Do you spend your working day on autopilot, content to collect your paycheque but lacking challenges and motivation? You could be career sleepwalking.

Victims of career sleepwalking have no sense of professional direction, no clear vision of where they’ll be in five years’ time.

Development and progression are vital if you want your job to mean more than just money. It’s a core contributor to your happiness and sense of fulfilment. So you can’t afford to just sit there. The first steps in taking control of your career advancement are not easy, but they’re crucial and will be extremely rewarding.

What are the signs of career sleepwalking?

Start by asking yourself these critical questions:

  • Am I motivated and challenged at work?
  • Do I have problems to solve to keep me on my toes?
  • Can I pinpoint which direction I’m moving in?
  • Do I have a current career development plan?
  • Does working at my organisation align with my long-term goals?
  • Am I developing and learning not just in my career but as an individual?

If you answered ‘No’ to at least half these questions, you may be career sleepwalking.

But you’re not alone.

According to Business Insider, 54% of Australians would find their work more meaningful if their career goals were defined. And 61% would be more engaged with their work if there was an opportunity to progress in their career.

So it’s clear that having a career plan and moving purposefully along it, beats sitting still and feeling comfortable, hands down.

How to prevent career sleepwalking

Don’t let your career doze off. Make a move.

Start by establishing where you sit in your organisational hierarchy, what the next few rungs on the ladder are, and how to get there. Do you perhaps need to learn new skills, or be seconded to a different department?

Then ask your boss to give you additional opportunities to learn and grow. Extra responsibilities? New projects? Team leadership? Presentations to senior management? Go above and beyond, and make sure your contribution is noticed.

Also, strive to become an intrapreneur – a person who can be relied on to be innovative and implement new processes and grasp new opportunities.

Never underestimate the importance of networking. Actively participate in your professional association. Attend conferences and workshops. Post articles on LinkedIn. Put yourself out there. These contacts will remain with you wherever you work.

Finally, find a mentor and work with them to outline your goals and career possibilities – perhaps someone within your organisation, or an outsider you know through a professional association or industry gathering.

Everybody benefits from career progress

But what if you are motivated and happy with your role and career plan, but still feel like you’re not going anywhere? You may not be career sleepwalking, but just being wide awake isn’t enough.

Here’s how to get things moving.

Don’t be hemmed in by your job title. Be an agile learner, and master a new skill. ‘Soft’ skills like good communication, critical thinking, positivity, teamwork and leadership will always be a valuable addition to the ‘hard’ skills you already bring to your job. An accountant could learn about public speaking or customer service. An architect could master report writing and conflict resolution. If there’s no formal course available you can always find free resources online.

Secondly, leverage performance appraisals. Use constructive feedback to focus on strengths and eliminate weaknesses. Don’t be afraid to have an open conversation with your manager about this, and draw their attention to how feedback has helped you to change and progress.

And have you considered a side gig? It’s your opportunity to not only earn a few extra dollars or assist a non-profit organisation, but also to be creative and develop skills in a new field. At the very least it will give you a refreshing new perspective on your current situation.

Congratulations – you’ve taken the first step

Well done. You understand what career sleepwalking is, and you’re no longer in cruise control. The hard part will be truly taking command and making sure you never again fall into the non-progression trap.

If you feel you need to rethink your career path or discuss some options for progress, FutureYou is here to help. Contact our team of specialist consultants in Sydney and Melbourne.