We all get there, at some point.
We wake up and head to work, only to walk through the doors and realize whatever it was that motivated us in the weeks, months and years past is gone. The proverbial meteoric rise we were on has now stalled at its apex and you can feel that slight sensation that everything is plummeting into the mundane cadence you swear you’d never fall into.
The good news is that very few career stalls are severe enough that you’re left without hope. In this post, we’ll give you six signs that your career is stalling, along with expert advice on how you can revitalize your career.
Stalling Sign #1: You Don’t Feel Challenged
There’s a relatively old theory floating around which states, quite simply, that employees are happiest when the challenges they face are equal to their skill level. If the challenge level drops, you become disinterested in what you’re doing.
Rona Borre, founder and CEO of Chicago-based staffing agency Instant Alliance, said you know your career is languishing when the demands of your job don’t put your talents to the test.
“You know you’ve stalled in your job when you no longer feel challenged on a daily basis,” Borre said.
The remedy to this is simple, she said. You’ve got to look for opportunities to challenge yourself.
“Whether it’s taking on additional responsibilities, volunteering to help on a project outside of your wheelhouse or attending online classes in your off hours, keep pushing yourself,” Borre said.
Stalling Sign #2: Your Employer Isn’t Delivering on What They Promised
There’s nothing more injurious to your sense of momentum and accomplishment when you reach a goal your employer set, only to find out the bonus, raise or promotion they promised is no longer in play.
This is a classic sign that you’re in a stall pattern, said career coach April Klimkiewicz, owner of bliss evolution.
A great example of this, she said, would be when your company tells you they’re watching your performance in an important project and a promotion is in order if you do well.
“You completed the project. You were told it was great, and there have been positive changes for the organization based on your work. The problem is, no one has said anything about the promotion,” she said. “More time goes by, and you feel like you were taken advantage of.”
At this point, she said, it’s time to set up a time to talk with your boss and find out exactly what happened.
“If the higher-ups drag their feet about it, push the promised promotion further back, or refuse to honor their word, it may be time to consider contributing your talents to a new organization that will value you by doing what they said they would do,” she said.
Stalling Sign #3: You Aren’t Making an Effort to Sharpen Your Professional Skills
Employees who are interested in their job will make an effort, whether in their free time or on company time, to find learning opportunities that can help them excel in the workplace.
A loss of interest in expanding your knowledge is a sign that you may be entering – or are already in — a career stall.
“An obvious indicator that your career is stalling is a lack of participation in career development opportunities,” said Mollie Moric, hiring manager at Resume Genius. “In order to update existing skills as well as learn new skills, employees should be regularly engaged in conferences, online courses, or in-person workshops related to their field.”
Stalling Sign #4: You Aren’t Getting the High-Profile Assignments You Used To Get
You know you’re in the sweet spot at your job when your supervisors and upper management tap you to be a part of crucial projects.
When those opportunities wane and you see your colleagues getting the calls you used to get, Laura Small, a VP at Santa Monica-based ad agency RPA, says it’s a sign that you might be hitting a plateau.
“Your supervisor may perceive you to be working at a very high level, but if you aren’t getting asked to take on big-picture or high-profile assignments, it could suggest that you are not where you need to be,” Small said.
The solution? Start coming up with reach projects on your own.
“Consider bringing forward your own reach project — something that would be of value to the organization and would also allow you to showcase both your current skill set and what you are capable of mastering in the future,” she said.
Stalling Sign #5: It’s Not You, It’s the Industry You’re In
There are times when your career stall is beyond your control. For example, the industry in which you work could be in a stagnant season or, worse yet, in a precipitous decline. In these situations, your options are limited, said Alex Robinson, general manager at Team Building Hero.
“Some businesses reach their market potential because the market is small or already saturated with competition,” Robinson said. “When this peak happens, the company is unable to continue providing growth opportunities to employees.”
In this situation, either become the spark your company needs or make a move to a different company or industry.
“If you find yourself in this scenario or a similar one, the best solution is to either be a catalyst for growth at the company (if your role allows it) or to move to a faster-growing company, perhaps in another industry,” he said.
Stalling Sign #6: You Just Don’t Want to Get Better
This final sign that your career is stalling is more a combination of several of the factors we’ve already listed. Not wanting to better yourself through career development and not creating challenges for yourself are signs that there’s something deeper going on.
Dr. Andrew Selepak, a professor in the Department of Telecommunications at the University of Florida, said that, in the end, your career stall is a matter of motivation.
“It is important to always keep looking for new ways to do your job better and new thing to do at your job. This means always learning more and keeping up with new things,” he said. “No one wants to be the dinosaur at work, but this happens when we stop challenging ourselves and stop trying to be better at what we do than we were.”
In the end, no matter how much of a career morass you find yourself in, you have to believe you can get better every day.
“I tell my students, they should always strive to be a better person today than they were yesterday by learning more and pushing themselves to be better,” he said. “If you have lost this motivation to constantly get better at what you do, not only with the external validations stop, but so too will your internal validations leaving you stuck and prematurely peaked when you could be doing more.”