What to Do When You’ve Outgrown Your Job

What at first was a perfect fit can feel confining as you’ve matured in your job. Now what?

It was bound to happen sooner or later. That terrific job you took, the one you looked forward to because you were learning something new every day, has become stale and routine over time. Sure, you’ve mastered each detail and have been asked to train new people as they join the department. But face it – you are now officially bored out of your skull.

What Are the Signs You’ve Outgrown Your Current Job?

The signs are all there, probably starting when you realized the work that once seemed exciting has become routine. You don’t feel much challenge because you’ve done it many times before. Even new assignments are much like past ones – it takes very little time to analyze what you’ll need to do to deliver a successful outcome. You look forward to unexpected problems just to make things interesting. You might even find yourself stretching out your work in order to fill the day. One thing is sure…you feel restless and are more irritable than usual. Come to think of it, you’ve lost you mojo! Now what?


Steps to Take if You Want to Stay With Your Current Employer

There are a number of steps to take if you have outgrown your job but don’t want to leave your current employer. Each involves you taking the initiative to renew your circumstances so you can re-engage:

1. Ask your supervisor what assignments or tasks you can take on in addition to your regular duties. This will show you have initiative. You might see something that needs to be done and either do it (if doing so would not step on anyone’s toes) or ask to take it on.

2. Consider how you might help others in your department, especially if they are new or are struggling with something with which you can help them. You don’t need permission to do this but rest assured, it will be noticed!

3. Find a way of letting your supervisor know whenever you’ve taken the initiative without bragging or without placing a coworker in a bad light.

4. After doing 1 and 2 you still feel underutilized, consider a more direct approach:

1.Ask your supervisor to help you to plan your next career steps with your current employer. For example, “I really love working here…it’s a great organization with great people. May I ask your help in planning what my next steps here might be?” This sends the message you plan on being here, and that you aren’t looking outside the organization. However, be aware that some supervisors are not comfortable having a career development discussion (as this recent blog pointed out).

2. If you work in a larger organization or one with a multi-person HR department, you might want to have a similar conversation with someone there. Again. your strategy is to communicate you want to be part of the organization’s future. And HR professionals are both comfortable and adept at having career development discussions, and they know of opportunities beyond your current department.

Steps to Take if Your Boss Initially Won’t Hand Over More Responsibility

Again, the premise is that you want to stay with your current employer. Allow enough time for the steps above and below to run their course. While you might prefer if things progressed more rapidly, demonstrate career maturity. Keep your cool, remain positive, and continue to work hard by doing all that you can. This approach will pay dividends in the long run.

1. I’ve found the best approach is the direct approach similar to 4.1 above. A key question to ask your supervisor is, “What specific things do you see me needing to master or take on, in order to progress in my career here?” By asking your supervisor’s help in career planning, he or she is more likely to become part of the solution.

2. HR can play a pivotal role in helping you scope out opportunities within the organization (but outside your department) for which you might be well suited. Have this conversation, but only after you’ve engaged your supervisor on the subject.

And if You Determine There is Zero Upside Growth in Staying?

If after taking the suggested steps and allowing enough time to take on new responsibilities or move to a new challenge, there is no progress, it may be time to actively explore opportunities outside your department or outside your employer.

1. Opportunities in other departments. Staying with your employer, but taking steps to move to a different role outside your department will likely require you to speak with HR about how to post for such opportunities. If you have no HR department, then consider speaking directly with a supervisor in an area you’d like to explore. Navigate this carefully in order to not seem like you are throwing your boss under the bus. Be professional and refrain from speaking negatively of your boss, or sharing your frustration.

2. Leaving your employer. This option likely means conducting a stealth job search, remaining employed until you are ready to accept a new position. That doesn’t mean coasting to the finish line. Now is the time to demonstrate your integrity while you finish well and leave things in great shape for the person who will fill your current position. Here’s more about how to finish well.

One Additional Step to Take Whether You Stay or Whether You Go

In life you are either green and growing – or ripe and rotting – and the choice is pretty much yours. It was the idea of green and growing that led to your feeling of having outgrown your job in the first place. In order to remain relevant, you must continue to keep your skills and knowledge current. The world is moving ahead, and you cannot afford to be left behind because your skills and knowledge are out of date.

1. Take courses. If you aren’t learning, you are falling behind. The good news is that you’ve got a lot of options to help you. Your local community college offers adult classes on many topical areas which could benefit your career. Online courses are plentiful and many are free or at very low cost. Both options offer you the opportunity to build your network as you learn.

2. Read voraciously. Knowledge is now doubling yearly, driven in large part by the Internet. Anything you want to learn about is on the Internet; it took less than a half second to return more than 350 million references to the rate of knowledge doubling. Make it a point to read online articles daily about your profession and industry.

The Bottom Line

When you reach the point where you’ve outgrown your job, you really have just three choices:

1. Stay. Find a way to take on more responsibilities with your current employer, which is the best choice. Your choices here include staying in your current role with new responsibilities, or moving elsewhere in the organization.

2. Go. Leave your current employer while finishing well. It’s your best option if you cannot stay.

3. Stay and suck it up. This is your worst option because people who are unhappy begin to coast and eventually become disengaged. This course doesn’t end well.

Author’s note: this article was written for the 7th edition of my two job search and career development textbooks: The Job Search Readiness Assessment for experience professionals and skilled workers, and the Graduate Employment Preparedness Assessment for college students and recent grads. Click on the link to learn more about these and other job search and career development tools.

Hank Boyer of Boyer Management Group works with some of North America’s top employers to help them become more successful. For employers and individuals, we offer the world’s finest training and assessments to measure an individual’s knowledge and awareness of current and emerging best practices in leadership, sales, customer service, and conducting an effective job search. To find out more, please visit us at www.boyermanagement.com, email us at info@boyermanagement.com, or call us at 215-942-0982.


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