So it’s another boring Wednesday.
Or is just a typical draining Tuesday.
Or dear God—is it still only Monday? Morning?
Are you just going through the motions on career autopilot? Maybe feeling lost or distracted or drained, yet you don’t know why? Honestly, all you do know is that time is passing and you are feeling pretty unhappy about your career. Somewhere, somehow—you checked out and now you’re just cruising.
If any of the following apply to you, you can know for sure that it’s time to make some moves.
1. You Blink and Six Months Have Passed
A huge sign you’re on autopilot in your career is that time just seems to, well, pass. And not because you’re so engrossed in your work, but because every day is like the next and for the life of you, you can’t name one recent accomplishment you’re proud to discuss.
You wake up in January, stretch, and suddenly it’s Memorial Day. You start planning the summer and realize—wait, it’s time for the holidays! And through it all you keep saying “I should…”
I should get a new job.
I should try and find work I actually like.
I should pick up that cool new skill I keep talking about.
And yet, time keeps passing.
Here’s What to Do About It
First off, stop using the word “should.” Start using the word “will.”
Should implies that you have an out—it’s passive. Will is active. You are doing something. OK, made that switch?
Your next step is to make a short-term plan. It’s really hard to make big changes, like finding a new job. They feel overwhelming, you often don’t know exactly where to start, and it’s easy to put it off.
So instead, focus on the near-term future. If you want to get a new job, set a goal this month to update your resume. That’s it. Just focus on that one piece of the puzzle. Once you complete that piece, complete another, for example, you can reach out to three people in your network to tell them you’re looking (this email template is a great place to start on that).
If you want to get promoted, set a goal to sit down with your boss this month to talk about what you need to do to make that happen. Or set a goal to identify an extra project that’ll make you shine come review time.
Keep your eyes on small, simple activities that will move your forward and give yourself a deadline so you stay motivated. Small steps add up to big changes more quickly than more people realize.
2. You Procrastinate Making Any Career Moves at All
Oh procrastination, my old friend. If you tend to put off making big decisions, you aren’t alone.
Most people think: “I need a new job” and then immediately also think “Maybe I’ll stick it out here just a little bit longer…”
But when you procrastinate on doing anything—well, nothing changes.
Part of the reason we do this is because we haven’t let ourselves see how awesome the new job (or career!) could be. Instead we feel overwhelmed by the road to get there—or what we may lose by making a big change.
Here’s What to Do About It
So the next time you think about changing something in your career, sit down for a moment and revel in the positive possibilities of what the change could bring to you.
More money? A better commute? More interesting work? A boss you don’t hate?
Really get concrete on what taking positive action can give to you. Imagine it, allow yourself to feel good about the future. But don’t stop there. Write it down—preferably in a place where you’ll see it every day. Put it on a sticky note on your fridge or tape it to your bathroom mirror.
You’ll find yourself far more motivated (and much less likely to procrastinate) if the benefits are starring you in the face every day.
3. You Have No Idea What You Want to Do Next—and You Haven’t for a While
When people ask you about your career, you tend to make vague statements or change the topic. The truth is, you have no idea about what you want to do next—or even what would make you happy.
And you can’t remember the last time that you did; because of that, you avoid doing anything.
Here’s What to Do Instead
Get help! No, seriously.
Instead of going through the same pattern of thought, “I don’t know what do with my career! Argh, this is terrible. Now I feel bad. I may as well watch more TV…”
Find help to learn how to figure it out. Don’t feel bad! You were never taught this in school, so it’s no wonder you don’t know how to do it as an adult.
There are one million books, programs, coaches, and ideas for you out there to get you started on this whole “finding my passion” thing. Use what you have in front of you (Hint: the powers of Google and this website) to help you find exactly what you need. You can start by reading this, this, and this one, too.
Don’t feel you have to go it alone, asking for help can sometimes be the very best thing for you!