Navigating Career Stagnation: Understanding What Affects Us

Sometimes, we find ourselves stuck in our careers, feeling like we’re treading water without making any real progress.

It can be a frustrating experience, especially when we can’t quite put our finger on what’s changed.

In many cases, this stagnation occurs because we’ve failed to recognise a few key changes in our environment or within ourselves. These changes can come from various sources and understanding them is the first step toward regaining control and finding our path forward.

In this blog, I’ll explore three types of changes that can affect our careers: organisational changes, shifts in values, and personal life changes.

Organisational Changes: The Shifting Sands of Company Dynamics

One of the most common sources of career stagnation is organisational change. Companies are constantly evolving, and these changes can have a significant impact on our day-to-day work life. Let’s break down some of the specific changes that can occur within an organisation:

Cultural Changes

Sometimes, a company’s culture shifts. This could be due to new leadership, a merger, or an acquisition. The values and norms that once guided the company may no longer align with your own, leaving you feeling out of place. For example, if your company once prioritised innovation and creativity but now focuses on efficiency and cost-cutting, you might find it challenging to stay motivated.

People Changes

Changes in the people around us can also create a sense of disconnection. A new direct line manager, colleagues, or team structure can drastically alter your work environment. If you had a great relationship with your previous manager but now find yourself struggling to connect with your new boss, it can make your work life feel unstable.

Structural Changes

Restructures within a company often come with shifts in responsibilities. You might find that your role has changed slightly, leaving you feeling undervalued or unsure of your place in the organisation. In more drastic cases, redundancy can leave you questioning your career path entirely.

These organisational changes can make you feel like you’re in the wrong place at the wrong time, causing frustration and a sense of being stuck. Recognising them and their impact on your career is crucial for addressing the underlying issues.

Value Changes: Aligning Personal and Professional Priorities

Another significant factor in career stagnation is a mismatch of values. Our values can change over time, influenced by our experiences and evolving priorities. Similarly, a company’s values can shift, leading to a disconnect between your personal beliefs and the organisation’s mission.

Personal Value Shifts

As we grow and our life circumstances change, our values and priorities often shift. What mattered most to you a few years ago might not hold the same importance today. For instance, you might have been driven by career advancement and financial success in your younger years, but now you prioritise work-life balance and spending more time with family.

Organisational Value Changes

On the flip side, similar to what already mentioned, a company’s values can change due to various factors such as new leadership, mergers, or shifts in market focus. This can create a situation where the company’s goals no longer align with your own. For instance, if your company once championed sustainability and now prioritises profitability above all else, you might find it challenging to stay engaged.

Understanding these value mismatches is essential because they can lead to dissatisfaction and a sense of disconnection from your work. It’s not always about a massive mismatch; sometimes, it’s just a change in the order of priorities.

Personal Life Changes: The Impact of Evolving Personal Circumstances

Lastly, personal changes in our lives can significantly affect our careers. Our lifestyle, responsibilities, and health all play a role in how we approach our work.

Lifestyle Changes

As we move through different stages of life, our lifestyle needs and priorities evolve. When you’re young and single, dedicating yourself 100% to your career might be feasible. However, as you start a family or take on caregiving responsibilities, your focus shifts. You might find that spending more time with loved ones becomes more important than climbing the corporate ladder.

Health Changes

Our health can also impact our career satisfaction and performance. As we age or face health challenges, we might need to prioritise self-care more than before. This can mean adjusting our work hours, seeking less demanding roles, or finding ways to reduce stress.

Sense of Priorities

Sometimes, our sense of priorities changes simply because we’ve gained new perspectives. What seemed crucial in our 20s might not hold the same weight in our 30s or 40s. Recognising these shifts can help us realign our career with our current values and needs.

Understanding and Adapting to Change

One or more of these changes – organisational, value-based, or personal – can creep up on us, leading to a sense of misalignment with our career. This feeling of not fitting in the life we’ve created for ourselves can be deeply unsettling. However, understanding the root of this mismatch is the first step toward taking control.

Reflect and Identify

Start by reflecting on your current situation. Ask yourself questions like: Has my company changed in ways that no longer align with my values? Have my personal priorities shifted? Am I facing new challenges in my personal life that impact my work? Identifying the specific changes that have occurred can help you pinpoint the source of your dissatisfaction.

Talking to trusted friends, family, or a career coach can provide valuable insights and support. Sometimes, discussing your feelings with others can clarify your thoughts and help you see your situation from a different perspective.

Take Action

Once you’ve identified the changes affecting your career, you can start taking steps to address them. This might mean seeking a new role within your organisation, exploring opportunities with different companies, or making adjustments in your personal life to better balance your priorities.

Embrace Adaptation

Change is inevitable, but how we respond to it can make all the difference. By proactively adapting to changes and aligning our careers with our evolving values and circumstances, we can regain a sense of control and fulfilment.

In conclusion, recognising and understanding the changes that affect our careers – whether organisational, value-based, or personal – is crucial for overcoming stagnation. By taking a reflective and proactive approach, we can navigate these changes and find a career path that truly aligns with our current needs and aspirations. Remember, you’re not alone in this journey, and seeking support can make all the difference in finding your way forward.

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