This post was originally published in December 2018
While the Covid-19 pandemic saw many employees forced to change their careers, there are still those individuals who are coasting by in what we call a “career drift”. While they may have started their role with enthusiasm, over time some employees become not just complacent but even nonchalant about their role and while drifting may only happen for a few days, it can last for months or even years. And the longer you drift, the harder it becomes to get back on course.
Why do employees get into career drifts?
When employees are motivated and doing their best work there is a strong sense of satisfaction that helps drive this motivation, they do more great work and so the cycle continues. But when this gets disrupted by internal factors like mergers, restructures, business politics, or external factors such as relationships ending or illness, managing your career can take a backseat. When the disruption ends and employees can take stock of the situation, they suddenly realise that they’ve slipped into a career drift.
Another reason behind career drifts is reduced engagement and fewer challenges. For example, when someone works in the same role for many years they become less challenged in that role and slowly become more and more disengaged, and more disillusioned with their career choice. However, the deeper they get into this drift, the harder it becomes to navigate back or to make a change.
Why career drifts are a problem
Employees in career drifts are typically unmotivated and find no sense of personal achievement or reward in their work. Given most of us spend around 40 hours a week working, that is a significant chunk of time to feel apathetic. Furthermore, if you are a people manager, then part of your role is to lead and inspire others – a challenge if you are not inspired yourself.
How to get back on track
The good news is that the earlier you identify that you’re in a drift, the easier it is to get yourself back on course. Here are three questions to help get your career back on track:
- WHERE WOULD YOU LIKE TO BE IN 5 YEARS INSTEAD?
- WHAT IS YOUR DEFINITION OF CAREER SUCCESS?
- HOW CAN YOU GET MORE SATISFACTION AND SENSE OF ACCOMPLISHMENT AT WORK?
While only three, these are big questions and require effort and commitment to respond to. Enlisting the support of a mentor or career coach can be the difference between steering yourself back on course or remaining adrift.
Whatever the first step is for you, do it in the next 10 days. Stephen Covey once said the best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago; the next best time is today. The very same goes for career drift – one step today will start you back on course.