10 Signs You're Stuck in Your Career (and What to Do)

Jul 30, 2015 | By Dawn Papandrea
Article Sources


  1. "Compensation Best Practices Report", 2014, http://resources.payscale.com/rs/payscale/images/2014-compensation-best-practices-report.pdf
  2. Gina DeLapa, interviewed by author via email, 7/23/15
  3. "Merit alone may not get you that promotion," http://fortune.com/2011/08/24/merit-alone-may-not-get-you-that-promotion/
  4. Trey Wright, interviewed by author, 7/24/15
  5. "Vacation Days: Are You a Saver or a Spender," http://rh-us.mediaroom.com/2014-05-19-VACATION-DAYS-ARE-YOU-A-SAVER-OR-A-SPENDER-4-In-10-Workers-Dont-Use-All-Their-Time-Wanting-To-Save-Days-And-Too-Much-Work-Top-Reasons-Given
  6. Workplace Bullying Institute, http://www.workplacebullying.org/wbiresearch/wbi-2014-us-survey/


Job mobility, which often includes an increase in salary, can be an important part of a healthy career, but how can you tell when it's the right time to move on? If more than a couple of these 10 signs apply to you, you've probably reached a career dead end. Check out these red flags below, and learn how to get your career back on track:

Hate going to work

Sign 1: You hate going to work every day.

We all have mornings when we fantasize about going to the beach, or doing 100 other things besides work, but this is more than that. If you have a genuine feeling of dread before each work day, it could be a red flag that you've burnt out.

What to do: "Make a list of the things that are good about your job, and then list the things that are not on the right side of the page," says Trey Wright, managing partner of the higher education practice at Kaye Bassman International, a recruiting and executive search firm.

If the negative things outweigh the positive, and are too insurmountable to overcome, it may be time to start looking for a new opportunity, says Wright. Start by inquiring if you might be able to move laterally in the company you're already working for. "Ask yourself: Have I just outgrown this position and am I ready to take on new responsibilities?" says Wright. Or, is it the employer itself that is holding you back?


Sign 2: You've been in the same position yet haven't gotten a raise for a couple of years.

It's one thing to blame the tough economy for a stagnant job, but that excuse can only fly for so long. In fact, in 2014, 83 percent of companies surveyed for PayScale's 2014 Compensation Best Practices report said they gave raises in 2014, and 77 percent gave raises to at least half of their workforce. If you're at a standstill, waiting around probably won't get you anywhere.

What to do: "A lot of times the supervisor or someone in the executive level is so focused on the bottom line and results for their department that they're not really challenging those under them," says Wright. He suggests approaching your supervisor to ask about growth opportunities within the organization that will give your income a boost as well. Taking the initiative to communicate with the person you report to can sometimes make all the difference, he adds.

If you get to a point where your potential has reached its peak, consider heading back to the classroom to learn new skills, or even acquire the ultimate resume booster: a new degree. Educational opportunities don't have to break the bank; learn more about how to get financial aid for college.


Sign 3: Your boss is a real jerk.

There's a saying that goes: People don't leave companies; they leave bosses. "There's a lot of truth to the statement," says Gina DeLapa, a university career counselor and creator of the "Stuff You Already Know" book series. The Workplace Bullying Institute found that 48 percent of American adults said they have experienced workplace bullying.

What to do: Before resigning, ask yourself: "What's my role in this difficulty?" suggests DeLapa. You want to identify if you're dealing with a personality clash, or a pattern of mistreatment and disrespect. If it's the latter, don't belabor the decision forever. "There's nothing worse than letting 'stuck' start to feel normal," she says.


Sign 4: You have different values from your employer.

Sometimes people take a position simply because they need to pay the bills, but then end up unhappy since it was never really a good fit to begin with. Doing a thorough amount of investigation prior to joining a company can help you avoid this mistake, says Wright. But if you're already working for a company that has sketchy values and ethics, it can be very frustrating.

What to do: If you don't feel comfortable working there, you probably need to start looking outside. If it's a large enough company, however, you might be able to find a group within the organization for which your values are in line, says Wright. If the voices get loud enough, you might even help to change the culture of the organization.


Sign 5: You feel like you work in a silo.

We live in a new age of technology in which people rarely speak to each other, says Wright. But if you're at a point in which you feel overly isolated, or your supervisor is non-responsive and doesn't show any interest in moving your career along, it could be time to take your talents elsewhere.

What to do: Try approaching your superior in an offline type of situation, suggests Wright. "People may be less guarded in an informal setting." If that doesn't work, you can try utilizing email, and copying your supervisor's boss. Just be careful if you go this route since it could lead to some bad feelings.


Sign 6: The company is doing poorly.

If the company or owner of the company is interested in the profits, and not so interested in the employees themselves, it can ultimately lead to layoffs, says Wright. If there's a buzz in the air about downsizing and cut backs, you should think about proactively finding new work before you're let go.

What to do: Do some additional research to ensure that those signs are accurate. Then, put together an action plan or an exit strategy, says Wright. "It's always better to find a job while you have a job. If an organization needs a salesperson, for instance, they will want someone who is somewhere doing well - a producer with a track record," he says.


Sign 7: Your priorities have changed.

As time goes on, your life responsibilities can shift, says DeLapa, making it difficult to work for an employer that might not be sensitive to work life balance issues. "Maybe you've started a family or are caring for an aging relative. Your career still matters, but it's no longer center stage," she says. As such, if you're overwhelmed by the task of fitting your hours in with your new commitments, it's understandable you would feel stuck.

What to do: Speak to your HR person about the possibility of flextime or work-from-home opportunities. More and more companies are committing to work life balance. When you ask, try to illustrate to your employer how you can perform your job more effectively with a flexible schedule.


Sign 8: Favoritism is rampant.

If it seems like the same few people are finding success, but their performance is questionable at best, it could lead to you feeling frustrated. And you're not alone. According to Fortune.com, 92 percent of senior business executives said they've seen favoritism affect employee promotions.

What to do: First, determine if it's a departmental issue, or a company-wide policy to promote a favored few, says Wright. If it's just your department, you can have conversations with other managers to determine if your talent and productivity can benefit their teams.

Work stress

Sign 9: You feel physically drained or ill from work stress.

More and more companies are trying to do more with less, and therefore, workloads are increasing, says Wright. However, many employees aren't taking advantage of paid time off. In fact, 40 percent of employees aren't using the vacation time they have, according to a Robert Half survey of U.S. adults working in offices. Of course, it could be because you're in a workplace culture that rewards people who work 60 hours and you feel you must keep up, in which case, consider it a sign that you should look elsewhere.

What to do: Don't overexert yourself. Do everything you can, within the parameters of your company's policies, to take advantage of any available time off you can leverage, says Wright. "If you don't look out for your own best interest, no one else will either."


Sign 10: Team members don't consider your input as valuable.

If you work within a team, it can be discouraging if you feel like your ideas aren't taken into consideration, says Wright. This can be especially challenging if you have an introverted personality.

What to do: Speak to your manager privately to ask for more opportunities to showcase your ideas. Maybe you can ask to run the next team meeting, or be allotted a few minutes to give a presentation. "Ensure that you've done everything you can to better your situation before you start looking outside of the organization," says Wright.

Doing the same thing day in and day out can make you feel like you're stuck in a job rut. By recognizing the above signs and utilizing the recommended strategies, you may be able to determine if your job has truly reached an impasse, or if there's a way to rejuvenate it and forge forward. Either way, don't stay stuck for too long.

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