You started a new job, and you're untouchable. You work hard, feel motivated to perform, often going the extra mile for projects and clients. Then after a year… it stops.
Maybe you’re burned out, work got tougher, or the honeymoon phase is simply over. Whatever the reason, you've hit the sophomore slump. The sophomore slump can happen to anyone: athletes who plateau after a breakout rookie year; musicians whose second albums don’t live up to their first; or students who lose motivation to work after a year of school.
The word ‘sophomore’ perfectly describes this rut: the word is said to come from the Greek words “sophos” meaning “wise” and “moros” meaning “foolish”. Sophomores, the story goes, are literally wise fools: people who think they know it all but in fact are still quite inexperienced.
Sophomore slumps can be painful to work through, and many employees don’t make it. But by proactively taking steps to combat the sophomore slump, you have a great chance to grow and become a truly high-performing employee.
Over-communicate with your manager.
Explain how you’re feeling and why you’re struggling; chances are they have noticed the performance lull as well. Talk through the problem with them, and ask for their feedback. Then devise a plan today for tracking your performance for the next few months. Tell your manager what you need from them, whether it’s support, motivation, or advice.
After this first discussion, don’t stop communicating with them. Throughout the day and the week, alert them to any work issues, and keep them updated on your emotional state.
When stress is high and performance is low, it can be hard to remember why you love the job, and why you’re there. If you have career goals, take some time to revisit them.
Step back, look at the bigger picture, and ask: why did you accept this job? What aspects of the job do you love? How does it fit into your long-term career goals? Having a broader perspective can help push you when tackling the smaller tasks.
Try a new approach.
Effective work strategies used during the first year at the job may not cut it during the second year. You may be taking on more responsibility or more challenging projects, requiring better time management and organization skills than during year one. Managers have higher expectations for employees who aren’t brand new as well.
Experiment with new tactics for organizing daily and weekly tasks, and ask team members how they approach their work. Try their strategies, and see if they produce better results.
Reach out to high-performing colleagues.
When struggling through the slump, it helps to know you’re not alone. Reach out to more tenured employees who are doing well, and ask to take them to coffee or lunch. Ask if they have ever struggled with a similar rut at work, and what they did to get out of it. Knowing others at the company have successfully survived the slump can motivate you to persevere.