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The Five Year Itch: Has Your Career Stalled?

Five years in, your job is safe and secure, you’re comfortable with your colleagues and you have a great relationship with your boss. So what gives? Why do you find yourself day-dreaming about doing something different or dreading the close of the weekend? You may have heard people in conversation talking about the “five year itch” and the disengagement that often follows after a few years of working diligently with your head to the grindstone. So what is it? Can you prevent it? Has your career stalled for good?

The “Five Year Itch” Explained

Five, three, heck, even two years into a job, most of us start to feel a little stale or bored with day-to-day operations. When doing a job well requires using the same tools, meeting with the same people day in and day out, and having the same work load and the same interactions, this is particularly true. The truth is, it does become boring and it’s usually around year number five when it starts to become more evident. Trust me, you’re not alone if you’re starting to dread Monday mornings or you’re counting the hours until Friday afternoon. The good news is, there are always ways to get through the sheer boredom of it all and get back on track.

Is the Grass Always Greener? 

A strong indicator that the five year itch is starting to creep up is when you find yourself pining to know what’s on the other side of the fence. If you’re talking to friends, peers or people in your organization from a different department and you obsess over what you hear they’re working on, you might be experiencing the five year itch. Is the grass always greener on the other side? The truth is probably somewhere in the middle, and while it’s tough to make sense of now, a few simple changes can get you back in the game raring and ready to go. Remember, the people on the other side of the fence may be looking at your workload and wishing it were theirs.

Reigniting the Spark

Not so different than managing a marriage, there are specific strategies and tools for reengaging with your job that may help you get through these tough periods. Often, by adding a few more challenging assignments into the mix or simply changing everyday tasks, boredom and monotony can be eliminated. Consider asking yourself what it was about your career that interested you in the first place and try to be honest about whether or not you’re still interested or if you’d be happier pursuing a different path.

When you start dreaming about taking time off or spend work time thinking about what you do when you’re not working, it may be time to take a step back and reassess. Losing focus and not performing effectively because you can’t stop musing about other things may be resolved easily with a few minor changes. Or, it could be time to consider changing directions. If you’re honest with yourself and you can’t picture where you might be in your organization going forward or you’ve exhausted the role you have now, the five year itch may be trying to tell you something- and you should listen.

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