You know when it’s there; that spark you feel when you start a new position, and the pride and excitement you have when you explain your organization’s mission to friends and family.
But you also know when that feeling is waning, or perhaps even missing entirely.
When you find yourself in a professional moment where your passion is lacking, rather than jumping ship, it may be time to reevaluate your career goals. Here are a few things to ask yourself if you happen to be at this career crossroads.
What you can do if you’re getting “too comfortable”
While you may still enjoy your colleagues and find meaning in your work, this doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re feeling fulfilled and challenged. In fact, you may even be getting a bit too comfortable at work. But how can you tell? Start by asking yourself whether you identify with any of the following:
- You’re not interested in challenging yourself
- You don’t contribute your opinions or new ideas
- You’re happy with just-good-enough-to-get-the-job-done
- You disregard networking and stop looking for new opportunities to grow professionally
If any of this sounds familiar, it’s time to make a change, but change doesn’t have to mean leaving your current job.
Start by considering what you did to land your current role to begin with. All of that work should not have stopped simply because you got the job.
Keeping up your efforts to develop professionally increases the likelihood that you’ll stay engaged with your organization’s mission and find a continued sense of personal accomplishment in your work.
Professional development options come in many forms. In addition to free and low-cost one-off, in-person opportunities for professional development, there is also a wealth of online learning platforms, many of which offer free classes and resources.
Here is a sampling of resources for learning about anything from nonprofit fundraising and accounting to business leadership, data science, and digital marketing.
- Find over 200 learning resources on some of the more common nonprofit specialities on Nonprofitready.org.
- Lynda.com offers a wide range of video courses taught by industry experts, with particular focus on helping individuals build their business, tech, and creative skills.
- Founded by two Stanford professors, Coursera makes university coursework available to anyone.
- Established by Harvard and MIT, edX is a nonprofit organization that offers free university courses on an open-source platform.
- FutureLearn offers courses from leading institutions, many of which are based in the United Kingdom.
- Take an Open Course at Harvard Extension School with both free and low-cost options through Harvard’s Open Learning Platform.
- Udemy focuses on providing professionals with resources for job-related skill development.
- Develop coding skills for free at Code School, Code Academy, and freeCodeCamp.
If you find a course that interests you, set up a meeting with your supervisor and explore whether there’s room in your work schedule for on-the-job learning.
Prepare for your meeting by organizing some notes on how and when you’ll find time for the coursework, which priorities of yours may need to be kicked down the list a bit to make room for this opportunity, and most importantly, how the skills you'll pick up will benefit the organization.
Know your patterns
Once you realize you’re in a professional rut, it may be tempting to immediately start searching for a new job; it can feel exhilarating to connect with a new mission and organization. But if you simply change your environment or title without addressing what led to this complacency in the first place, you may be repeating a pattern. This is where self-awareness comes in.
The ability to recognize your feelings and process how they impact your behavior is critical when making important career decisions. Here’s how to channel some self-awareness and avoid becoming too comfortable or complacent in your current or future role.
- Cross items off your list first. Start by identifying what you dislike. When you take time to sift through what you don’t enjoy, you’ll likely uncover at least one or two things that excite you.
- Discover a new interest. Hit the reset button and take on a new project that excites you. For example, maybe your organization has a need for creating structure for an informal flow of volunteers. Even if your job description doesn’t include volunteer management, step up to the challenge by joining a planning committee to help strategize application management, pinpoint areas with the greatest need for volunteer assistance, and become a volunteer yourself. This will allow you to interact with different departments and take on new or more responsibilities; it may even lead you to redefine your role in a way that keeps you more engaged.
- Build your skills. Consider how you can expand your skill set to further your organization’s work. Your dedication to the mission brought you aboard, but it’s important to evolve along with the organization. Try taking the time to explore professional development opportunities. For example, if you’re on the marketing or communications team, take the initiative to be the resident SEO (search engine optimization) expert.
By actively reflecting in these ways, you will gain a new level of awareness of the patterns that may lead to a lack of job satisfaction, as well as a better understanding of how to move beyond these behaviors.
Moving forward or moving on?
If self-study and looking inward brings you to the realization that leaving your current job is the best choice, the important part is that you’re asking yourself “Why?”
When you take time to question what you really want and how to achieve it, you can move forward rather than just moving on.
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About the Author | Yoona Wagener is a freelance writer and WordPress developer who believes in the value of nonlinear career paths. She has experience in academic publishing, teaching English abroad, serving up customer support to software end users, writing online help documentation, and mission-driven nonprofit marketing and communications.