Career stagnation: how to get out of a rut at work

Feb 29, 2020

5 mins

Career stagnation: how to get out of a rut at work
Nora Leon

Communications & content manager

Do you love your company and your job, but feel like you’re not learning anything new? To sustain the feeling that they are developing and acquiring new knowledge and skills, some people change jobs regularly. This isn’t the only option, however, if you feel you are stagnating professionally.

Whether you’re just looking to spice things up, or you feel a need for new challenges and a renewed sense of motivation, you have options. You don’t have to leave your current workplace. Here are some actions you can take now to help you press the Refresh button at work.

Identify why you’ve stopped learning

Before taking action, ask yourself how you got here. Begin by looking back on your career in the company so that you can understand how you got into a rut and why you are no longer developing professionally. There are many reasons why you may feel that you have stopped learning at work. Perhaps you haven’t been proactive enough or taken any risks lately. Or maybe you feel that your manager doesn’t send enough challenges your way. Or you might not be keeping up to date with developments in your field. Once you have identified the root of the problem, you’ll be in a better position to do something about it.

Learn from colleagues

There’s nothing like checking in with a colleague or two to get a fresh perspective on your work. Finding out about the different ways people work is not only a learning opportunity – it also helps you to reflect on your own habits and routines. You might notice a few areas where there is room to improve. Perhaps your manager will let you brush up your existing skills or learn some new ones, when time permits.

You can also ask a colleague in a similar role if they’d be open to swapping a couple of small tasks. If they aren’t comfortable with that idea, see if they’d be interested in catching up regularly about what works or doesn’t work for each of you. You might also be able to help out another colleague. If your company doesn’t already have one in place, why not suggest setting up a system for sharing knowledge among company staff?

However, avoid being too intrusive with your colleagues. Some people prefer to work alone and don’t appreciate others trying to get involved. If they understand your intentions are good, however, and you explain that you’re reaching out to expand your knowledge, they should feel more comfortable about being approached. Remember that a little flattery can go a long way – just don’t overdo it, or you might get a reputation for pouring it on too thick!

Ask to take on more challenges

Do you feel like you’ve mastered most of your tasks and can prove it through your results? Have you built strong relationships with the teams in your office? Maybe now’s the time to show your superiors that you’d like to do more at work. If you’re looking to develop new skills, there’s nothing better than taking on new challenges and risks.

If you feel justified in asking and think that your superiors would be open to the idea, you can request a meeting to discuss moving up to a managerial position.

If being in management is not your thing, you might like to ask for more responsibility on larger projects instead. Perhaps you could take on a new part of the client base or work on a new product feature. Or you might ask to be put in charge of a larger territory or to manage more strategic clients.

Enquire about available training opportunities

It’s in your employer’s best interests to help you progress. That’s true whether it’s about improving performance in your current role or moving up to another role within your company. Some companies provide in-house training in the form of workshops or e-learning. If training was not discussed when you were recruited, it’s worth finding out what your options are. You can raise the issue at your annual performance review or at any other appropriate time during the year. Just make sure you have a clear idea of what areas you want to improve before you ask so that your manager understands your learning goals. Explain why you want to take a particular course and what skills you are hoping to develop as a result.

Get more involved

One way to feel more motivated at work is to get involved in organising company charity days or other events not related to work. Many people enjoy arranging things such as after-work drinks or sporting events. If your company doesn’t have such activities, see if any like-minded colleagues would like to help you to start something. You won’t necessarily acquire skills related to your job, but getting more involved in company activities is a surefire way to boost motivation and develop skills in other areas.

Exploit the internet

There’s no excuse for letting your career stagnate when the internet provides a wealth of information. You can learn a lot by monitoring media relevant to your job. Set aside between 15 and 30 minutes on days when you have the time to find out what’s new in your profession and sector. Be aware, though, that the internet doesn’t always provide the best information. Here are some things you won’t feel guilty about following:

  • Quality journalism: Keep up with industry trends and see what’s new in your professional field. Carefully select a few media sources you like and check out their new articles regularly. You can also set up an alert, so you don’t miss out on relevant topics.
  • E-books: Reading is an effective way to develop your knowledge and help nurture your ambitions. Book summary apps such as Blinkist and Joosr give you the gist of a book in under 20 minutes. If speed-reading isn’t your style, think about setting up a book club at the office.

Learn from MOOCs

You may be familiar with massive open online courses or MOOCs. These allow you to train up on a wide variety of topics. The best part is that many of them won’t cost you a penny!

Free courses can be found on Udemy, Udacity, OpenClassrooms and edX. Alternatively, simply search for a topic with the keywords “online course” or “MOOC” to discover other specialised sites.
Remember that many universities in the UK also offer online courses. You can check directly on a university’s website or read more about what’s available here.

Finally, courses from many international universities can be found on Coursera, which also offers free access. You need never be bored again!

Attend conferences

Conferences are a great way to learn from people who excel in your field and broaden your own fields of knowledge. They can also help you to identify current issues that will get you thinking more about your work and career. If you think it might be relevant to them, invite people from the office whose company you enjoy.


Talking to your peers is a great way to learn more about your job and company. Have lunch together. It can be easier to talk about common issues and share best practices in an informal setting. You can network with people who have the same job as you in other companies or more experienced mentors who will share their business vision with you. It’s also worth meeting up with those who may have less experience than you, but can provide fresh ideas. It’s also a good idea to broaden your horizons and network with people from other professions and sectors. Avoid making these interactions too formal – spontaneity often generates more interesting conversations. Once you’ve tested your networking skills, you’ll be surprised at how motivating and enriching they can be.

Whether you love your job or not, there is no need to be bored at work. As you can see, there’s always more to learn and new ways to do so. If you continue to stagnate even after trying these techniques, however, it might be a sign that it’s time to pack your bags and set your sights on new horizons.

Translated by Andrea Schwam

Photo: WTTJ

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