(Women in Technology) Are you finding it difficult to drag yourself into the office? Has your job become a bit boring? If it seems like your career has plateaued, you may be one of the many tech pros suffering from a case of the mid-career blues.
Only 19 percent of tech pros in a recent survey felt overwhelmingly positive about their work life. In addition to general unhappiness, only 36 percent said their promotion and career paths were clear—compared to 50 percent of non-tech employees.
It’s easy to feel stuck if you focus on your day-to-day activities instead of where you’re headed. Here are some ways to get your career moving forward again.
Create a Roadmap
If your employer doesn’t provide a clear career path or planning tools, you’ll need to create your own action plan. A formal plan serves as a rudder, an outline for discussing your goals with your boss, and a learning guide to make sure you’re acquiring the skills and experience you need to move forward.
Executive coach and former tech VP Karen Kowal suggests that working on “cool projects” involving robotics, artificial intelligence, space or satellites is a great way to revitalize your career. However, you may need to acquire new skills and connections to make the transition, and that requires a roadmap.
The creation process is not only energizing, it may lead to new opportunities. For instance, having coffee or informational interviews with people inside and outside your company may help you discover new career tracks and opportunities to use your current skills. As French author Antoine de Saint-Exupery once said: “A goal without a plan is just a wish.”
Give Equal Time to Professional Development
If you’re more focused on doing your job than managing your personal development, you need to give equal time and effort to building your network, learning open source software, or developing leadership skills such as emotional intelligence and executive presence.
Taking your game to the next level can help you break out of a slump by changing the way you are perceived, according to Steve Davis, a technology career coach who counsels engineers in JPMorgan Chase’s leadership development program.
“It’s not who you know or what you know that matters, but who knows you,” Davis explained. “Improving your performance and demeanor will help you get noticed, and that often leads to new opportunities or promotions.”
If your company doesn’t offer training, consider taking a few courses in budgeting, planning, communications or developing an executive presence. Then raise your profile by finding an opportunity to showcase your newfound talents.
Rediscover Your Passion and Creativity
Over time, performing repetitive tasks can drain your energy and cause you to become cynical. Transitioning into a role or project that reignites your passions can breathe new life into your psyche and technical career, advised Gina Calvano, career coach and president of Indigoforce, a career-coaching company.
“Look for opportunities to access your creative side, which shifts the energy in your brain,” Calvano suggested.
Psychologists agree that simply dabbling in the arts awakens our ability to approach life with greater openness and curiosity. For tech pros, becoming more involved in R&D, design, storyboarding, or other aspects of the user experience may revive your spirits and get you over the hump.
Expand Your Horizons
Moving into a consulting role or working as an IT contractor for a year or two can expand your skillset and professional network quickly, and give you the ability to see things from a different prospective. You’ll gain exposure to a wide variety of clients, problems and technologies, and, after building up your résumé, you’ll prove more attractive to other companies.
Take a Mini-Sabbatical
Some companies offer tenured employees extended vacations or mini-sabbaticals. Your boss may be willing to give you some time off to refill your energy tank if you agree to learn new skills while you’re gone and share your knowledge with your colleagues when you return.
Leslie Stevens-Huffman is a business and careers writer based in Southern California.