It happens to the best of us.
Even the most goal-oriented, ambitious, and driven people can, from time to time, find themselves stuck in a rut. If you’ve been in a job, field, or industry for any significant period of time, it’s common to feel a bit stagnated and stifled – especially if you’re no longer feeling challenged or if your professional growth has plateaued.
Newton's First Law of Motion states that a body at rest will remain at rest unless an outside force acts on it. Here are 3 steps to take to be the positive force your career needs to get moving again.
1. Identify Why You're Stuck
You can’t map out a course if you have no idea where you’re starting from (or what the destination is). That’s a sure-fire way to stay stuck. Ever find yourself a bit disoriented when you emerge from an underground subway tunnel or get off an elevator? You stand still, right? Until you can find your bearings or read a sign to point you where you need to be, you don’t keep moving; you stand still.
Identifying the cause of your rut is critical in helping you gain your bearings in your career. If you’re lucky, the tether holding you back in your career may be quite obvious (lack of opportunity in your current role, missing key industry certifications, or good old-fashioned complacency). If your obstacles are not staring you in the face, you may need to dig deep to uncover what exactly is holding you back. Career coaches are experts at mining for these root causes, so if your own personal self-reflection doesn’t get you any closer, you may want to schedule a career coaching session with someone who can help you identify your blocks.
Here are some common career stagnation causes to consider:
You want to “wait and see” if things change at your current workplace.
Maybe your organization is undergoing changes, or you expect someone to transition out of a role, or perhaps you feel that “your time” is right around the corner. These are all fair and valid reasons to be cautious about jumping ship or making a drastic move – but, how long are you willing to “wait and see”? How comfortable are you with relinquishing control of your career?
Negative beliefs about the job market (and your ability to navigate it).
This is the “devil you know is better than the devil you don’t” mentality. You might be more comfortable being miserable in your job, than experiencing (perceived) discomfort in the job market. But keep in mind, beliefs become your reality. If you truly believe that there’s nothing better out there, there won’t be. If you believe the job market is too tough for you to compete, you’ll be right. On the other hand, if you believe you have value to offer and the skills to make a difference, you’ll find a company or an employer who will see that in you. This is another area where a career coaching expert or expert resume writer can leverage their outside perspective to show you what you may be missing on your own.
This is a biggie. And, completely normal and natural. Anytime you want step-up or try something different, fear will rear its ugly head. Fear is great at inducing paralysis. But, the biggest antidote for fear, is acknowledging it. Once you know its fear – and not lack of skill and ability – it becomes a little less powerful and little easier to overcome.
2. Let Your Imagination Run Wild
Your imagination is your greatest motivator.
And, for many of us, the power source we tap into the least.
Whenever I’m feeling less than motivated to improve, to learn, or to challenge myself, I encourage myself to take a few minutes to daydream. I imagine the possibilities and feel as if those positive things are happening right now. The emotional response that happens in my body when I commit to “feeling” how my life would be different, completely fires me up to work toward those big scary goals.
Best tip I can give you: imagine all the “what ifs”.
What if you had your dream job? What if you had the compensation or benefit package you truly deserve? What if you could have the impact on a company or organization you desire? What if you could initiate the changes you’d like to see in the world or in a business? If your big dreams came true, how would that feel for you? How would that make a difference in your life?
Our logical brain can often stifle our ability to move forward and mute our ambition and motivation. Instead, let your emotional-self and feelings stoke the fires of your motivation. You might surprise yourself with how fearless you become with just a little daydreaming.
2. Commit to a First Step, only!
The first step is always the most difficult.
Trying something new is never easy. But, it’s not impossible.
Think of anything you currently enjoy doing. Was it easy right from the get-go?
One of my favourite extracurricular activities is mountain biking. The first time I showed up at a park to learn some basic skills, I stood over my bike paralyzed by doubt and fear for nearly 20 minutes (completely annoying the friend I had badgered into taking me). But when I finally got my feet on the pedals, and started moving, it got easier. The second time isn’t a scary as the first time. The third time isn’t as scary as the second, and so on.
Give yourself permission to be scared of making that first move, that first step. Commit to just one small action; one small, manageable step in the direction of your goals and use that momentum to keep you going. Make this first step – whatever it may be – as small as possible.
If you’re thinking about gaining a professional certification, maybe that first step is just researching organizations that offer the certification or finding training dates. Maybe you want to position yourself for a promotion this year, maybe the first step is arranging a meeting with a colleague or supervisor.
Still too scary? Draft an email script requesting the meeting or prepare some talking points and questions for the meeting, then move from there to actually setting-up the date.
If you feel you need a drastic career change, your first step could be reaching out to a coach or a friend who’s done something similar. Another great “first step” for any goal? Plan out all the little steps you can foresee needing to take over the course of the journey.
No matter what your first step is, try and keep your attention and focus on just that one single step. Don’t get hung-up on all the steps that happen after. Looking at your journey in its entirety or ruminating over everything else yet to be done, is a sure way to keep yourself paralyzed with overwhelm. That’s exactly what happened to me on that mountain bike.
Instead of just looking at the first bump to ride over, I was looking at the entire park and everything I’d never done before. It was only after making a deal with myself to just get over one bump, did I finally move the pedals on that bike. Breaking up your career journey into minuscule (almost ridiculously) small steps – can make even the most impossible goals suddenly seem more conquerable.
Ready to be a mover and shaker in your career? We’d love to help you get where you want to go (and fast!). Book a free chat with Nisha, our Client Happiness Manager, to get all your questions answered about our services.
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