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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Getting Ahead

Ask a Career Coach: I've Got a Good Job, But I'm Bored. What Should I Do?

Hi Kyle,

I’ve been in my job for nearly 11 years now. It’s well-paying, has great benefits, and it allows for a very flexible schedule. I have the opportunity to do both office and field work (I’m in nonprofit public relations)—all for an awesome cause.

However, I’m super bored. I get this feeling the most when it’s slow (like right now), but I’ve been feeling it more and more, even when I’m loaded with work. I spent a ton of money on a career coach a few years ago, and after six months of soul-searching and research and matrixes and compiling Post-it notes of ideas, it turns out my current job meets my needs as a professional and is the best thing for me right now.

So, what do I do with that? Basically, I'm afraid to leave the money and schedule flexibility but desperately want a new cerebral challenge. Yes, I could find new projects to do within my current role, but I’m not really motivated. (In the past, I’ve tried to kick start something, but I lose interest quickly.) I could work at moving up the chain of command with the hopes of taking over a manager's job when it's available in a few years, but that doesn’t really appeal to me either.

I’ve taken online courses to help expand my skill set for both my current job and to see what other skills I like and want to improve upon, and I’ve found that has put a new energy into how I approach work. And yet, when I start looking at job postings, my motivation to apply fizzles. Thoughts?

Bored and Unmotivated

Dear Bored and Unmotivated,

Thanks for writing in about this issue. Sounds like you’ve been coasting a bit and are disappointed to learn that your current role is the best thing for you. But maybe what you need isn’t a different or “better” job. Maybe what you need falls outside of the traditional idea of work, and lies somewhere in the broader scope of your career. Sometimes the thing you’re looking for happens after you punch out.

So how do you find what’s missing and get over the boredom? Here are three fresh suggestions:

1. Start a Side Project

If starting new projects at work isn’t giving you the stimulation you’re craving, consider starting something outside the office. Working on a project completely unrelated to your 9-to-5 can open up new interests and give you better insight into what other fields you could potentially transfer into. It doesn’t have to be a business idea; it can be a blog, a photography website, or even a garden. What are you interested in pursuing when you’re not working? What hobbies or passions do you have that you could potentially turn into a side gig?

It could be the reason you’re reluctant to apply for other jobs is because they all feel like a similar version of what you’re doing now. And if you’re unenthusiastic in your current role, it’s unlikely a lateral move is going to get you pumped.

2. Volunteer

People often see the word “volunteer” and immediately think of a soup kitchen. While that work is important and necessary, it’s different than the kind of volunteering I want to talk about today. Ask yourself what causes are close to your heart and pursue unpaid work with one of them.

Whatever form it takes, it will expose you to new people and purposes and maybe alleviate some of your general dissatisfaction. Finding fulfillment outside of work—until you’re either ready to seek a promotion or find a new job—may make swallowing the day-to-day easier.

3. Take an Unplugged Vacation

It can be hard to truly explore different jobs or commit to learning new skills while you have work obligations, regardless of how flexible your schedule is. So if you have PTO left to spare, consider taking a completely unplugged vacation. Separating yourself from work for at least a week and committing to staying away from your inbox (as much as possible, I’m not unrealistic) will help you clear your head so you can maybe, just maybe, hear what’s calling you.

When you realize that a job that’s great on paper just isn’t doing it for you anymore, it’s hard to see a silver lining. But think about it: You’re gainfully employed with schedule flexibility. Whatever the answer to getting out of your career rut, don’t overlook the fact that figuring it out is easier when you have a steady paycheck coming in.

You’ll know when you reach your breaking point, and when that happens, I promise you, you’ll have all the motivation in the world to either seek out a promotion where you are or land a better, challenging gig elsewhere. In the meantime, there are plenty of ways to stay on your toes.

This article is part of our Ask an Expert series—a column dedicated to helping you tackle your biggest career concerns. Our experts are excited to answer all of your burning questions, and you can submit one by emailing us at editor(at)themuse(dot)com and using Ask a Credible Career Coach in the subject line.

Your letter may be published in an article on The Muse. All letters to Ask an Expert become the property of Daily Muse, Inc and will be edited for length, clarity, and grammatical correctness.

Photo of woman looking bored courtesy of Seb Oliver/Getty Images.