How to kick start your career when you are stuck in a job rut

man in a mousetrap

The challenge.

You have 6 minutes and 48 seconds to make your customer happy. Time starts now.

I have had some awful jobs in my time. From bad managers to lousy working conditions and just the wrong position for me. Jobs like that can drain your energy, your confidence and your motivation. The result: You get stuck in a job rut.

Can you imagine that? If you have ever worked in a call centre, you know this is precisely how it works. I once did work in a call centre, and to be honest, I didn’t last very long. I didn’t even last my trial period. After six weeks (including two weeks in the training room) I was stressed, short of temper and frustrated. As a result, I did feel quite embarrassed and useless.

Statistically, I was a failure.

If you don’t know this already, Call centres work with statistics. For example, 1st call success rate, time of completion, and how much time you spent between calls. My first call success rate was over 90%, that means that 90% of my customers didn’t call back within three days of finishing the call. The average was between 60-70%. To me, that sounds pretty good.

But my call completion time was under 11 minutes, far north of the allowed 6 minutes and 48 seconds. My supervisor told me: “You have to reduce the time you spent on each call, they can always call you back.” I couldn’t wait to resign. I had the classic symptoms of being stuck in a job rut: I felt tired, defeated, lacked motivation and was snappy with my partner. My unhappiness in my career was impacting everything, including my self-esteem and my relationship.

What are your strengths in your current role?

I remember on specific customer calling in angrily and upset before we even said hello to each other. Many of them had called in the previous day and the day before. I used to calm them down and help them, resolving their issues.

For example, on one call, I spoke to a lady. She told me she was in her 70’s. She had to reset her password. As a matter of fact, this was her second time calling, in as many days. The guideline was to tell them “Click the menu” and “Click where it says, change your account details.” And then, to end the call. In case it didn’t work, we had to tell them with a smile, the famous words “They can always call us back.”

My supervisors named and shamed for my length of calls. But I gained some wisdom that I have never forgotten.

Choose your job wisely.

You might like strict discipline in your job. And that is fine. You might thrive in an environment that dictates what you can do and how long you can do it for. Including when and how long, you can go to the bathroom. Others need more freedom and flexibility. There is nothing wrong with either of those.

From experience, I can tell you, working in an environment which is not suited to your way of working is frustrating. Being stuck in a job rut causes stress, and it can make you sick.

A job needs to fit in with your lifestyle. If you have children, you might want the flexibility to leave early on certain days. Once you are clear on your purpose and values, these are things that you can start to look for in a job.

What are you good at?

I learned that often, caring for customers. And I am excellent and making my clients feel good. In a call centre, you get judged on measurable statistics such as how much money you can save and how you can complete your work. But statistics often don’t measure how much you care and how you look after your customers and how good they feel after you helped them. I couldn’t see it at that time, but this is one of my strengths. Recognising your strengths can be a real challenge when you are stuck in a job rut. You can’t see the truth. Because what is perceived to be your weaknesses, might actually be your underutilised strengths. So the question is; Are you using your best skills? Are these talents valued in your current role?

The four tips to kick-start your career when you are stuck in a job rut:

1. Be clear on your purpose and values.

I can’t remember who many people I speak with who say “It’s just a job” or “it pays the bills”. Even comments like that tell me you’re not in the optimum job for you. When you have a purpose, you are working towards something. In return, working towards something gives it meaning. And when something has a meaning, you will always enjoy doing it. If you are unclear about your purpose, this has to be the first step.

2. Understand in what environment you thrive.

Your work environment can have a severe impact on your health, wellness, enjoyment of life and your confidence. Because of that impact, it is essential you work in an environment where you can thrive. This means you have a manager who supports you, you enjoy the work you do (you have a purpose), and it fits your personality as discussed before in this article. You can read this post to get some ideas on what to look for in your perfect job

3. You have to develop self-awareness.

A manager that doesn’t support you, a position where you are not using your unique skills and talents are all clear examples of what can hold you back. But also a lack of purpose can be a significant contributor. However, you have to practise self-awareness. A lack of motivation to get up, feeling undervalued, a lack of motivation to do anything outside of work. Waiting to leave your job. When you realise that in your last job you were much happier than in your current position you know it is time to make a change.

4. Have the courage to make changes.

Most people say that money, or the lack of it, is the most common reason for not making changes when they are stuck in a job rut. “I can’t leave because I need the money,” must be the most used reason for not leaving a job. However I have also heard “I am too busy in my current job to look for a new job,” and “I am to overweight to find a new job when I leave this job.” Then there are other reasons such as “I am waiting to be made redundant,” or “I am nearly at my long service leave.” While these are logical reasons, consider the impact on yourself and the quality of your life, if you are going to wait. Assess your state of being, your health and your relationships to make the right decision.

Ultimately, it is crucial for you not to settle for a job that makes you unhappy and where you don’t align with the organisation’s purpose and values. Not only will your health and relationships suffer, but just like everybody else, you deserve to have a job that lets you achieve your full potential in all areas of your life.

Remember, that sometimes, making a decision is better than no action at all.