5 Signs You’re in a Career Rut—And How to Fix It

Sometimes the feeling creeps up on you. Other times, it hits you like a ton of bricks. Maybe you can’t exactly pinpoint why you’re feeling off at work, but no matter what, being in a career rut sucks. It totally and completely sucks — there’s no gentler way to put it.

Not feeling motivated at work, or like you’re not making progress in your career, can really drag you down on a day-to-day basis — but there’s a big difference between hating your job and being in a career rut. You can love your job, but still find yourself feeling stalled. Knowing the difference between these feelings can really help you stay on track at work. Let’s look at five questions you can ask yourself to tell if you’re in a career rut. That way, you can tell if your job is the problem, or if it’s your career that needs a little extra love and attention.

1. Do You Need a Challenge?

You are a total rockstar. You could do your job in your sleep and do it well. Your manager is thrilled with your performance and every day is smooth sailing. Sounds like a dream right? Not so much.

Being good at your job is obviously a positive thing, but being too comfortable with your career is a sign of a rut. For your career to evolve, you need to evolve too. It’s important that you continue to learn and grow, even if your current job doesn’t provide those opportunities for you. Take an online course that will help you develop a new skill, or ask your manager if you can assist another team in your downtime. Consider proposing a new project you would like to spearhead to your boss. You might have to make yourself uncomfortable if you want to get out of a boring career rut.

2. Do You Need Respect?

Our blood is boiling for you. There are very few things more frustrating than being disrespected at work. If you aren’t feeling heard or like your contributions matter at the office, you may feel like your career is stalling. Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t. But either way, not feeling respected at work is not OK.

You may miss out on opportunities because you aren’t receiving the support or credit you deserve. If you frequently find yourself cut off in meetings, ignored in email chains, or that your seniority is not being respected by your colleagues, then it is time to make a change — whether that’s having a frank talk about how you’re treated at work with certain colleagues or by looking for a new job. Chances are, if you aren’t respected, you won’t be getting promoted anytime soon.

3. Do You Need a Promotion?

It’s normal to feel stuck at work if another positive annual review comes and goes with no offer of a raise or new title. Well guess what? You don’t need to wait until that next review rolls around to ask for a raise. Gather the evidence to support your claim that you’re ready to move up in the company. Round up all evidence of how awesome you are and any data that proves you’re successful in your role. Then schedule a private time to speak with your manager and make the big ask. If your plea for a promotion is rejected, you have two options: you can take their feedback on why they won’t give you a promotion to heart and strive to improve. (This conversation may be the kick in the pants you need to get out of your rut.) Or, if they can’t provide a fair or clear reason as to why they won’t give you a raise, it may be time to look for a new job.

4. Do You Need a Change?

You had the best of intentions. You thought you knew what your dream industry or role was, but our interests are prone to change over time. If you’ve found yourself in the wrong industry or role, it’s never too late to change that. Take a good, hard look at what you love and hate about your current role and industry, then start researching the industries and roles you find interesting. Do the opportunities that you see line up with what you love about your job? Is there a way for you to transfer your skills to a new company?

Sometimes you don’t even have to move companies to change your career. Evaluate if there is a team at work you’d like to switch to or a role you wish was yours. Usually companies are happy to fill new job positions internally if they can. Be honest with your manager about any changes you want to make – they may be able to help you transition to a new role. If it’s time to move on from your current company, make sure you research the new industry or role you’re considering carefully before you make the leap. Poke around on LinkedIn and see if anyone with your desired role would be willing to speak to you for a few minutes. Learning what their day-to-day looks like can provide you with invaluable insight before you make a big transition.

5. Do You Need a Break?

Falling asleep at your desk? Dreading the alarm going off in the morning? That third cup of coffee just not cutting it anymore? At the end of the day, you may be feeling burnout because you are simply burnt out. From age five to adulthood you are hustling in school, then you enter the working world and climb your way up the corporate ladder. If your job has demanding hours or you consistently have too much work on your plate, you may be feeling run down. It’s time to take a break! Start small with making sure you actually take a lunch break every day, or plan that dream vacation and set your OOO loud and proud. If you really need a refresh, consider taking time off work to learn a new skill or look for a new job (if you can afford it). The classic career rules are changing. Do what you need to do to support your health and career in the best way possible — a little rest will surely boost your creativity and productivity.