Understanding when to leave a bad job is pretty straightforward. Trying to diagnose whether you’re losing career momentum, however, is a trickier prospect that often doesn’t come with clear red flags. It’s the difference between a tire blowing out on the freeway and a slow leak that results in a flat you only notice when you’re already running late on a Tuesday morning. If you feel frustrated, stymied or unengaged, the reality might be that your current position isn’t to blame, but that you’ve reached an impasse in your working life where moving ahead (or around or beyond) requires more self-reflection and planning than just hopping to your next role. How do you know if you’re stuck in a career rut? If one (or more) of the following scenarios describes your work, you might be mired:
Your work isn’t getting any better.
Compare your recent output to that of six months or a year ago. Is your code cleaner? Is your writing stronger? Are your project budget and timeline estimates getting more accurate? Are you closing more deals? If you aren’t seeing a noticeable improvement in performance, it’s time to ask why. Are your responsibilities challenging enough? Do you have an intrinsic or extrinsic motivation to do better work (extra effort going unnoticed can sap your will to excel, for example)? Do you have sufficient resources to do your job well? If you aren’t pushing yourself, aren’t being pushed and don’t have a clear way to evaluate improvement, your skills are likely stalling out.
There seems to be little room for growth.
If you’ve changed jobs three times in the last six years and each of them had the same title (and it wasn’t CEO), you’d be right to consider you might be stagnating. If you’re getting rejections from the next rung of the career ladder, you’ll need to take a hard look at your skill set (Does it need refreshing? Are you a competitive candidate for a more senior role?) and how you’re presenting yourself to hiring managers. If, however, more senior opportunities seem to be unusually thin on the ground, it might be less a function of your trajectory and more that your field has limited prospects at the top ( and most moves are lateral by default) or you’re in a location that only has a finite number of employers in your field and everyone cycles between the same three insurance firms or four tech startups. In either of those cases, moving up truly would involve moving out — of your field or out of town.
There’s nothing new on the horizon.
If your boss asks you where you’d like to be in 12 months and you draw a blank, your career future might look a lot like a brick wall. Worse yet is if you’re not even being asked about how you’d like to grow in the first place. Not every job leads to a corner office and certainly not every employee aspires to end up there , but there should be some sort of path forward from where you are that involves taking on new responsibilities, setting and working toward goals and enhancing your current skills and building new ones. If that isn’t being offered or you find yourself uninterested in imagining it, it’s time to pull over to the side and re-evalute your career roadmap.
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This article was written by J. Maureen Henderson from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.