Feeling Stuck



I have been speaking to a number of people in recent times who are feeling stuck in their careers and do not know how to take the next step. Their situation is not strange to me. Talking to them took me back to when I really felt stuck in my career and needed to change the course of its trajectory.

As I have shared with many of you, I worked in one organisation for over 20 years. I was able to stay there for that number of years because I performed many different roles and rose to a high level. Despite this versatility, I eventually started to feel stuck because I needed a change of environment, do new things at a higher level and meet new people.

Luckily, the opportunity came, and I got a job that ticked all of my boxes. Like the rich man in the bible, I thought it was now time to relax and live the good life. Alas, was I mistaken. Despite the fact that it met all of my supposed needs, the environment was not for me. So, I had to resign.

This was not an easy decision to make. But, thankfully, I was at a point in my life, where my mental well-being mattered more to me than my financial. Making the choice to leave a job that was giving me stress though very difficult, was doable.

Many of us do not have this leeway to decide whether to stay in a job or to leave the job because of the financial or societal obligations we have.
According to Elizabeth Garone, in her article, Turning Around When Your Job Feels Like a Dead End”, she said: “It is nearly a career certainty: that unpleasant feeling of being stuck and not really knowing what to do about it comes around at least once over the course of a working life.

If you think that everyone else is happy at work, think again. One-third of employees around the world say they are dissatisfied at work and nearly as many say their jobs are just “ok”, according to a Glassdoor.com ongoing company review survey with data from companies in 190 countries. Of course, there are circumstances beyond your control that can cause your career to sputter: economic downturns, unanticipated restructurings, and bad bosses, to name a few. But for that plain old feeling of stuck-in-place, there are solutions.”

One question, I tend to ask people these days, is what next? Many people stay in careers and do not think about the next step until dissatisfaction seeps in. We get so comfortable being in the same organisation and going through the same routine without thinking about tomorrow. This scenario happens at all levels, but I worry more for the people at the top and middle levels.
We need to start thinking proactively about the next step. However, not everybody has the luxury to even start to think about this next step before they start feeling stuck.
Here are some tips from me and Elizabeth Garone on what to do when you are stuck.

Make a lateral move
While some career coaches do not recommend a lateral move within your current company, since it can leave lingering doubts when you look for another job, many consider it an excellent way to jumpstart a stagnating career — if you will be adding new skills or setting yourself up for a future promotion.

“A lateral move into another group can offer you the excitement and the challenge of a new position without the bigger risks of changing organizations. It can help you avoid that overwhelming feeling of being stuck in a dead-end job,” and allows you to bring relevant and valuable experience from your past group to the new position.

A lateral move can also help when a more senior position eventually opens up. Having diverse experience in the organization should give you “a leg up on your fellow employees” when it comes getting a promotion”.

Keep your eye on postings internally and ask colleagues in groups you are interested in transferring to whether there are openings upcoming that might not be posted. It also pays to take the temperature of people in the target work group — make sure they, too, do not feel stuck in their jobs.

Back to school
I know many people who have used going back to school as an escape route. Many believe it is the easiest and best way to jumpstart their careers. But that isn’t always the case, said Al Stewart, founder of Business Mentors “I watched many individuals enroll in coursework that was going to do little for them after their graduation,” he said. The main problem: many people do not do critically research before enrolling in a particular major. “In a market where there are few jobs, even an additional degree doesn’t help if the market is stagnant or slow,” he said.

That’s not to say going back to school for a degree program or a certificate is not a good idea. The key is to focus on fields that are “hot” and in need of talent.

Is the grass greener somewhere else?
One of the most direct way to get your career on the upswing: find a job with another company. You would not be alone. According to the 2012 Candidate Behavior Study from employment site Careerbuider.com, 74% of the 1,078 workers surveyed were either actively searching for a new job or were open to a new opportunity.

Get your resume or CV out there. Let people know you are available for new opportunity. Make sure you are up to date and reflect the sorts of skills you want to use in your next job.

“It’s important to hold onto your job until you get the next job so that you are perceived as more valuable” said Dan Schawbel, author of the upcoming book Promote Yourself: The New Rules for Career Success.

Start a Business and Become an Entrepreneur
You may also decide to turn your passion into a business. I read a quotation on twitter a few days ago, which said, “You will never become incredibly wealthy by working for someone else. And you will never become incredibly wealthy by living a “safe”, “positive work-life balance, “time-clock punching professional life.”

So, maybe that feeling of being stuck is God’s way of telling you, it is time to get rich, become an entrepreneur and leave a legacy for generations unborn.
Many entrepreneurs who have made great impact in their chosen endeavours started by feeling stuck in the activity they were engaged in before striking out to start their businesses.

Whether you decide to make a lateral move, go back to school, seek a position elsewhere, or start a business, you’ll need to take a more proactive approach to those things you can control to lessen your chances of feeling stuck again.