When You’re Stuck In a Career Rut, Try Doing This

January 6, 2020

how to get out of a work rut

You regularly experience the ‘Sunday Scaries.’ You’re bored at the office. You get frustrated more easily and your work is suffering. These are telltale signs that you’re stuck in a rut. 

It’s human nature: working with the same people on the same projects day in and day out can feel repetitive—like you’re getting stagnant. And it happens to nearly all of us at some point, even multiple times, in our careers. 

When a career rut hits, recognize it and take action. It may be exactly the nudge you need to make a change and reach new career heights.

In Get Unstuck from a Career Rut, Emilie Aries explains how to pinpoint what’s not working so you can get proactive about asking for what you need. (Spoiler alert: you may not have to leave your company!)

Here are three steps you can take to get yourself out of the rut and into a job that’s right for you right now. 

Step 1: Identify wants vs. needs

“One of the first steps for getting unstuck from a career rut requires identifying and refusing to tolerate the pain points in your everyday work life,” says Aries.

Get specific about what needs to change. If you’re feeling bored with monotonous tasks and don’t have enough input into the outcome of your projects, you may be craving more creative control or more responsibility. 

Make a list of everything that’s missing, then put them into two categories:

  • “Wants”: things that you would like to see change—like a raise, or an opportunity to take the lead on a project.

  • “Needs”: things that absolutely need to change to justify staying at your company—like the ability to leave at 5 p.m. to pick up your kids after school, or clarification on why you haven’t gotten the promotion your boss promised six months ago. 

If your basic needs aren’t being met, start your job search STAT and advocate for yourself externally to find your next move. 

But if your list is heavy on “wants,” it may signal new opportunities in your current workplace. Get ready to negotiate internally and turn those complaints into demands.

As Aries reminds us, “no job is perfect, but that doesn't mean we can't advocate to turn our current job into more of a dream job ...keep in mind that your employer is probably willing to negotiate to keep from losing you."

Step 2: Grow your power

To effectively self-advocate, you need to grow your power by growing your relationships, says Aries.

First, gather information. If you’re up for a promotion, talk to colleagues who have recently been promoted so you know the salary range you can expect. This knowledge is power, and will set you up to successfully negotiate a bigger raise. 

Second, find your allies—people in the same boat as you. Who else at the company may also benefit from working from home once a week? There’s strength in numbers, so team up and collectively bargain for whatever it is you want. 

Third, get endorsements. Ask unapologetically for the support you need, whether it’s requesting formal recommendations on LinkedIn, or calling on your network to put in a good word on your behalf. 

“We have to stay connected and invest in relationships as a way to grow our power,” says Aries. 

Step 3: Make your move

You’ve prioritized your wants and needs, you’ve readied yourself to make the ask, and now it’s time to make your move. 

Here’s how to frame your ask:

  • Lead with your intent. If you’re asking for a promotion, start with the why—that you’ve enjoyed being part of the team for the last year, you’d like to continue being a meaningful contributor to the project, and in order to do that, you’re asking for a promotion.

  • Make your request very specific. Instead of asking for “more flexibility,” say you’d like to work from home one day a week. 

  • Communicate how it’s a win-win. Point to the collective value—for you, your team, your manager, the organization as a whole—and you’ll be more likely to get a “yes” in return.

Ask for what you want, but always have back-up options. If you get a “no” to your first request, be ready to pivot to other options for consideration. 

Remember that you and your boss are on the same team. You can co-create a solution that will work for everyone. 

“Once you make your ask and advocate for whatever it is that you're asking for, that's just the beginning of the conversation,” says Aries. 

In fact, it may just be the beginning of your journey to your next dream job.

For more advice on successfully advocating for yourself, including how to create a “workplace power map,” watch Get Unstuck from a Career Rut with Emilie Aries. 

Other LinkedIn Learning courses you may be interested in: