When I was a recruiter, many job candidates would list lack of challenge as a reason for leaving their job. Among my coaching clients, feeling stuck in a rut is a common reason for job dissatisfaction. It seems that boredom is a prevalent concern, particularly among seasoned workers who may begin to believe they've seen and done it all. However, when I probe more deeply, I typically do not see changing jobs as the logical next step. Often times, there are more productive responses than quitting. Here are 3 strategies to try if you are feeling stuck.
Engage Your Negotiation Skills
This is the ideal recommendation for most situations. Invariably, you're bored because you're doing a repetitive job, feeling under-appreciated or underpaid, you've disconnected from the mission, disengaged from your colleagues, or there is a trigger to your dissatisfaction. Negotiate for the solution to your dissatisfaction: a different assignment, performance feedback and recommendations, a raise or promotion, clarification on business strategy, or stronger boundaries with problem colleagues. Negotiating for an alternative is a much more effective response than just assuming the situation will not change. Furthermore, you practice the critical skill of negotiation. If you're determined to quit, negotiate anyway. You're in a more forceful position, so why not ask for the moon? If they say no, you were ready to leave anyway.
Rediscover Your Curiosity
Over time in the same role, you begin to perform a lot of tasks on autopilot, which is helpful when it enables you to be more efficient. But it detracts if you fall into a routine mentality: you always do things a certain way and you forget to look for improvements or even question whether what you are doing is the best use of your time. Try to look at your role with fresh eyes:
- What is your main contribution to the company?
- Where can you make the most valuable impact this year, this quarter, this week?
- What do you do day-to-day that contributes to your overarching contribution and your time-sensitive goals?
- Should you do something different?
- Has your industry changed?
- What are your competitors doing?
- Are you unsure about next steps and need clarification from your boss or other senior management?
You would need to answer these questions anyway for any new job you pursue. Do it now to reinvigorate your commitment where you are, or to flex your curiosity muscle before you decide to go elsewhere.
Challenge Yourself Outside of Work
The first two strategies will help guard against becoming complacent at work. But you don't want to be stretched all the time. If there are periods when you feel you are coasting in your job, that's okay. That's when you can focus on areas outside of work, where attention and effort will also pay off in your career:
- Are you taking care of yourself? Staying healthy, energized and vibrant is important for your career.
- Do you have family issues that need tending? Relationships provide a support system during professional crunch times.
- Are you managing your personal finances? Many employers check credit as part of a background check so your personal finances are directly tied to your professional career. Furthermore, a strong financial foundation enables you to take chances and negotiate with confidence.
- Do you have house projects that need to get done? If you work at home, your physical space supports your ability to focus. Even if you don't, your home is where you relax and refresh for the next day.
You don't want boredom to beget more serious issues, such as slowing your momentum, giving you a negative outlook, or causing you to quit or disengage from your job prematurely. Treat boredom as a sign that you should do something else and get reinvigorated right where you are, without the disruption and risk of a job transition.