A career rut can be tough to spot. Most of us are so busy with work and family that we operate on autopilot and rarely ask ourselves, “How’s this going?” 

Who has time to even notice a career rut? If you’re anything like me, you’re waking up early and checking off as many personal and family to-dos as you can – exercise, a moment of reflection, put some food together, etc. – and even more if you’ve got school age children. You may even answer a few emails and that’s before you’ve even left the house! Then, it’s off to the office, and more to-dos, meetings and projects. Not to mention the interruptions that are inevitable and somehow add more to your plate than you had anticipated.

Considering whether you are in a career rut means asking yourself some tough questions like, “Is this what I want to be doing?” Does the question make you queasy? Do you feel like you don’t even have time to figure it out? If so, there’s a pretty good chance you may be in a career rut since running around frantically without time to think is just one symptom of the condition.

Career Rut Diagnosis

If this feels like a privilege and asking yourself questions like “Am I doing what I want to be doing?” makes you feel guilty, snap out of it! Take a few minutes right here – I promise you won’t regret it – to consider these symptoms:

1. You may be in a career rut if your day is filled with routine tasks you can do with your eyes closed and your hands behind your back. If you know your job inside out and backward that can feel great. It’s good to be a subject matter expert. But it’s not so good to stop learning. Ask yourself this, “Do I have X years of experience? Or do I have 1 year of experience doing the same thing for X years?”

2. You may be in a career rut if your daily activities are anywhere on a spectrum from just okay to soul-sucking. I’m not saying you have to LOVE your work every minute! I am saying you want to find some pleasure in your day and some reward or satisfaction from your contribution at work.

3. You may be in a career rut if you don’t see any room for advancement, or don’t have the skills to move up the ladder. How long has your boss been in his/her role? Are people in your role moving up within the organization? If you’re in a small business, is the business growing? Will new opportunities come with that growth?

4. You may be in a career rut if you haven’t engaged in any networking or professional association activities in the last year. This is rough, but I’m going to say it – who would you call if you lost your job tomorrow? If your answer is “I don’t know” or something along those lines, I urge you to put yourself out there. It’ll make you feel great, and it’s a good offensive strategy to keep you out of a career rut!

5. You may be in a career rut if you’ve served in your current role without change in title or income (beyond cost of living) for the last five years. I hear you saying, “But I love my job, and it’s so comfortable here. It fits with my lifestyle!” This is wonderful, and you’re still in a career rut. Just know that if you answer yes here, you’ll want to be extra careful to make sure that you are solid on #1-4 so you can be prepared for the future!

Do you know someone who may be in a career rut? Keep your eye on this space – we’re working on something extra special to help you get out and find a great fit!