Comfortable or Complacent?

With 2013 beginning to wind down, many people will use this time of year to take stock in their lives.  One part of that introspection will often include one’s career.  Individuals who have been doing the same job for multiple years will begin to question whether they have become complacent in their career…or are they comfortable where they are?

Being comfortable in your career is a good thing.  understanding what is expected from clients/co-workers, being able to achieve solid results, people knowing who you are and what you can do, and having well established relationships that can help you be productive are all signs of a healthy career and one where someone is most likely ‘comfortable’ in his/her role.  Being ‘comfortable’ is healthy.

The danger is when one moves from being comfortable to being ‘complacent’ in a career.  Spending 8+ hours a day feeling unmotivated/unchallenged is not the way one should spend his/her life.  As I began crafting this entry, I came across an article by Charles Scott, whose friend described complacency as when we “continue to unconsciously participate in the herd.”  Does your career still challenge you?  Do you feel as though you are growing/developing skills/evolving in your profession? Do you experience a feeling of satisfaction? Are you going through the motions?

Breaking out of the rut that we may find ourselves in from time to time can be accomplished a number of ways.  For example:

    • New Projects: Meet with your supervisor and propose new projects you could take on for the organization.  This will usually mean more on your work plate as bosses will usually want to see results from the new projects before they will move your old responsibilities to others.
    • Courses: Can you take courses at a local college to grow your skill sets?  How about through HR? Develop needed skills so you will be ready to take on new projects, move to new roles within or outside of the organization, perform your role more efficiently, or just feel intellectually challenged.
    • Network & Benchmark: Meet with others within and outside of your organization to see what new processes, trends, ideas, technology, programs, etc. are being implemented.  Bring back these ideas to your workplace for consideration and possible implementation.  This could give you the spark you have been looking for in your role.
    • Career Break:  Does your employer offer a sabbatical (don’t laugh, Intel and Accenture offer sabbatical/leaves for staff who are at a certain level and with a certain number of years experience)?  If not, would you consider taking a career break to pursue your personal interests?

Being complacent in one’s career is a dangerous place to be.  One the one hand, you are probably performing at an acceptable level in your role, but in reality you are on the edge of a slippery slope.  As you slow, or stop, your career growth and development, others will pass you by and soon you will be in the “low performers” group.  By then, it could be too late to save your job.  Don’t let complacency undo your previous years’ hard work, consider trying some of the ideas mentioned above to keep you challenged and motivated in your career.


About Kevin Monahan

I have 10+ years experience in coaching clients in their career management and career change efforts. Personal career consulting services combined with employer outreach to help find opportunities for both constituents.
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