From the outside, it looks like everything’s going great.
You’re getting your work done, you’re reaching your goals, and you’re staying on your manager’s good side.
But underneath that neatly checked off to-do list, you might be feeling entirely differently. In fact, what looks like hard work to your co-workers may in fact be you on autopilot, just going through the motions of your job.
And sometimes, that’s just fine. But if you have big career goals you’d like to reach, it’s important to check in with yourself periodically and make sure that your current job is helping you reach them, and that you’re not getting stuck in a career rut.
How do you know the difference? Start by asking yourself these three questions—you might surprise yourself with the answers.
1. Is There Room for Advancement?
Advancement can mean a lot of things, from salary increases and title promotions to increased responsibility and exciting new projects or clients. And when you work for a company that gives you the ability to showcase your talents and abilities and reap some of those benefits, you don’t just get a few more shiny bullets for your resume, you also feel much more fulfilled and energized.
Likewise, when those opportunities aren’t there, you eventually stop caring—no matter how much you might like your current position. The less you care, the less you work to improve yourself. The less you work to improve yourself, the faster your skills will atrophy.
Maybe you’re at a company where promotions are hard to come by, or maybe you just have a boss who’s playing favorites and giving other people the opportunity. Regardless of your situation, a lack of opportunity can lead to a big time rut.
2. Do You Seek Out New Challenges?
So, there are opportunities for growth at your company. But do you ever find yourself saying, “Nah, not feeling it” when they come up?
The follow-up question to this one is: Why don’t you feel like challenging yourself? Do you have a lot going on in your personal life and need to coast for a little bit? Are you uninspired by the company mission and no longer motivated to do more to support it? Do you even want to be doing the job you’re doing anymore?
Only you know the answers to these questions. But if the thought of taking on additional responsibilities, or even adjusting your current ones so that you feel challenged, makes you grimace, then you’re probably not feeling the job as much as you once did.
3. Does Time Fly By?
While I’m certainly not recommending you should be working round the clock, we all know how great it is when we’re excited about what we’re doing: You come into the office, lose track of time, and feel immersed in your work. Sure, there are times when you have to do tasks you don’t love, but getting to the end of the workday doesn’t feel like an eternity when you love your job and the company you’re working for.
On the other hand, regularly planning out your day so that you can leave at 5 PM on the dot is a red flag that you’re not as engaged in your work as you once were.
If you answered all these questions with a “Yes!”—that’s awesome! You’re working hard in a role and company that’s well-suited to your passions and goals. However, if you found yourself saying, “no, no, and no,” then it’s probably time to start thinking about your next step. It’s OK to be in a rut, and it’s OK to no longer like where you work (for various reasons). As long as you recognize it and work to fix it, you’re on the right path.