Stuck in a work rut? Here’s a checklist to help you figure it out

Stuck in a work rut
Stuck in a work rut
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Does going to work feel like a drag, when you used to be enthusiastic about it? Maybe you’re so demotivated that even your pay cheque isn’t enough to get you out of bed in the  morning. That’s because we aren’t motivated to work purely for money, says career coach Khanya Matlala.

“We choose to work because we have a deeper set of goals – to have an opportunity to do what we do best every day,” she says. When our jobs no longer offer us this opportunity, we start to rethink our options – perhaps a more exciting position or a change of career. Both prospects bring exciting possibilities and challenges. So how do you figure out what’s the right move and the right set of challenges for you?

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Get to the root of the problem

“Knowing what you don’t  want often leads you closer to what you do want. “Make a list of the pros and cons of changing jobs, and likewise of changing careers,” Matlala says. Like Matlala, life coach Kate Marshall also helps those feeling demotivated in the workplace find  a sense of purpose. Use these pointers to figure out whether it’s your job or profession that’s getting you down, she suggests.

What's the soure of your stress?

Make a list of all the things in your current job or line of work that cause stress. How many of them are related to:

  • Your industry or profession (like night shifts or certain tasks and responsibilities particular to your profession)?   
  • Your present job (like a nasty boss, unfriendly colleagues or a stressful work commute)?
  • Your personal coping style (your time­ management skills, ability to work in a team or how well you handle disagreements in work relationships)?

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Are you proud of the fruits of your labour?

Do you know what your company’s goals are? Do you know how you help achieve these goals? Do you believe in these goals? Do you support the goals and standards of your profession or do they leave you feeling compromised? Make a list of all the accomplishments you are proud of. What are your accomplishments telling you about what you’d like to experience more in your work life?

Give yourself permission to dream

Now that you have some sense of why you’re demotivated, it’s time to figure out what you’re passionate about. When answering these questions, give yourself permission to dream big, Marshall says. Imagine a time when you might look back at the actions, choices and decisions you made in your working life. Now ask yourself: How would you like to be remembered? What work would you like to be known for?

Imagine if you could go back in time

Picture yourself at the age of 15. What career options did you long for back then that you might have been talked out of by well­meaning adults and peers? Now, imagine that with the wave of a wand you could have any job in the world. What would you do?

Knowing what you don’t want often leads you closer to what you do want
Kate Marshall

Who do you look up to?

From family members to celebrities, The people you look up to can tell you a lot about what you value in life. Take a moment to consider who you admire and why. If you believe those qualities are worth striving for, consider this: Can you express these values in your present position? What is the future scope for expressing them in your line of work? Can you talk to your boss about finding ways to bring what you value to life? Do other companies in your industry have positions where you can express your values? Can you imagine an alternative career that will let you live out those values?

Working towards a job change

If you’ve worked through these questions and find yourself looking at positions higher than yours and thinking “that’s where I want to be”, you’re in need of a job change, Matlala says.

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Before you jump ship

Find out whether there are company opportunities for training and development. Discuss your concerns with your line manager or the human resources department. Keep these tips in mind when you’re looking for a new job:  Be discreet about job searching. Don’t quit before getting another formal offer of employment.

Working towards a career change

If, after having thought about Marshall’s questions, you’ve looked at every position you might fill in your industry as a whole and can’t imagine feeling fulfilled, you might be after a career change. “A career change doesn’t have to be a difficult move and shouldn’t always require studying towards a new degree. It might just be about finding the right industry fit for you,” Matlala reassures. Think of these examples: Nurses who have become personal midwives and parenting coaches for first-­time parents. Journalists who become ghost writers for celebrities. Personal assistants who’ve built their own events management or professional organiser businesses.

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Keep these tips in mind before you change your career: Get some outside perspective – it helps to look at your career through a different lens. So find a mentor or coach. Changing a career takes time. Set yourself short­, medium­ and long term plans with specific, realistic and measurable goals. Also, remember that even the right change at the wrong time can be a bad career move. If a big change isn’t the right move for now, consider what small thing you can do every day that will motivate and inspire you to stay or keep looking for something new, Marshall says.