The toughest days of your professional career aren’t the days you burn the midnight oil to make a deadline. And they aren’t the days where you have to make a big presentation to some corporate big-shot.
The hardest days of your career are those days where you work hard as hell, but don’t see any results.
Say you commit yourself to going to the gym. After a few weeks of working out, as long as you eat right, you’re guaranteed to see results. If you make a pledge to save money and don’t overspend, you’ll have extra money. Even if you save just $5 a month, that’s an extra $60 at the end of the year you wouldn’t have otherwise had. But working your ass off and getting nothing out of it? Not even a small bonus or a token “Thank you”? That’s a different situation entirely, and it’s one that can threaten the very foundation of your life.
Coach Pat Riley once said that a champion needs a motivation above and beyond winning. However, getting stuck in a rut at work can test that motivation to its limits. Think about the trickle-down effect a bad work environment can have on the rest of your life. You work hard for eight or more hours a day, yet your bosses don’t take notice. You realize that you’re fighting a losing battle, so you dread coming to work every day. Sooner or later, your work begins to suffer, your attitude begins to suffer, and then everyone else’s opinion of you begins to suffer. You come home miserable after a long day of work, and your relationship with your family begins to suffer.
It gets worse. As your confidence begins to free-fall, you start questioning your own abilities and your self-worth. You apply for other jobs, but you’re not quite yourself, and that little piece you’re missing is the difference between a sure-fire hire and someone who’s not a good fit for the position. Meanwhile, everyone around you is getting promoted left and right, and you can’t help but take it personally. It’s a vicious cycle, one that’s virtually impossible to cut once things start going south.
The only true way to get out of a rut at work? Don’t let yourself get into one.
How can you avoid getting stuck in a rut? Make sure the important people at your company know who you are and what you’re worth. The office is no place for modesty, and if all other things are equal, the squeaky wheel is going to get the grease. When you finish a big assignment, find a way to let the powers that be know what you contributed to the project. If there’s a way you can make a bigger contribution to your department, be sure to speak up.
Another way to stay out of a rut is to develop a sense of when it’s time to go. If your job no longer challenges you, or if you’re not getting the respect you deserve, start looking for something else. Better to be seen as a job-hopper than someone who is content to play it safe. Besides, boredom breeds contempt, and you just may find yourself in a rut if you aren’t proactive.
Sometimes you can’t avoid falling into a rut at work. It happens to the best of us. If you find yourself wasting away at work, just do what you have to do to dig yourself out, and don’t stop digging until you’re all the way out. It can be so easy to abandon all hope and lose faith in yourself, and it’s so hard to fight when you just don’t feel like fighting anymore. But you’re better than that. Don’t let your job control your life. Hang in there, and when you’re ready, things will start to go your way.