Tips for Breaking Out of a Career Rut

If you’ve felt unproductive, exhausted, or complacent at work, you might be in a career rut — feeling stuck in your career without the satisfaction you need. Many people fall into a career rut during their working lives, particularly if they’ve spent years in the same position or fulfilled the same tasks.

Career ruts can have a negative effect on both your mental health and your job performance. Often, career ruts leave people feeling helpless, anxious, or even depressed. At work, this can lead to a decrease in job performance and enthusiasm. 

Falling into a career rut can cause people to dread the career they once enjoyed. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to work your way out of a career rut — and find new meaning in your profession.

Lean Into Your Hobbies

One way to break out of a career rut is to place more emphasis on your hobbies. Spending time pursuing activities you love can help refocus your attention and help you find meaning in your day.

Your hobbies could even translate into a new career. For example, you might try to leverage a cooking hobby into a restaurant position, or exercise your photography hobby as a full-time photographer.

Even if you’re not ready to jump into an entirely new career field, your hobbies can help improve your network. Find people or community groups in your area with the same hobbies you pursue. Widening your network helps you gain knowledge, improve confidence, and access job opportunities you might not have known about.

Find New Interests

In addition to your existing hobbies, new interests can also help you break out of a career rut. Finding new interests and learning new skills can take time, but it often helps you identify what you’re truly passionate about.

New interests can also help you determine new potential career fields. For example, a newfound passion for computers could become a career in information technology (IT). Similarly, a passion you develop for painting or sketching could lead to a graphic design position.

  1. Determine the Source of Dissatisfaction

Determining the source of your dissatisfaction with your current career is an important, often unavoidable stage in exiting a career rut. You’ll need to be honest with yourself and address the work-related activities that could be causing your displeasure.

Identifying why you’re unsatisfied is one of the first steps in addressing a career rut. This process will highlight the elements of your current role you don’t enjoy. You’ll also learn to identify the skills, responsibilities, and environment you’d prefer in your next career.

Accept the Need for Change

If you’re in a career rut, it’s important to accept that you might need change. Change is difficult, for several reasons. It requires both time and effort, and a certain amount of self-control. If you’re considering a career transition, change also means trading the comfort of a familiar work environment for something new.

Accepting change is a process that looks slightly different for each person. You might need time to accept your situation, even if the change is something you’re looking forward to. Often, it’s helpful to focus on the benefits of change — including new work opportunities, new network contacts, and personal development.

Identify Your Obstacles to Change

After accepting the need for change, it’s also important to identify obstacles between you and that change. Depending on the career change ahead, you might face obstacles like skills gaps, work-required relocation, or even self-doubt.

Sometimes obstacles are physical, such as deteriorating eyesight. Farsightedness, nearsightedness, or astigmatism can represent significant obstacles between you and your next meaningful career. Even if you’re ready for corrective vision surgery, you might still be hesitant to pay LASIK costs.

If you’re serious about leaving your career rut, you must be willing to overcome the obstacles in your way. Identifying those obstacles to change is the first step in overcoming them.

Reach Out to Your Network

You can also use your network to achieve a more meaningful career. Connecting with your contacts can provide you with access to new career opportunities.

For best results, connect with your network before you need them. Stay in touch with peers, and share resources you think they might find interesting. Remaining in close contact with your network can improve results when you reach out to discuss your next career.

When exploring your career options, reaching out to your professional contacts is a must. Additionally, consider discussing your career aspirations with family members, friends, and peers who might share your hobbies or interests.

Boost Your Self-Confidence

Sometimes, improving your career starts when you address your self-confidence. Build positive relationships with others to boost your self-confidence, and look for opportunities to practice your best skills. Instead of comparing yourself to others, spend time pursuing your own personal and professional interests.

Improving your eyesight is another way to enhance your self-confidence. For example, you can resolve farsightedness, nearsightedness, or astigmatism with LASIK surgery. LASIK is ideal for patients with stable vision with sufficient corneal tissue and ocular health. Even patients in their 50s and 60s may qualify for LASIK for clearer vision.

Cataract surgery using advanced intraocular lens options (IOL), can also help patients overcome blurry vision caused by cataracts and reduce their need for contacts or glasses after surgery.

Build Your Skills

Building your professional skill set is another great way to qualify for a new career. New skills can help you qualify for new career avenues, or help you find a different position in your current industry.

Here are some of the best ways to learn new skills today:

Sometimes, you can even learn new skills from people who are working in your office. Look for other employees in your office who might already have the skills you want to learn. Consider asking them to teach you that skill, perhaps by offering to teach them a skill you know.

Seek Out a Mentor

Career mentors provide counseling and strategy that helps others achieve meaningful careers. Employees commonly consult mentors for help in achieving a career change or promotion.

Choose a mentor who can help with the challenges you face. Start your search by scanning your network and identifying possible mentors. If you graduated from a university, you can also use your alumni network to find connections. Expand your search for mentors online by checking social media platforms or other high-quality websites in your industry.

Join a Community

Different communities can offer valuable career support for people in search of a career change. Professional communities can provide a sense of perspective, while teaching new skills and creating networking opportunities.

Choose your next community based on your current needs. If you need help developing a particular skill, find a workshop that teaches that skill. If you need to update or expand your network, find a community filled with like-minded professionals.

Joining a community can also help improve your professional development. Communities can introduce you to individuals with similar experience, particularly in leaving a career rut. Some communities even offer access to additional job listings in your industry.

Set Achievable Goals

Setting achievable goals is one of the most important steps in breaking out of a career rut. Create attainable goals with milestones that improve your confidence as you complete them.

Achievable goals should be specific and concrete. For example, a primary goal might be to sign up for an industry certification class, or schedule two meetings with potential career coaches. You might also set educational goals — like learning about payment options for LASIK and other corrective vision procedures.

Research Interesting Industries and Companies

Many people find meaningful careers by researching new companies, or entirely new industries. Before rushing into your next career, spend time identifying industries and organizations you would enjoy working for.

Prioritize companies and industries that share your values. Make note of any individual businesses you feel would welcome your skill set. At the same time, de-prioritize organizations and industries you find uninteresting.

It’s important to be honest with yourself while researching potential new careers. If you’re not yet qualified for an appealing position you find, don’t dismiss it. Instead, look for opportunities to build missing skills before reaching out to the organization about the opening.