There are times in any job where you hit a lull: Sometimes there’s less work to do; other times there’s simply less interesting work to do. However, it can be difficult to determine whether you’ve encountered a typical slowdown, temporary lack of motivation or a more fundamental problem, such as a job with little room for growth or advancement. Following are some signs to help you determine the difference between a lull and a dead-end:
You have a continually light workload. After months of having too much on your plate, it can feel luxurious to have too little. But most people begin to get antsy when days turn into weeks of underutilized time. If you’ve asked your manager for more assignments, but still find yourself spending hours organizing your Sharpies by tip size, repeatedly updating your screen saver and constructing paper clip sculptures, something is wrong. Have a direct conversation with your supervisor and tell him or her that you wish to take on more projects. If your manager says the company is going through a slow period and not to worry, that’s good news. However, if there’s no adequate explanation—or this is the third time you’ve asked for increased responsibility—you may want to begin looking for another job. The company may be experiencing financial trouble or be in the middle of a reorganization, in which case it certainly can’t hurt to get your resume and portfolio updated.
There’s nowhere to go but sideways. You’re the star of your group and the apple of the creative director’s eye. You’ve taken on increasingly complex and high-visibility projects over the last year and are gaining the skills and knowledge to lead you to the next level. The trouble is that the position you aspire to is currently occupied by your manager, who doesn’t show signs of leaving anytime soon. In this situation, it’s wise to initiate a candid conversation with your boss about your career path at the company. It also may be beneficial to investigate opportunities within other departments or subsidiaries of your organization. Most businesses want to keep top performers, if possible. However, if you’re working at a smaller firm, you may be limited to a lateral move. To further your career, you might have to make the leap to a new company with more opportunities for advancement.
You’re never asked to work on high-visibility projects. If most of your duties fall into the category of "grunt" instead of "glory," it could be time for a change. For examplewww.creativegroup.com, you may be overlooked when plum assignments are handed out and instead given more simple, behind-the-scenes work. Before abandoning your post, chat with your supervisor about your desire to take on higher-visibility projects. You may have established a pattern for handling lower-key initiatives, and your boss may be unaware of your wish to break free of this routine. If, after issuing your request, you’re still working on B-list projects, it’s time to start prospecting for a new position.
You’re the only one being micromanaged. Is your boss constantly checking up on you? Does he or she want to see a daily report when your coworkers are asked to check in weekly? If so, your manager may not trust you to produce quality work, and that means you’re likely going nowhere fast. Start by assessing your behavior: Have you missed a number of deadlines? Are you the one who approaches your supervisor at the eleventh hour with an "emergency" that could have been avoided? Identify specific behaviors you can change that will improve your supervisor’s opinion of you. Setting up a meeting with your boss to discuss plans for enhancing your performance is a good idea, too. If you don’t notice any changes in your manager’s behavior toward you—even though you’ve changed yours—you’ve likely hit a wall in your job.
The thrill is gone. Perhaps you’ve been engaged in the same design work for three years, and what you originally considered cutting-edge now feels like ancient history. If you’ve mastered the basic functions of a job and it has become routine, you either need more responsibility or a different position—or both. The most obvious move is to speak to your manager about taking on more varied work; sometimes, however, you just need the thrill of an entirely new position. If a job that tests your abilities isn’t available at your current firm, pursue a challenge somewhere new.
We all have lulls in our careers. The trick is determining when they’re dead-ends in disguise. Doing so can take some time and observation—you don’t want to make a rash decision, after all. However, experiencing just one of the signs mentioned above could be cause for concern. When these symptoms arise, meet with your manager to discuss the issues that are holding you back. If nothing changes, it’s most likely time for a job search.
The Creative Group is a specialized staffing service placing creative, advertising, marketing and Web professionals on a project basis with a variety of firms.