The Complete Guide to Overcoming Career Stagnation

Updated April 28, 2023

Acknowledging that your career has become stagnant is a great first step toward making changes to revitalize your professional life. Whether you are feeling bored or unappreciated, there are several measures you can take to turn your career around and feel excited about your work. Overcoming career stagnation can take both time and self-awareness. In this article, we discuss the symptoms and causes of career stagnation and share the steps you can take to overcome it.

Related: How to Set Development Goals for Work

What is career stagnation?

Career stagnation occurs when you feel a lack of engagement with your work or career. In many cases, it occurs when you don’t see positive changes in your career or feel you may lose your professional skills.

Some signs that you are experiencing career stagnation are:

  • You regularly feel bored and think about quitting frequently.

  • Your salary and title have remained the same even though you’ve changed jobs multiple times.

  • Your performance reviews are always acceptable but never outstanding.

  • You haven’t learned anything new in months.

  • Your future and the future of your organization are unclear.

  • People who were hired after you have already been promoted.

  • You often feel defeated or angry.

  • You rarely see growth or leadership opportunities.

Causes of career stagnation

Several factors can create stagnation in your career.

  • No opportunity for learning: If your current position doesn’t allow you to learn and grow, your skills can become outdated.

  • No salary increases or promotions: If you haven’t seen a salary increase in years, it can be a sign that you have stayed at an organization too long.

  • Organizational losses: If your current organization is suffering losses, it can create stagnation in your career and indicate that you may want to make a move and look for opportunities elsewhere.

  • No opportunities for growth: Career stagnation can occur if you have already advanced as high as you can within your organization or if there are simply no foreseeable opportunities for career growth.

How to overcome career stagnation

Here are some recommendations to overcome career stagnation:

Set a goal

To fight career stagnation, you need to have a goal for the future. Think about your future and how you want to see yourself in it. Knowing your qualifications and interests can help you get a clear idea of what goals you need to achieve to make that vision for the future a reality. Pick one goal that you can start pursuing right away.

Related: Setting Goals to Improve Your Career

Take inventory of your resources

Take inventory of your skills and the ones that are required to be competitive in the industry right now. Identify the skills you know and have mastered and which you still need to learn.

Update your skills

Making sure your professional skills are up-to-date. Developing new skills is necessary to stay competitive in your industry and your workplace. A person who has something different from the crowd can advance more quickly. Look for special skills or program-based knowledge that can break you free from career stagnation.

Related: How to Develop Your Skill Set to Advance Your Career

Ask for more challenges

While you want to feel comfortable and capable in your role, feeling comfortable for too long can be a sign that you haven’t grown. Challenge yourself by contributing to a new project or ask for additional responsibilities. Taking on new challenges and risks allows you to test yourself and find out if you’re really happy with your career path. Solving a problem can also be energizing and give you something to anticipate every morning. 

Always communicate with your supervisors about your hopes and career ambitions. Consider requesting a one-on-one meeting to discuss your career growth and get feedback and guidance. Find out if there are any additional skills, knowledge or even certifications that would position you for future opportunities.

Give back

Look for ways to give back, both in and out of the workplace. Identify ways you could give back within your own organization. Perhaps you could help organize a company or departmental event. Perhaps there are opportunities to mentor more junior-level employees and hone your leadership skills. Taking the initiative to give back to others and your organization can rapidly get the attention of supervisors and alert them to your willingness to go above and beyond.

Consider giving back outside of your organization as well. Reach out to a local nonprofit organization and see if they need help. When you practice community service, you can develop several skills, including event planning, fundraising, communication and more that will be beneficial in your personal and professional lives.

Network more

Networking can open the door for opportunities both inside and outside your company. As you come to be more connected with others in your industry, you may quickly find that others come to respect you and go to you for guidance. Just one right connection can open up significant opportunities for career growth, whether in your own organization or a completely different position elsewhere.

Tips to turn around your career

Here are some extra suggestions to help you turn around your career and overcome stagnation:

  • Build a reputation. Develop a reputation as someone willing to go above and beyond to help the organization perform better.

  • Ask questions. Be proactive in asking questions to learn how to improve your workplace performance. Also, ask questions about additional skills related to your role that you could obtain to further the organization’s goals.

  • Find a supporter. Approach your supervisor or another company leader who knows your work and work ethic and who can help you make the case for why you should receive promotional opportunities.


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