How Can You Overcome a Career Slump?

By Lynn Berger '84TC, '90TC of the Columbia Career Coaches Network

From time to time, all of us experience a career slump; however, it can be a meaningful experience. It allows us to identify the gaps in our work and career. Let's explore how you can identify your interests, motivated skills, personality style, and values to allow you to achieve greater career satisfaction.

So, the question is posed—“How can you overcome a career slump?” The best way to answer this question is to imagine you are creating and putting together the pieces of an intriguing, challenging, and rewarding puzzle. Each piece needs to be closely examined, shifted, and viewed from a variety of perspectives. Once you are able to fit the pieces of your puzzle together, you will have created the complete image, which in effect, will become your fulfilling career.

How do you identify your interests?

During the course of a day, your interests direct your behavior. For example: What sections of the newspaper do you read first? What websites or blogs do you read daily? If you think about your interests in this way, it might help you to begin to define your primary enthusiasms. The best way to understand yourself is to stop and ask what you enjoy and what makes you happy. In general, people with passions closely aligned to their occupations tend to be more satisfied and more productive.

Many people incorrectly assume that interests are something they can enjoy only after work and that they cannot be compensated for their passion. For example, are you computer savvy? You could become a consultant and work at home. If you enjoy sports, what about working in sports marketing? These are just a couple of opportunities that you may never have thought of—and there are many more.

...imagine you are creating and putting together the pieces of an intriguing, challenging, and rewarding puzzle.

How do you identify your values?

One’s values, which are sometimes difficult to define, may change over time. Determine which daily decisions will provide you with the greatest fulfillment. For example, what do you value most at this point in your life? Is it the ability to stay home with your child and watch him or her through daily routines? Or is it the security of a steady job (which might be offset by a lower income)?

Ideally, you want to maximize the time spent for your work in terms of quantity and quality and use these efforts for activities closely matching your values. This will guide your life’s decisions accordingly. You also need to be cognizant of changing priorities. Life circumstances will change and the allocation of your time may have to change accordingly. This entails constant fine-tuning or you may have to undergo a major overhaul.

How do you identify your motivated skills?

Think of a few of accomplishments in your life that have given you satisfaction—they may be vocationally or avocationally related. For example, you may have done one of the following: organized a fund-raising activity for your favorite charity, created a beautiful piece of art, or worked on an unusual project at work. There is usually a common thread that connects your professional and personal sense of achievement or satisfaction. This link is a motivator and provides you with the desire required to succeed. These motivators help you quickly learn new skills and are generally transferable throughout different fields. Using your motivated skills will make you feel proficient and give you enjoyment.

Knowing your personality style/preferences and learning about other people’s preferences can help you become aware of your special strengths, work values, successes, and personal styles. You should also consider your work temperament. For instance, are you calm, excitable, sensitive, anxious, energetic? Consider these qualities when you think about your career choices.

Now you are ready to find a clearer roadmap to determine why you might be in a slump and identify ways to make your situation better. I hope that you are now inspired and energized to take action to achieve your future goals!


Lynn Berger is a part of the Columbia Career Coaches Network—a group of over 20 accredited professional alumni career coaches who provide fee-based consulting and volunteer for the Columbia Alumni Association’s free professional development programs throughout the year.

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