4 Ways to Climb Out of a Career Rut

It’s Sunday evening, and you feel down in the dumps. Whenever you think about going back to work on Monday, you just can’t help feeling blue. The job that used to be so inspiring and fun now seems tedious and unrelenting.Is it time to start looking for a new gig? Not necessarily. It could be that you’re stuck in a career rut, something almost everyone goes through at some point.

Even in the interactive field, where professionals often get to experiment with the latest software and technology tools, deadlines and demands can take their toll. But before you hand in your resignation letter, it’s wise to take a hard look at what’s getting you down. That way, you can address the true problem. And in that way, a career rut can be a good thing—it can be the catalyst that spurs you toward more rewarding work.

photo representing woman in a career rut

photo by Dark Botxy, used under Creative Commons license

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Here are four ways to use a job plateau as an opportunity for positive change:

1. Think back. What drew you to the job in the first place, and do you still enjoy that perquisite? Maybe you loved the hands-on work when you were hired as a web designer. But now that you’ve been promoted to a managerial position, you spend more time overseeing others than reviewing wireframes.

If you’re doing less of what you love to do, talk to your boss to see if it’s possible to incorporate more of that into your regular workload. When suggesting changes to your manager, remember to describe how they will benefit the company, not just you.

2. Break out of your comfort zone. Sometimes, people fall into a rut because they’re doing the same thing day in and day out. In that situation, even small changes can help.

For example, if you eat lunch by yourself at your desk every day, change up your routine. Find a new spot to enjoy your meal and invite a co-worker or two to join you. Or ask your manager if you can take on a project that you’d normally never get involved with. Altering your routine or your environment even slightly can open you up to new perspectives about your work.

3. Evaluate your performance. Do you feel stuck because you’re not moving up the ladder? Maybe you think you’ve done good work, but you keep getting passed up for promotions and high-profile projects.

If that’s the source of your discontent, take an honest assessment of your performance and skills. Does your work merit an increase in responsibilities? Do you have the training and skills needed to advance?

Getting to the place you want to be professionally may require additional development [perhaps with online interactive design courses through HOW Design University]. Be honest with yourself about your weaknesses, and seek input from your boss or mentors. Then, take steps to overcome any skills or performance gaps.

4. Take a break. If all else fails, you simply may be due for a vacation. Given the volume of work many creative professionals shoulder these days, burnout is not uncommon. If you can, take some time off and see if you come back reinvigorated.

If workload pressures are constant, talk to your supervisor about ways to potentially reduce the amount of work on your plate. Your manager may be just as busy as you are and not even realize you’re running on empty.

If none of these ideas work, it could be that you’re ready for a bigger career change, and that’s OK. With the knowledge that you have gleaned from taking a step back and assessing what you find most meaningful about work, you’ll be prepared to start looking in a new direction. Good luck!

More Career Resources for Web Designers

  • You can get the expert info you need to grow your web design career through HOW’s series of online design tutorials taught by some of the sharpest experts in interaction, design, usability, coding and web analytics.
  • Learn web design from the expert instructors at HOW University. See our rotating schedule of web design training courses, including hands-on training in coding for web designers, designing WordPress websites, information architecture and more.
  • How to Make More Money in 2013—on-demand design tutorial with Donna Farrugia of The Creative Group