When you get lazy or frustrated, you can develop some bad habits that can harm your career. When I have a pause in my day, I slump. Literally. I lean forward in my chair, rest my chin in my hand, and ponder what I’m reading and writing about. It’s a posture that feels right to me.
It requires no thought or effort. It’s the pose I used for my online picture. You might even call it my comfort zone. As it turns out though, my slump is not working for me, and has actually been doing me some harm.
I got my wake up call last week when I went to the chiropractor for a pinched nerve in my neck. By slumping in that particular position, I have managed, over time, to knock my neck, jaw and shoulder out of alignment.
So, now, in addition to enduring some sounds-like-gun-shot chiropractic adjustments, I am having to do “sit up straight” exercises so I don’t fall back into my slumping habits. I can tell you, it isn’t easy.
Our careers can be prone to slumps – professional bad habits that become our comfort zone, but are highly detrimental to our long term career health.
10 Signs You May Be Career Slumping
- Your answer to, “How was your day?” usually involves gossip or complaints about your colleagues and clients.
- The last workshop you took was a company-mandated workplace safety course two years ago, and you can’t remember anything except the chocolate-chip cookies that were served.
- You haven’t added any new people to your network of contacts in the last month, and some of the contacts you do have won’t take your calls anymore.
- You used to belong to an industry association, but you dropped out because FILL YOUR OWN EXCUSE IN HERE.
- Your response to people’s suggestions automatically starts with, “Yes, but…”
- When asked to get involved in a special project at work, your first thought is “Oh no, why me?” or, “Does this mean I have to stay late?”
- Your boss’s boss has no idea what you do. Or worse: Your boss has no idea what you do.
- You are under 45, and are already day-dreaming about your retirement.
- The only person you’ve thanked in the last week was the person who handed you your change and cup of coffee.
- Your reputation at work has started to include the preface, “Oh. He’s an interesting guy.”
If your answer is “Yes” to any or all of the above, you are either in or headed for a career slump. The longer you let it go, the more painful will be the adjustment when you get the “sit up straight or else” wake up call. The good news is that there are simple steps you can take immediately to de-slump yourself.
10 ‘Sit Up Straight’ Exercises To De-Slump Your Career
- Hop off the gossip-train. The power trip you feel when you have ‘the dirt’ on somebody is nothing like the strength you feel when you really get to know them.
- Make learning a priority. If you can’t afford to enroll in a course, then look for free webinars and downloadable courses. Learning isn’t just about acquiring new skills and knowledge, it’s also about shaking up our stale assumptions and misguided preconceptions.
- Talk to somebody new each week. Ask them about their interests, their challenges, their families. Business may be powered by money, but it is nurtured by personal connections.
- Join an industry association – and not just so you have something to put under Professional Affiliations on your resume. The payoff in terms of networking opportunities, early insights on industry developments, and heads-up on emerging opportunities will be invaluable.
- Pay attention when people make suggestions. Fine, some of them will be just plain dumb or impractical, but some of them will contain a grain of truth or even brilliance, and you won’t know which is which if you haven’t taken the time to listen.
- Take advantage of the opportunity to do things outside of your job description or comfort zone. Not only can this be a chance to acquire new knowledge and skills, but it can be a great way to de-slump other people’s understanding of who you are and what you have to offer.
- Make sure your higher-ups understand how you are contributing to the big picture. Make sure YOU understand how you are contributing to the big picture. There is no employee easier for a decision-maker to cut when it comes to downsizing than the one whose job is a mystery to everybody else.
- Find something right now that turns your crank and energizes your day. Make at least one personal and one professional goal that is realizable in the near future, and put the action plan in place to achieve it.
- Adopt an attitude of gratitude. I’m not talking about being relentlessly and annoyingly chirpy, I’m talking about taking the time to recognize and acknowledge the people to whom you owe a thank you.
- If you are being described as ‘interesting’ in quotation marks, chances are you’ve slipped over the line of chronic sarcasm, cynicism or bitterness (acknowledgments to Dave Howlett for this insight). Bitter, sarcastic cynics may have funny and repeatable one-liners, but that’s just about all they are good for. They don’t make good team members, they can’t be trusted with referrals, and they don’t get promoted or recommended for new opportunities. Except in the “we’ll make him available to industry” kind of way.
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