NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Stay in the real world long enough and you’re bound to get burned out. Longer work-weeks, toxic co-workers, poor managers and bleak prospects for advancing one’s career can be a recipe for a Catch-22, where you long to quit your job, but feel pressured to hold on to it out of fear of becoming unemployed and not being able to make ends meet.
But while it’s easy to blame the recession for these issues, experts say the real reason your career has stalled probably has more to do with poor planning and a lack of initiative, not to mention a lack of one or more of the transferable skills that every employee needs to succeed and stand out in today’s tough economy.
“Sure, there are external factors,” says Peter Handal, CEO of the Dale Carnegie Institute, a professional development center. “It could be a divorce or health or the recession. But really it can be the individual who isn’t prepared for the real world. Intangible people skills are very important, and in a lot of respects more important than what somebody has.”
If it seems like you’ve working for the weekend, but aren’t making progress then keep reading for advice on how to put your job back on track and cut through the fog to land that promotion or your next dream job.
Stuck in Neutral
A career rut is hard to define, but Alexandra Levit, author of New Job, New You, says that any time you’re not looking forward to waking up in the morning or have trouble focusing on the work at hand is a sign that you’re plodding along in your job and are headed for trouble.
“When nothing you’re working on gets you jazzed anymore, everything is just sort of blah and even when you do something well you find it hard to enjoy it, that’s a sign you need to pull yourself out of your rut,” she says.
Other indications that you might be unhappy with your work situation include excessive drinking, physical symptoms like feeling sick or tired, doing poorly at work and lacking attention to detail.
“You might be less efficient with your time, not perform your tasks as well or pass work off onto other people,” Levit adds. “There’s just no motivation to get it done.”
If this sounds like you, Handal says it’s time to do a serious self-assessment to get some perspective.
“If you’re someone who’s been a trailblazer but just isn’t engaged anymore, then perhaps it’s just a matter of needing a change of pace or a vacation,” he says, adding that taking leadership classes or picking up a new hobby might help to improve one’s outlook.
However, Martin Yates, author of the Knock ‘Em Dead career development series, disagrees, pointing out that the issue is usually closer to home.
“The biggest cause of career plateaus is that we’ve been told since day one to find something you like and stick with it, and if you find something you like, you’ll work forever,” he says. “But successful careers don’t just happen. They are planned and pursued with intent.”
In other words, he continues, a lack of planning or sitting quietly and doing your job day in and day out, secretly hoping for a raise without asking for one is what is actually holding you back.
“If you haven’t had substantial raises or promotions, it means you don’t deserve them,” he says.