What To Do When You've Outgrown Your Job

You might think you can still do their job well if you've outgrown it, but a recent study from Florida Atlantic University showed that, in fact, if it's time to move on and you've stayed put, you might start to suck at your job.

Image from Hamza Butt/flickr.

Said the study:

This might range from coming in late or leaving early to theft or bullying co-workers. The more overqualified an employee feels, the more likely they are to engage in counterproductive behaviours that impair the effective functioning of organisations...

While your performance might not slip into the realm of theft or bullying your colleagues, feeling like your role no longer suits you can affect your mindset and attitude. If you're feeling overqualified, here's what to do.

Decide If Things Can Change

Even if you feel you've hit a dead end when it comes to career growth, you don't necessarily have to leave your job. Alison Green, of Ask a Manager, explains that if you're unhappy at work, you should talk to your manager about it -- if you think things can be fixed and if you would stay if they were to change.

You have to decide for yourself what that means. Do you need a percentage of your responsibilities and projects to become more challenging? Do you want to focus on just one new skill?

If you decide that either things aren't able to change or that you wouldn't stay if they did, finding a new job may be your next move. Even so, talk to your manager first worth -- they may be able to suggest changes you thought weren't possible.

Look for Internal Opportunities

If you can work with your manager to change the parameters of your job, start with seeing how you can expand your role, even temporarily. On NPR's podcast Hidden Brain, Amy Wrzesniewski, Professor of Organisational Behaviour at Yale, describes how you can use "job crafting" to make your current role more meaningful.

That can certainly happen, where people can stumble into something and realise, "This is what I would do even if I hit the lottery," versus, "How is it I can craft the boundaries of this job [...] in such a way that I can come to experience it perhaps as something that is meaningful [as] potentially a calling could be."

The second situation she describes is one where you can shape your job, and ultimately your career, into work that motivates you. Everyone's organisation is different, so you'll know the best way to look for opportunities, but here's a list of potential ones to get you started.

  • Take something off someone else's plate: If there's something that your boss or a team mate has to do often, but that seems boring for them, offer to take it over. This gives you the chance to learn something new and gives them more bandwidth to focus on other work.
  • Get an inside view: Tasks such as helping prepare meeting slides or agendas, taking notes for your boss at meeting, or helping to document processes or resources are mundane, but they give you a peek into how higher ups make decisions.
  • Support another team: You'll want to clear this with your manager first, but supporting another team on a project can expose you to new skills, work, or ways of thinking.
  • Fill a gap where resources are low: Offer to take on projects or tasks that are falling by the wayside because there aren't enough resources to sustain them. You'll get to do something different and take ownership while helping your department and company.

Start Job Searching for a Stretch Role

Not every manager or company will be willing to shift your job description or offer internal opportunities to expand your role. If that's the case for you, your best options may be to look for a new job. Search for roles that will be a stretch and give you something to work towards -- you don't want to end up feeling like you've outgrown your job again in a short time.

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