How deep is your rut?

No matter how much you like your job, there may come a time when ding! Shock horror. You realise you’re IN-A-RUT.

The pay is okay, you like your colleagues, and there’s even a possible promotion in the next round of reviews. Yet, though you’ve not reached your mid-life crisis, you don’t feel the same get-up-and-go.

You’ve always taken for granted that your job is exciting and worth getting up for in the morning. Now you’re not sure.

There’s an entirely crazy YouTube you watched a while back in which this maniac jumps out of bed yelling something like, “Hooray, it’s wonderful Monday, can’t wait to go to work today and is filmed rushing there at hyper speed.

Now it doesn’t seem so funny. You could do with a bit of that energy and enthusiasm right now. So, what’s gone wrong?

There are many reasons why you could feel in a rut. Perhaps you’ve been doing the same thing over and over. It felt good once, but now it’s like tarnished brass. Or maybe there’s vague talk about recession, inflation, or even redundancies affecting your morale.

What all this adds up to is fear. Fear that demanding change may get you fired. Or a worry that you could undermine your success trajectory by wanting something different at work. But if you do make waves, you could be seen as disruptive. It may seem more sensible to keep your head down.

It’s time to draw on your natural resilience and decide to change things. When you’re in a career rut, you feel dull and unproductive. You feel like you’re not growing or progressing. Disbelief in yourself and other opportunities can contribute to the inability to move forward.

Your first step is to come to terms with reality. Can you honestly confirm that you are, without a doubt, in the dreaded rut? You are indeed down there, if

• You’re being underpaid for what you do

• There’s no longer any passion for what you’re doing

• You don’t feel challenged in your current role

• Opportunities for growth have receded

• Despite promises of a raise and promotion, it never seems to happen

• You’ve been vaguely looking around for a new job and even had a few interviews, but nothing gets to the offer phase

Next, start listing what’s keeping you from climbing out of this rut. How about those objections you keep coming up with? Your mind is telling you to stay safe. The result? Hello, rut.

Now write down a list of every reason you can think of stopping you from climbing out of the rut. Put down anything that might be getting in the way

• Not enough experience

• By boss is kind but useless

• My education or certifications are not good enough

• When opportunities arise, I can’t sell myself to other people

• I’m poor at being interviewed

• I hate networking

• My resume’s a mess, and I can’t face re-doing it

• I should have gone to a different school/college/university

• I’m just not good, smart, or … [fill in the blank]

Having listed these, do not take them as given. Challenge each one as to whether it represents reality.

The third step to de-rut yourself is putting yourself into a positive mindset. OK, easier said than done. But like every other human being, you have built-in adaptability. Use this by exploring:

• What sort of things might I do to get out of this rut?

• I know about change; does this apply to my rut?

• What experience and skills do I have that could move me out of this situation?

• What have I learned so far in my career to climb out of this rut?

• Is there someone I can connect with who might help me?

• Am I missing vital signs such as lack of sleep, not enough exercise, lack of social contacts, or a recent change in my physical health

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

Put everything that is missing in two groups.

This first group is your “wants”—things you’d like to see change, like a pay rise or a different assignment.

The second is your “Needs” that must change to justify staying in your job. Like not being able to work from home or more clarity about when you can expect that promotion your boss promised six months ago.

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

For more ways to succeed at work, listen to my next Podcast! Every Monday