Being satisfied with your career is a major component of overall happiness for many people. Professional satisfaction comes from feeling valued and finding meaning in your work. When you no longer feel happy with your job, you may wonder how to address these feelings in a constructive way. In this article, we discuss what it means to be stuck in your career, how to tell if you’re stuck in your career and what you can do to address these feelings and move forward.
What does it mean to be stuck in a career?
Being stuck in your career means that you feel like you don’t have opportunities for career advancement or other professional possibilities. You may feel like you are unable to change your career path despite being unhappy. Feeling stuck means that you believe you don’t have options to adjust your circumstances.
The reasons for feeling stuck in your career vary and may include:
- Feeling like you can’t change jobs: You might have taken a position primarily for the salary and now feel like you can’t change jobs if it means earning less money.
- Being highly specialized: When your work becomes highly specialized, you may worry that your skill set is too narrow to use in a new job.
- Getting comfortable in your position: After several years in the same job, you may be comfortable in your role and overwhelmed by the idea of making a change, even if you’re not progressing professionally.
- Feeling intimidated by new technology or skills: You might be intimidated by the new skills you need to advance in your career, such as learning software, giving presentations or leading a team.
How to tell if you’re stuck in your career
Here are signs that you have lost momentum in your career:
- Your work is no longer challenging
- You are bored at work
- Your performance or productivity has declined
- You feel like you can’t earn less
- You are scared of learning a new position
- Your job no longer aligns with your values
- You are not motivated
- You feel stressed or irritable
- Your mental or physical health is suffering
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What to do when you’re stuck in your career
Here are ways you can expand your career possibilities and feel more confident in your professional trajectory:
Evaluate your goals and values
The first step in making a change is assessing what you really want out of your career. Think about what you want your life to look like in five or ten years, professionally and personally. Ask yourself if the job you’re in can provide that life or if it would require a change. For instance, if you want to buy a home in five years, but you know that you can’t afford to with your current salary, your goals should include earning more money.
Additionally, you should reflect on your values and whether your company promotes the same things that you care about, like giving back to the community, environmental initiatives and a supportive work environment. These are important factors to consider when you’re deciding if you should switch companies or switch careers entirely. If you realize your company is a great fit for you, but you still feel stuck, you might consider a different industry.
Identify what you’re good at
Rather than focus on the skills that you don’t have, make a list of the things that you can do. Include your technical and interpersonal skills. For example, you may work in the IT department and lead the activities committee. You want to capture all of the traits that make you a valuable asset to your current company or a future employer.
As you develop this list, consider which of your skills or abilities you enjoy the most. This can help you determine if you’re feeling stuck because you no longer perform the tasks that you enjoy, the things that attracted you to your roles in the first place. Maybe your role has changed over time to include mostly duties that you don’t like. Consider speaking with your manager about how you might incorporate more of these tasks into your day.
Expand your social network
Having a large, diverse social network can help you move forward in your career by connecting you with professionals in varied industries performing a range of roles. Whether in person or online, your can use your networks to:
- Learn about different fields and companies
- Ask for advice
- Collaborate on ideas
- Share your knowledge
- Discover job opportunities
Learn something new
You can break out of your comfort zone by learning a new skill. Consider taking an online night course to learn a new software, take a beginning coding workshop or attend a leadership seminar. Gaining knowledge and skills can lay the groundwork for career advancement, whether at your current company or somewhere new.
You may consider going back to school if you decide you want to pursue a new career path. Earn a bachelor’s degree to start working a new field, or earn a master’s degree if you want to pursue management roles.
Find a mentor
Speaking with someone about your frustrations and concerns can help you feel less burdened by them. Find a person who you admire, who has been through similar challenges and will be honest with you. Consider working with a career coach or professional mentor to identify the cause of your feelings and create solutions.
To help get you out of a rut, find ways to feel inspired. Here are some ideas:
- Do something you used to love, like drawing or painting
- Take up a new hobby, like ballroom dancing or coaching a youth soccer team
- Take a trip
- Reconnect with old friends
- Practice yoga or meditation
- Read motivating books or listen to self-improvement podcasts
- Spend time in nature
Your boost of inspiration can spark the creativity and motivation you need to make big changes in your personal or professional life.
Part of feeling stuck in your career may be because you don’t have definitive goals in place. You may want to make a change “at some point,” but without a clear definition of your plans, it’s hard to start working towards that change. Set S.M.A.R.T. goals that are:
- Specific: Your goals should be clearly defined rather than vague statements.
- Measurable: You should be able to measure goals in objective ways, like numbers, ranking or percentages.
- Attainable: Make your goals realistic.
- Relevant: Your goals should address your specific concerns and have a direct impact on improving them.
- Time-based: Set a deadline for your goals and benchmarks along the way.
Build your confidence
When you feel stuck, it can impact how you feel about yourself. Building your confidence can help you take more risks, like asking for a promotion, meeting with your supervisors about new opportunities and applying to other jobs.
You can help increase your confidence by:
- Dress more professionally at work
- Do something that scares you, like karaoke or offering your art for sale
- Practice positive self talk
- Develop positive coping skills for stress and anxiety
I’m Daniel Mutuku, a Career Change Coach. I help professionals change their careers and transition to the UN, NGOs and international organisations.
As your career coach, I assist you in getting unstuck in your career. I will support you through the application process, all the way until you secure the job.
Professionals who want to get a job that pays them well for their skills, experience and who strongly want to be in charge of their professional life always have a COACH.
“It is never too late to be what you might have been.”—George Eliot