Escaping the Rut

Careers can take unexpected turns when you take unexpected actions

Sail on the down the line, ‘bout half a mile or so, and don’t really wanna know . . . ‘eally wanna know . . . ‘eally wanna know . . . 

Back in the old days, back when Lionel Richie was with the Commodores, back when his afro was bigger than a Beefeater’s hat, back when frequencies of sound were pressed onto a flat vinyl disc and then conducted electronically through a metal stylus called a “tooth” or a “needle”—geez, this seems ridiculous, doesn’t it?—songs would skip back when played back.

Yes, Generation MP3, you heard that right. Heard that right. Heard that right.

What happened was the needle would reach a rut in the record and retreat a few seconds, then would reach the rut again and retreat a few seconds, then would reach the rut again and retreat a few seconds.

Over and over and over.

You lived with such imperfections because that’s just the way it was. Ruts developed not from abuse, but rather from routine wear and tear, dust and dirt, usage and warpage. Best you could do was wipe your records clean, keep them stored in paper sleeves and touch them as infrequently as possible.

And when you did, you did so, so gently, by the edges and with your palms, as if you were wearing kitchen mitts and taking a casserole dish out of the oven.

You know something? The good old days kind of sucked.

We’ve come a long way since then, as first cassettes, then CDs, then iPods, iPhones and Spotify turned turntables into antiquities and those ruts—those aggravating, frustrating, paralyzing ruts—into relics.

Record ruts, anyway. As for career ruts—those aggravating, frustrating, paralyzing ruts—they remain for many as deep and intractable as ever.

If you’ve been in the casino industry longer than, well, yesterday, you’ve surely seen signs of rutting. Could be you. Could be a colleague. Could be a friend or foe. But no matter who’s suffering, the symptoms are the same. Like literally the “same,” as in the same company, the same title, the same duties, and—save for an annual cost-of-living adjustment—the same paycheck.

Rut-roh.

That’s right, Scoobs, employment ennui affects everyone, some temporarily and intermittently, others permanently and continually. However, you don’t have to be stuck in the same groove forever.

To wit, here are three proven techniques to get your career out of low gear.

 

Shake It Up

Odds are, your company has more things to do than resources to do them. In other words, it could use a helping hand.

Raise yours.

Volunteer for a special project. Could be anything that piques your curiosity in operations, marketing, research, product development, accounting, whatever.

Something magical happens when you evacuate your comfort zone. Everything seems new and clean. It’s fun, it’s exciting, it’s invigorating. It’s like when you go on vacation. And it’s not all about what it’s all about for you. The company will benefit from your unpolluted perspective, your innocence and even naiveté. You don’t know what you don’t know, so to speak. Employers should strive to get all these viewpoints into the salad bowl, the new with the old, the inexperienced with the learned, the wild-eyed with the steely-eyed.

Then toss, baby, toss.

Take that first step and ask your boss what you can do to help.

 

Relax

Maybe you like to draw. Maybe you like to play chess. Maybe you like to write poetry. Maybe you like to go on Facebook and police everyone’s grammar.

Hey, to each his own. (Or is it “their” own?)

Relax. Decompress. Unplug. Spend more time with your family and away from your laptop. You’ll develop a greater appreciation for both.

Here’s a tip inside a tip: Tonight, leave your phone downstairs when you go to bed. Take seven or eight hours off. Recharge your battery while it’s recharging its.

Chances are a little away-time will smooth out these career ruts. But if they don’t…

 

Time To Say Goodbye 

Hey, when in doubt, get the #$@% out.

Roger Waters, a founding member of (and the leading destroyer of) Pink Floyd, said he left the band because its creative energy was exhausted. Gone. Vaporized. Hasta la vista, baby. Had been, he felt, for a long time. And despite the surety, the security, the cold comfort and cash that came from staying with this commercial juggernaut, he wished to not be here—in this environment, in this group, in this rut—anymore.

So, in 1985, he quit.

It takes courage, and perhaps a little madness, to yank the plug on an ATM, whether it’s spitting out dollar bills or hundred-dollar bills. Lots of folks have walked away from steady paychecks to pursue bigger and better dreams, only to end up frantically scratching on the very door they slammed shut behind them.

But if you find yourself dreading the daily routine of work and showing up only because of the paycheck, yeah, it’s time. It’s time to do something different in your career and with your life.

You won’t be the first to feel this way. Or the last. Lionel Richie took his talents—and his ’fro—and went solo. Gwen Stefani left no doubt she was leaving No Doubt. Beyoncé dumped the other girls in Destiny’s Child. Simon said goodbye to Garfunkel. Natalie Merchant 86’d the rest of those 10,000 Maniacs.

Sometimes, to save your sanity and yourself, there’s only one thing you can do.

Sail on down the line . . . the line . . . the line.

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