Call it being stuck in a rut at work , hitting a career plateau, or plain old boredom, but whatever label you use, it's not a nice sensation. You feel stifled, lethargic, and antsy for something better. You know you're not using your capacities to their fullest, but you're not sure exactly how to change the situation. It's uncomfortable and depressing.
No one, you'd think, would ever seek out such a mental state, or cheer the situation if they found themselves feeling that way, but according to Jenny Blake, author of Pivot: The Only Move That Matters Is Your Next One, hitting a career dead spot is actually an occasion for celebration, not concern.
Boredom is a symptom of growth, not failure.
She explained her thinking recently on question-and-answer site Quora in detail, but the basic idea boils down to this -- being stuck in a rut is actually a sign that you've grown and matured as a professional. Feeling stagnated flags up the fact that you're ready to move on to bigger and better things. So as uncomfortable as it may be, you need to welcome and live with your feelings of boredom and confusion -- at least temporarily.
"One of the biggest misconceptions is that a career plateau is a problem, something to take personally. Contrary to how it can feel in the moment, most plateaus are a product of one's success -- you have succeeded in the previous role and are ready for the next even greater growth, meaning and impact," Blake writes.
So what should you do when encounter the creeping sense that your career has ground to a standstill? Rather than worry or take the problem as a sign of some personal failing, "celebrate it as a sign of success, and ask yourself what does excite you most moving forward, particularly in the coming year. Don't worry about solving that one-year vision yet -- just give yourself permission to paint the picture, and eventually one or two clear next steps will help you research what next moves would be most exciting to pursue," she concludes.
If that sounds a little vague for you, Blake has offered more concrete advice on how exactly to decide on the next step in your career elsewhere (and, of course, her book offers a much deeper dive into the subject).
Letting yourself be bored kickstarts creativity.
If you're sitting around feeling desperately bored at the office, Blake's advice might strike you as the annoying cheerleading of an overly peppy career coach. But she actually has science on her side. While most people loathe boredom (and reach instantly for their smartphones at the first sign of the feeling), research shows that boredom is actually a spur that nudges the brain to be more creative, an essential first step when you're faced with figuring our your next professional move.
So next time you feel bored and stifled at work, fight the impulse to take the feeling as a sign that you've failed or erred in some way. Rather, acknowledge that the situation is the healthy result of personal growth, sit with the discomfort (rather than grasping for instant distraction!) and let it fire up your creativity.