Feeling 'stuck' in your career? Here's my top tips to start moving forwards.
Updated: Apr 3, 2021
When I ask my clients how they’re feeling about their life, a lot of them use the word “stuck”. They’re not happy with what’s going on in their lives right now, but they’ve no idea what they want instead, so essentially they don’t feel they can move forward, hence the description of “stuck.”
I’m sure it’s a feeling a lot of us can relate to. It can happen in any area of our life- career, love life, home life, but there are lots of things we can do to stop feeling like this and actually become unstuck and move forwards. Here are my tips if you’re feeling stuck at work.
Identify the reason you’re feeling stuck
It’s definitely a great starting point to know how you’re feeling, but the only way you’ll help yourself become unstuck is by getting to the bottom of why you’re feeling the way you are. Here are some examples of why you may be feeling stuck.
- You’re unsure what you want to move towards
Sometimes we feel stuck because we don't know what we want from our career anymore. Reconnecting with your core values is a great first step here (a coach can really help you to dig deep to help you find out what they truly are). Also reflect on your personality type and your strengths. Then you might want to ask yourself some big questions with these values, personality traits and strengths in mind. Visualise your perfect day at work, five years from now - what are you doing? Who are you doing it with? What’s happening to make you know you’re in your perfect job?
Visualising your ‘10 out of 10’ idea of your dream job can help you uncover the feeling you want and help you identify the first steps you can take to get there.
- You’re bored
It can be easy to coast along at work if you've done the job for quite a while but this can quickly lead to boredom and demotivation. Maybe you’ve got to a point where you’re doing your job with your eyes closed and not feeling stretched or challenged at work. Or maybe you no longer feel passionate about that particular area of work. Whatever the reason, boredom requires change to shake things up.
For many, big changes aren’t possible all at once, but small changes, in baby steps can really help. An idea could be to go to your manager and ask for a small change that could help you feel more engaged at work, telling them your reasoning (in a positive way, like, "I'd love to take some new challenges on". Treat it like an experiment and see how it makes you feel, this small change could open the door for bigger changes down the line.
If you don’t believe change within your current role is the answer, it may be time to look for other jobs. Consider reaching out to someone in the job or industry you’ve an interest in and see if you can chat to them to learn more about what that job is like, what are the desired skills or ways into the job.
- You’re stuck in chaos
When you’re snowed under at work, there’s hardly any time to think about anything else apart from the job at hand, so finding time to think about a whole new job or career is pretty much off the cards.
It can be helpful here to raise your workload with your line manager, to try and find ways to free up some time and allow you take a step back and think about the bigger picture. Again, don't word it in a way that suggests you can't handle the workload! Can you delegate tasks? Do you need to reaffirm your boundaries and say no more often?
Try ear-marking or blocking out some time in your diary where you can really focus on exploring what you want from your career each week. What can you stop wasting time on doing and replace that time with time dedicated to working on that dream career? Maybe that half an hour you’ve just lost scrolling through social media could be a good start? Set boundaries around this time and make it a ‘do not disturb’ day (or morning/afternoon if a whole day isn’t possible) so others know not to come to you with questions. Even if you only manage a couple of hours a week, you’ll be amazed at how much progress you can make in focused bursts.
Once you’ve identified why you feel stuck, you can move onto the next step - taking action.
Clarity can’t be achieved through thinking, guessing or hypothesising. Instead you need to start taking action depending on what cause you’ve identified and notice what helps and what doesn’t.
For example, you may think a small change will help you feel less bored at work, but once you’ve made that change you may still feel unfulfilled and stuck. This can uncover a deeper unhappiness and prompt you to think about your purpose and what more you want from your work life.
You don’t need to be absolutely sure to take action, this clarity and confidence will come once you start moving forward. Consider any stumbles that happen on the way as feedback, helping you get closer to what you truly want.
As simple as some of these ideas may sound when written out in an article, uncovering what’s really going on and taking action can be tough. Self-doubt can pipe up, we may lose our nerve or it may simply feel easier to stay stuck than move forward. This is why getting support can be so powerful.
Career Coaching is an option many turn to in these circumstances. Working with an unbiased professional can offer the space you need to dig a little deeper, unpick why you feel stuck and offer the accountability you need to take action.
If this isn’t possible, you may want to talk things through with your line manager at work, HR or even a friend - someone who’s rooting for you to feel more fulfilled. You could ask them to gently hold you accountable and check in with you to see how you’re getting on.
Either way, know that you don’t have to go through this alone. Lots of people have felt this way and go on to become unstuck, happier and more fulfilled.