Just about everyone will face a feeling of disconnection at some point in her career. Usually, that experience is the temporary result of an isolated circumstance. But if the feeling persists, this could indicate that your skills aren’t being used to their maximum potential in your job.
So how can you differentiate between a fleeting situation or an ongoing issue? Be on the lookout for these red flags in your own performance, as they often allude to being under-utilized in the workplace—at which point, you should consider the likelihood that you’ve outgrown this current position and you're not using your strengths in the workplace.
If you still churn out the same projects or feel restricted to the same functions that you have been doing for years, this suggests a limited opportunity for advancement. As you gain more professional experience and expertise, the responsibilities with which you’re entrusted should evolve, too. If it seems like you’re confined to a static routine of predictable tasks without an increasing level of responsibility, question how long it’s been since you received a promotion or undertook a new assignment at your company. When your capabilities aren’t mirrored in your responsibilities, you risk becoming too complacent and mindlessly going through the motions.
"Completing the same tasks day in and day out without challenge can lead to burn out or boredom. If you are experiencing this, it may be time to chase a bigger dream,” said Purusha Rivera, founder of My Baby’s Heartbeat Bear.
If you have chronic boredom or feel uninspired at the office, this is one of the strongest indicators that you’ve progressed beyond the expectations of this role. It’s important to be challenged in your job—that’s how you learn from your mistakes, hone your instinctive assets and personal strengths, acquire new proficiencies, and collaborate with the talents of others. But when your job description is not pushing you to explore outside your comfort zone, the outcome is a creative drought in which you become disengaged and jaded by the prospect of yet another monotonous workday.
If you’re able to knock out more projects on your list than most of your co-workers, this might not be a just sign of productivity and efficiency when completing your day-to-day operations. A prompt, timely work ethic is commendable, but if you’re too expedient, then chances are the work is easier than it should be. Performing tasks quickly and effortlessly without overcoming hurdles or troubleshooting difficulties won’t lead to a sense of achievement. Job satisfaction comes with the knowledge that you hustled and used your signature strengths for a successful finished product. If the assignments are too simplistic, you'll take less pride in your work.
If you sense a level of disconnect with your role in the company’s mission or how your contributions are viewed, then staying motivated can be a constant struggle. Employee engagement suffers, too. When those in a management position don’t acknowledge your efforts or reinforce your development, it’s exhausting to muster the incentive to remain on task. A decrease in motivation can cause you to check out mentally and lose the desire to be a productive, dynamic member of the team. So, assess whether the organizational structure has taken into account what you offer—or if your motivational bandwidth is running out.
If your goals of ascending the corporate ladder and assuming more leadership functions have begun to decline, this could suggest that you no longer recognize the qualities of a leader in yourself. That lack of confidence is frequently the result of not being treated as someone with the potential to lead.
"When you are not given the opportunities to assert your ideas and spearhead your visions, it’s demoralizing and can leave you questioning if upward mobility is something you even aspire to," said Holly Rollins, president and founder of 10x digital. "Inadequate support from your leaders often squelches your own ambitions for professional advancement."
If you look for distractions and excuses not to meet your deadlines, or you produce work of mediocre value, it’s a sign that you’ve just stopped caring. Procrastination is an occupational hazard for all employees, but in most of these cases, it’s sporadic and manageable. When procrastination becomes a regular part of the daily grind, this points to a deeper-rooted issue. Staring blankly at a computer screen with a looming agenda and no momentum to accomplish it can feel both creatively draining and energetically depleting. But this is what happens when you lose sight of your passion—or your job just doesn't give you the ability to work toward your long-term goals.
If your supervisors don’t appear to take notice of the marketable skills you have gained over the years, this comes across as under-appreciation—or even negligence. Learning a new area of expertise, obtaining a new certification, securing a new business connection or embracing a new challenge or reaching a new milestone is a vital aspect of your career trajectory. But if an employer doesn’t recognize and harness that growth, having acquired those skills in the first place can seem like a waste of time. An employer who isn’t paying attention to how you’re progressing can ruin on-the-job morale.
Examine your attitude and worth ethic objectively, and if any of these scenarios describe your current job outlook, then it’s time for an honest dialogue with your boss—or even upper management. And if they refuse to utilize the added value that you bring to this organization, it could be an incentive to move onto something more worthwhile. You should be using your strengths in the workplace, staying engaged, and growing in your role. If you're not, something needs to change—and you need to be the one to set the next stage of your career in motion.