Often at Roundtable, we encounter leaders who are in mid-career and may be assessing whether or not their work is aligned with their passion. They may wonder whether they should do something else as the grass looks much greener elsewhere. They may be in what we sometimes call “the career doom loop” and are looking to disrupt themselves and shake up their career.

The “career doom loop” is one of our favourite models to frame up the stages of a ‘career engagement cycle’ and was created by Charles Jett. After spending decades as an executive recruiter, Charles saw a pattern in terms of how we feel at various stages of our career and created this simple model.


Most people when entering a new role start in quadrant 1; they’re excited about the possibilities but they’re not at the top of their game. Once you have mastered your position, you move to the second quadrant you’ve hit your stride, you’re contributing, your employer thinks you’re awesome.


It’s also at this time that you are getting clearer on the elements of the job that may be less appealing to you. Maybe you’ve mastered certain things and they’re no longer challenging. Maybe elements of your job just don’t play to your strengths. Maybe you’ve lost your passion for parts of the work that used to engage you. Regardless, at some point, you can start to slide into the next stage which is when the “doom looping” begins. 


You are in a job you DON’T like/that you are GOOD AT. (You’re still good, but you’re starting to check out.) It’s at this stage that usually one of 2 things will happen:


  1. You continue to slide to the final stage of the “doom loop”: you don’t like your job / you’re no longer good at it.  You’ve probably seen this around organizations.  It’s often called “dead wood”.


  1. If you are a high performing fast tracker, you’ll never even hit the fourth and final stageYou will likely pop yourself out of your organization and head to greener pastures where you can begin again at stage one in a job you like, but that you’re not great at yet.

The challenge for all of us as leaders is to find something that will re-energize and help us feel challenged again. This may be a new project, new task or potentially a new role. This is why frequent and regular career conversations are so critical.


It’s critical are that these conversations dive into uncovering the zone of genius either for yourself or your team member. The “zone of genius”, based on research from the Hendricks Institute, is the space when you are capitalizing on your natural or innate abilities. It’s that amazing state of flow when you’re doing really great work and it’s something that uniquely distinguishes you from others.


Consider adding these three simple questions into your next career conversation with a team member or reflect on them for yourself to get into your own zone of genius:


  1. Career Aspirations: What types of activities do you hope to be doing in 3 years?
  2. Capabilities: What are the strengths that you want to continue to build on?
  3. Career juice: What experiences would you like to have more of? What parts of your current job are giving you energy?