Feeling Stuck: How to Deal with Career Apathy

What exactly is “Job Apathy?” Some would describe it as where you’re feeling just generally ‘Meh’ about your job. So-so.  Take it or leave it. You don’t hate it per se, but you’re not in love with it either. 

You’re likely wondering if you should quit, but constantly second-guessing yourself because there’s nothing “wrong” with your job.  You’re just not feeling it anymore.

Around and around the questions go: Should I not quit?  Is this a good job? Do I want to keep doing this? Would I be crazy for quitting? 

Those things are hard to answer, right? Especially if you don’t have anything that’s really pointing you in the right direction or if you’ve been on this career path for a while.  A lot of times, folks are afraid of making mistakes or can’t even imagine what other kind of job they could be doing.  

Let me tell you if you’re experiencing this right now, it’s super, super, super common.  In fact, 70% of professionals are actively looking to make changes in their careers right now. 

How To Unstick Your Career: Are you Really “Fine”?

So you’re stuck.  Your working situation is “okay” right now.  Your pay is good. You know how to do the job.  You don’t really care about your job, but things are “fine”.

 If you’re falling into the category, if possible that you are on a limiting emotional path due to fear and uncertainty about the future.  Your brain is really, really good at playing down big issues and glossing over the history of what happened to allow you to feel more “okay-ish” than what you really are.  Especially if you come from an emotionally and financially fraught background, you’re likely to compare your current situation to where you have been as opposed to where you could be.  And that fear of going backward is preventing you from going forward.

Why Do We Feel Career Apathy?

Career Apathy is a symptom underlying issues that are causing your current dissatisfaction.  Often these symptoms build slowly over time and compile on each other, which allows us to “miss” the warnings until we reach a near breaking point (aka career apathy).  Think of it as the career version of slow weight gain.  We don’t notice it until our pants get tight.

Root Causes of Career Apathy (and incomplete list)

  •  A lack of feeling fulfilled by work
  • A lack of challenge
  •  Feeling stress
  • Being in an unsupportive environment
  • Being uninterested in your line of work
  •  Being bored
  •  Working with people you don’t mesh with well
  • Constantly working against increasing goals (what I call “Feeding the Beast”)
  • Having increasing responsibilities outside of work that demand your attention

The Quadrant of Unmet Needs

 There are four things that we can look at in our current job to help unpack the boxes of unmet needs. And that’s environmental, preferential, social, and outlook. 

Environmental is the area literally surrounding you on a day-to-day basis.  Your colleagues, your office, your hours, etc.  Identifying if the workplace itself is adding or taking away from your wellbeing is a possible avenue for making adjustments, either independently or with the help of your boss and HR team to make the environment more accommodating (within reason). 

Situational areas to check in on your wellbeing have to do with what’s going on in the moment and what contributes to your levels of stress.  Having a sustainable workload, feeling like your opinions are heard and matter, being treated with respect and trust go a long way into ensuring that you feel good at work.

Unlike environmental and situational categories, preferential deals with your satisfaction about your career and the work that you do.  Ask yourself if you feel challenged about your work, whether you are contributing to something larger than yourself?  Identifying if your preferences about your career align with what you’re actually doing can significantly narrow down if you are having trouble with your workplace or your career path.

Lastly, outlook is attempting to “future proof” your career. Believing that your workplace is stable, your industry is growing, that you’re making enough money that you can retire/buy a house/put your kids in college, are all big deals that we tend not to really think about when we’re in the thick of the day to day.

I recommend taking time, REAL time, to consider your career and current job from all of these angles.  Trying to pinpoint the individual stressors of your work really can allow you to understand what’s happening internally.

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