Signs you’re experiencing career inertia and what to do about it

Signs you’re experiencing career inertia and what to do about it

Are you feeling a little lacklustre at work?

We all experience it from time to time. But when we spend a monumental one-third of our life at work or roughly 90,000 hours over a lifetime, we need to keep those beige, colourless moments at bay. Otherwise, they may extend to something much more serious: career inertia.

Career inertia is not something you suddenly wake up with. It’s not a job, boss or cultural misfit, although experiencing any of these adds to the malaise.

Career inertia is that feeling of being stuck. It’s a stagnant state of nothingness, unhappiness and dissatisfaction with our job and where we are professionally.

So, what are the signs?

Lack of action

The poignant and most debilitating part of career inertia is inactivity.

Instead of rallying, you languish, and there is no initiative to explore solutions. It continues and perpetuates, causing further disablement and deeper career paralysis.

To clarify, staying in one job for an extended period is not career inertia. Your depth of experience and tenure can contribute greatly to career opportunities and job stimulation.

The critical component is how you feel. If the overwhelming feeling is of motivation and you make a conscious decision to stay, then you have career empowerment, not inertia.

But what if you only feel total dissatisfaction?

Life provides us with ebbs and flows, and our career is no different.

The ebbs are normal, but we need the flows. They keep us going. If everything at work appears as a chore and a drain, and you can’t recall the last ‘up’ moment, you may have lost sight of the purpose.

Termed the ‘great reflection’, if you are experiencing this feeling now and never before, you are not alone. The past three years were a catalyst to elevate personal purpose, translated to soul searching to feel valued and provide value.

The good news is those who do feel a sense of purpose at work have five times higher levels of wellbeing, providing you with every reason to tackle career inertia on its head.

The illusion of ‘no real options’

Some of you feel like we have no real options, but that’s not the case. It’s important to consider whether these factors are influencing your decision on what to do next:

1. Sunk cost fallacy

Many of you don’t make a career move because of the sunk cost fallacy.

You feel you are too far down the path. You have invested years in your education and career, are at a certain career elevation, with status and money and changing now means it was all for nothing.

Your mindset is “it’s too late, you can’t change; you must stay on course”.

Well, the reality is most people switch careers at least once during their lives. And with the future of work, the forecast is for many career changes for the upcoming generations of workers. Why not you as well?

2. You have limiting self-beliefs

You tell yourself that you don’t have the skills or qualifications to find a better job. And even if you try, you won’t be successful, so it’s better to put up with what you have.

Well, you do have options, but what you need more of is self-confidence. Seek external expert advice from recruiters or look for a mentor – no matter your maturity.

Consider your transferable skills and what to upskill and reskill. Take incremental steps to build your confidence.

3. Fear is holding you back

We attribute too much of what might negatively happen to external circumstances.

Your fear or biased frame of reference, deemed as reasoning, make it okay not to make necessary changes. However, we have more control than we think and always have a choice in how we negotiate with ourselves.

Instead, use your fear as a positive step to evaluate the risks. Channel your fear to mobilise actions in considered, planned ways.

4. The dramatic jump too soon

Sometimes you don’t listen to that inner warning voice at all. Instead, with haste, you make impetuous decisions – anything to escape the anguish.

Without due diligence to understand the cause of the inertia, you greatly risk a rinse and repeat. Or worse, set yourself up for other job and career problems.

Mostly, the answer to career inertia is in your mindset. To begin, you don’t need to make monumental changes. Take small steps with deliberate actions.

Or, if you decide to stay put, make it an active, conscious decision. Don’t continue wishful thinking or waste your energy on the negative rhetoric.

Honour the commitment of your decision and find new ways for happiness and motivation. Make it a choice, not a passive ticket to ride.

Roxanne Calder

This article was written by Roxanne Calder.

Roxanne is the author of Employable – 7 Attributes to Assuring Your Working Future and the founder and managing director of EST10, one of Sydney’s most successful administration recruitment agencies.

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