If you're stuck in a rut, you have to be ready to change care%r

Timothy Barber
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YOU&rsquo;RE bored, you don&rsquo;t feel as though your skills are being used properly, your colleagues seem to achieve more than you do, and worst of all, it&rsquo;s been this way for months. In short, you feel you&rsquo;ve hit a dead-end in your career. What can you do about it?<br /><br />If you&rsquo;re in a rut in your job, you can either stay where you are and try to improve things &ndash; for instance by changing your role or developing your skills &ndash; or embrace serious change, whether that means departing to another company in your sector or changing careers entirely.<br /><br />In the current environment, it&rsquo;s understandable that people will be less willing to risk taking such drastic action. However, it&rsquo;s still crucial to steer away from the temptation simply to endure an unsuitable job in the silent hope that something will change. <br /><br />People often wait for things to happen, and that&rsquo;s when they start to engage in self-destructive behaviours like being late, being slapdash or snapping at colleagues,&rdquo; says Richard Reid, managing director of HR consultancy Pinnacle Proactive. If you&rsquo;re switched off you&rsquo;ll miss new opportunities that may arise &ndash; and even if you spot them, you may be passed over if your disengagement is causing you to underperform.<br /><br />The first step to take towards a more rewarding work-life is to discuss the problem with your boss, to see what possibilities exist for altering the scope of your role. Reid says people will avoid doing this simply out of fear of showing weakness, but it can be turned into a positive experience.<br /><br /><strong>POSITIVE</strong><br />&ldquo;Do your homework first, so that you go into the discussion prepared and positive,&rdquo; he recommends. &ldquo;Show that you&rsquo;re looking to develop your career and improve, that you&rsquo;re motivated even though it&rsquo;s not happening for you at the moment.&rdquo; If you bring proposals and solutions to fix the situation, Reid says, you look dynamic and proactive &ndash; and should other roles become available, you&rsquo;ll be at the forefront for selection.<br /><br />Of course, one of the best ways to take action is to improve your skills, and many organisations will have training and development programmes in place, as well as coaching and mentorship schemes. Rebecca Clake, an advisor with the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, says that HR departments will provide information and guidance in this area, as well as advising on other positive solutions like secondments or job shadowing in different parts of the business. However she emphasises that it&rsquo;s up to the employee to take advantage of these.<br /><br />&ldquo;Our research has shown that organisations do expect employees to take responsibility for their own careers,&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;Companies will give people the tools to develop, but it&rsquo;s up to the individual to make the most of these and progress.&rdquo;<br /><br />However, it&rsquo;s still possible the solution lies in taking your skills elsewhere. To find that out, Michael Moran, managing director of career consultancy Fairplace, says you need to be keeping to a careful career plan. <br /><br /><strong>CAREER PLAN</strong><br />&ldquo;You&rsquo;re in a job because you&rsquo;re on a journey to where you want to be in three to five years. You have to think about what you need to be doing to get there, and it could mean changing role or employer.&rdquo;<br /><br />To make such a plan, and reach a more detailed understanding of whether you&rsquo;re on the right track, an element of self-analysis is necessary. <br /><br />If you develop a deep understanding of your strengths and weaknesses, your values and personality traits, you can make an informed choice about where you want to be &ndash; and Moran says this is an area a lot of people fall down on. After all, the career choices people make initially &ndash; often under influence from external factors like their parents, their peers or their universities &ndash; may not be so appropriate once a person has matured into their thirties or beyond. Career coaching services can provide tests, such as psychometric evaluations and questionnaires, that analyse a person&rsquo;s attributes are, and what values really drive them &ndash; for instance, whether characteristics like autonomy and independence, security and stability or entrepreneurial creativity are most fulfilling.<br /><br />Such scientifically-designed tests may suggest something you secretly knew all along &ndash; that though you&rsquo;ve been working in banking for a decade, you&rsquo;re far more likely to find fulfilment in an area as different as charity work or teaching. You&rsquo;ll have to decide whether to take the plunge, but John Hacktston, managing consultant with business psychology specialists OPP, says not doing so could be the greater risk.<br /><br />&ldquo;Once you start to have feelings of &lsquo;is this all there is&rsquo;, it&rsquo;s unwise to push them to one side,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;You have to explore them to become fully rounded, and if that means changing jobs, it could lead to you being much happier in life.&rdquo;