By Robert Half International
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(CareerBuilder.com) -- One of the most difficult challenges you may encounter during your career is admitting you've reached a plateau.
Most people face this situation at one time or another, and it usually can be resolved with the right approach and some introspection.
You may even find in working to overcome this hurdle that the effort is a catalyst for positive change, both professionally and personally.
What you may not realize is that when you drag your feet to the office, feel unchallenged at work, or lack a clear picture of where your career is headed, your lack of motivation is evident in your job performance.
Ironically, your dissatisfaction with your career progress could be the very thing that is keeping you from the advancement opportunities you seek. It can be a frustrating cycle.
When it comes to getting your career back on track, the onus is on you to make a change. Consider these first steps:
Step 1: Reflect on your achievements.
Build your self-confidence by taking inventory of your talents and professional accomplishments. Identify three projects you're most proud of and determine what made these experiences especially fulfilling.
Was it managing other people? The satisfaction of finding a solution to a business challenge? Or simply the opportunity to try something new?
Once you've identified the most rewarding aspects of your job, see if you can work with your manager to incorporate more of these responsibilities into your routine. For example, if you discover event planning is a personal forte, offer to participate in more projects that involve coordinating schedules and meetings.
Step 2: Advance your skill set.
Pursuing opportunities to develop your professional skills can help you advance at work and keep you challenged intellectually. Local colleges and universities offer business education courses -- some of them online -- ranging from foreign language instruction to classes on new software applications.
Check your company's policies to see if they will subsidize your tuition; you may even learn of internal training opportunities. The skills you gain also will increase your chances for a raise or promotion.
Step 3: Expand your project scope.
Volunteer to take on a demanding task at work, even if it falls outside your job description. Offering to supervise the intern program or helping a co-worker prepare a proposal can be beneficial to your company -- and your career.
Your manager will notice your initiative, and it could be a springboard to a better job. You also might discover a new interest or talent you didn't know you had.
Step 4: Speak up.
Don't be afraid to diplomatically share ideas on how to improve a function or process. More importantly, tell your manager what you can do to contribute and how your efforts will improve results.
For example, are there administrative processes you can streamline to save the company time and resources? While your suggestions may not be implemented right away, you'll be perceived as someone to tap for new ideas. Sharing your thoughts also may plant the seed for a new project that you can help with; the responsibilities you gain will provide a welcome jolt to your work routine.
Step 5: Get involved in your community.
You can broaden your experience and heighten your visibility in your field by volunteering for a leadership position with a professional group, writing an article for a trade journal, or becoming a mentor.
In addition, many industry associations and colleges actively seek people to deliver presentations or sit on discussion panels, so don't be afraid to volunteer your services.
Through these activities, you can connect with people who share your interests, regain your enthusiasm for your profession, and help others advance their careers.
Step 6: Consider a change.
Despite your best efforts, you could still find yourself unchallenged in your role or dissatisfied with your current career path. The truth may be that there is little you can do to effect positive change in your current work environment.
In cases like this, your best option is to take an objective look at your situation. Would you be presented with better opportunities for growth if you took a job with a different company? Are you in the right profession, or does a different industry appeal to you? Are the positions you seek available in your geographic area?
Sometimes, only a substantial change can get you over the hurdle you face.
When you're stuck in a career rut, finding a way out isn't always easy. The key is to not give in to frustration. By taking a few steps in a new direction, you may find your rut becomes a route to a more satisfying career.
Robert Half International Inc. is the world's first and largest specialized staffing firm with a global network of more than 350 offices throughout North America, Europe, Asia, Australia and New Zealand. For more information about our professional services, please visit www.rhi.com.
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