If you were to graph your career trajectory, it wouldn’t be a jagged line representing rapid rises and falls in enthusiasm and success. Sometimes, you find yourself on a plateau, feeling bored and uninspired by work you once deemed challenging and enjoyable. You’re down in the dumps, and it’s a lousy feeling.
Karima Mariama-Arthur feels your pain, and in a terrific Black Enterprise post titled “How to Recognize and Survive Career Doldrums,” the writer and WordSmithRapport founder shares four tips for (a) realizing when you’ve come to a professional crossroads and (b) deciding where to turn next.
The first type of malaise that Mariama-Arthur examines is “burnout and fatigue.” As she says, this occurs when you’re feeling overworked and possibly even depressed, and you’ve completely lost interest in your work. You “wish it would all just go away,” as she writes, and while this isn’t really an option — not if you want to stay put for a while and keep receiving a paycheck — you can vary your schedule, attempt to change the scope of your work, and incorporate more extracurricular activities into your life.
Similar to burnout is “boredom,” the next item on Mariama-Arthur’s list. You know you’re bored when you’ve been doing a job long enough to phone it in. You know all the ins and outs, and there are no longer any surprises to keep things fresh. Mariama-Arthur’s advice: “Find another way to add value to the company.” Is there another department you can work for? Are there innovative ideas you can introduce that will keep you feeling engaged?
Next up: “a strong affinity for ‘greener grass.'” As Mariama-Arthur explains, you start eying greener pastures when you’re past boredom and burnout, and you’ve actually got one foot out the door. Maybe you’ve started looking around for other jobs, and suddenly, everything sounds better than what you’re doing now. These new opportunities may very well be preferable to your current situation, but Mariama-Arthur advises thinking deeply about whether these are fleeting feelings inspired by your unhappiness. You should weigh the pros and cons before taking the plunge and consider speaking with a career counselor.
Lastly, Mariama-Arthur looks at what she calls “the desire to overhaul and ‘bliss build.'” This occurs when you’re tired of working for others and decide to strike out on your own and become your own boss. It’s a risky move, and before waving goodbye to paid benefits and the comforts of a steady paycheck, Mariama-Arthur suggests asking yourself three questions: Do I have the expertise? Do I have the passion? What’s required to make the move? Although these are big, scary questions, Mariama-Arthur says you shouldn’t “let fear dictate the process.” Sometimes, the uncertain, unmarked road is the one that leads to greatness.