wish to remain with the organisation and is it possible to move internally? Start by exploring other teams to get clear and to identify if this could be an option for you. However, if the problem is a companywide one changing an organisation’s culture is not something you can influence, it needs to be driven from the top and reinforced through a company’s practices and process all of which takes time and a commitment to achieve. Instead, get clear on what you do want from an organisation going forward and once you are able to articulate this you can begin to identify where you may find a culture that works for you.
6. Staying put because you have no idea what else to do.
You’ve hit a plateau because you realise that the job you are now doing no longer works for you and as a result, you are not interested in growing in the role or within the organisation. However, you continue to remain in your plateau because you have no idea what to do about it and unconsciously as a result you keep yourself stuck. This is a very common plateau and instead of trying to answer the question of 'what can I do next?' adopt an inquisitive mind and go exploring. Speak to people who work in organisations or careers which intrigue you. Perhaps book yourself in for an online webinar or volunteering and start to open your mind to new ideas and connections.
And if you need someone to give you a helping hand why not explore my next Kick Start Your Career Change Mastermind.
If you found this article interesting you may enjoy these: