Are You Experiencing Career Inertia?

There is a natural ebb and flow to a person’s career. Seasons of change, some exciting and others challenging, often bring new experiences and new responsibilities. However, there comes a time in most people’s careers when they look around and ask, “Is this all there is?”

This stagnant state where you may feel “stuck” is often called “career inertia”. But how do you know you are experiencing it and, more importantly, how do you get out of it?

You Fear Change in General

“The only thing that is constant is change,” is credited to Heraclitus of Ephesus. What he did not take into account is the fear that often accompanies any kind of directional shift in life. Even sound, well-reasoned decisions often lead to several sleepless nights and restless days. For that reason, fear is often what keeps us from taking the leap into the next phase of our lives. We fear the unknown. We fear risk. We fear the uncertainty of a new job or new organisation. We fear standing up to an overbearing supervisor. We fear volunteering for new responsibilities. Regardless of the label you give your fear, it is likely inhibiting your career growth.

Fortunately, fear is something that can be managed and largely mitigated by careful, strategic planning. Those who fear the change associated with a new job or new position within an organisation often find their fears assailed after investing time and energy into their own self-awareness and preparation. In doing so, it is possible to gain confidence to act in spite of any lingering fears.

You Are Struggling to Understand Your Strengths

There comes a time in many people’s careers when they can no longer objectively look at their own strengths and talents. Whether they have been neglected by years of tedious, mundane work or they are now taken for granted by the organisation at large, it is vital to every worker who experiences career inertia to begin re-defining, re-discovering and re-branding their own unique strengths. However, it is nearly impossible without the right tools.

The process of career coaching by a knowledgeable professional begins with a series of psychologically-based, statistically valid strength discovery tools. During this process of self-discovery, it is possible to remember long-neglected interests, rediscover strengths and assess talents that will serve you well in your next position. Once these strengths have been identified, it is possible to then define how to market yourself to obtain a new role.

“Near Enough” is “Good Enough”

The phrases “near enough” and “good enough” are both indicators that career inertia has set in. If you find yourself saying your performance is “near enough” you are intentionally settling for less than what you know you are capable of achieving. Using “good enough” to describe your job, your organisation, your pay, your leadership opportunities, or your career trajectory means you are intentionally settling for less than what you know you deserve.

The world needs more than “near enough” from you. It needs the best of what you have to offer. Your talents, your strengths and your abilities will meet a demand you have yet to discover that “near enough” can never achieve.

You deserve to experience more than “good enough” in your career. This is, perhaps, the most difficult concept for people to grasp. The very idea of “deserving” something that is beyond survival is beyond many people’s expectations. Yet, every person deserves to excel in their job, whatever it may be. Sometimes it is a matter of learning a new skill that will propel a person forward. Other times it is a shift to a new department or new responsibility. Regardless of what “great” looks like to a person, they should never stop striving for it.

Once you believe both of these things, career inertia is no longer acceptable. Whatever discomfort, fear, work, or growth that is required of you is suddenly worth the outcome. Make no mistake, pushing a career from an inert state into forward motion is work.

  • Shanelle Moloney is the Managing Director of Moloney Consulting. Shanelle has over 20 years’ HR experience, 15 of which have been serving on senior leadership teams in Australian and Asia Pacific businesses across a range of industries. Shanelle is passionate about the recognition of leadership as a learned skill that requires the right resource investment, and has spent much of her career specialising in this area. Connect with me on LinkedIn.