*This post was originally published on Fashion Journal. In light of COVID-19, we’re republishing career-related content we’ve previously written for Fashion Journal to help those whose jobs and businesses have been affected.
Well, where the f*** did that month go? There we were enjoying our lovely New Year’s Eve sparkling when February stomped in, snatched it out of our hand and demanded we get our shit together for 2020.
For many of us, work is the major thing we want to improve this year. We want a promotion, a new job, a pay rise, a career change. We’ve come back from the Christmas holidays — sunkissed and festively plump — to discover we still hate our jobs, Mondays still suck and Pam from Accounts is still on our asses.
While it’s normal for February to feel like a bit of a slog, and it’s completely natural to struggle getting back to work after a nice long holiday, it’s important to know the difference between post-holiday blues and something more serious. What are we supposed to do when that feeling doesn’t go away, and how do you claw your way out of an especially heinous career rut?
If you’re reading this while crying in the office cubicle, you might find these tips helpful. Also, here’s a tissue.
Pinpoint your feelings
The first step is to figure out if you’re feeling this way because you are just pining for those long summer days, swinging in the breeze on your hammock with a new book and a leftover Christmas ham sandwich, or if you’re feeling this way because it’s time to move in a new direction.
Annoyingly, it’s one of those things you have to figure out for yourself. You have to “listen to your gut”. But I can help with the questions you should ask it: Are you bored because you’re no longer challenged? Are you ready to progress in your company but there’s nowhere to go? Do you no longer feel excited by your projects or responsibilities? Can you not bear the thought of another day with your colleagues, who piss you off every minute of every day? Do you flirt with the idea of food poisoning so you have a solid excuse to avoid work for the next three days? The truth you seek is usually somewhere in these answers.
Visualise your future
You know you’re definitely stuck in a career rut, but you have no idea how to get out. Time to visualise. It’s up to you how you do this: you might like to try one of the many meditation apps and podcasts that focus on visualisation, or you might like to use the good old pen and paper method.
Close your eyes and imagine your ideal career. Think about the projects that excite you, the sort of people you’d love to work alongside, the types of workplaces or clients that align with your values and interests. Be as detailed as you possibly can.
Once this is done, join the dots. Is there a common thread? Is a particular passion, occupation or industry screaming at you? Most importantly, can you achieve this vision in your current role, or do you need to look elsewhere?
Review your skills
A regular assessment of your skills, experience and achievements is crucial for multiple reasons.
Firstly, it can help you realise which parts of your career you particularly enjoy, and which parts you hate with the power of a thousand suns. If your current role is filled with lots of the latter, it could be a good time to start exploring other options.
A review can also draw out what you’re good at, and highlight all you’ve achieved. Sometimes a career rut can come from our own critical dialogue; we feel like we’re not getting anywhere in our career and we’re not good enough to score a better job — we may as well just stay where we are and be miserable. This ego-boost can be all you need to get re-energised and re-enthused about your job and the value you add. If not, you’ve got a pretty nice list to show a future employer.
Lastly, it’s super important to update your CV and LinkedIn profile with the relevant skills, experience and achievements, so you can jump on any dream jobs as they become available. Just knowing your CV is being reviewed will be enough to cheer you up.
Start a side project
A lack of passion is one of the biggest culprits of a career rut. Our daily routine has become monotonous, we’re shackled to boring projects we don’t care about and there’s nothing particularly inspiring on the horizon. Soon enough, we’re starting our emails with “AS PER MY LAST EMAIL” and no longer care if we get fired.
One sure way to ignite some passion is to start a side project. If you’re happy in your job, this might be an extracurricular task you can pitch to your boss and work into your current schedule. If you’d like to quit someday soon, maybe it’s a side hustle you can work on at night and over the weekend.
Trust me: as soon as you start working on something you’re genuinely passionate about, it will boost your happiness, increase your motivation and even make your day job more bearable.
Enrol in a course
Similarly, a course can give you something else to focus your energy on. It also gives you something more fun to work on when your boss isn’t looking.
Still love what you do, but feel like you’re not progressing in your career? Book seminars that help to refresh your skills in a certain area. Got your eye on another career entirely? Try a short course first to see if you like it. Need a creative outlet or general inspiration? Challenge yourself to learning a new language. Regardless of what it is, a course can fill the gaps your day job leaves behind: the excitement of a new project, the opportunity to learn something and the thrill of a big challenge.
Volunteer your time
Speaking of having your eye on another career, volunteering your time can be an amazing way to dip your toe in the water and decide if the occupation or industry is something you could actually see yourself doing… before you tell your current boss to shove it.
Say you’re an accountant, but you’ve always dreamed of being a florist. Why not get in touch with local florists and event stylists to see if they need an extra pair of hands on Saturday mornings?
You might just find your new calling in life. If not, at least you’ve tried. And you haven’t told your boss to shove it. Yet.