One of the most common words people use to describe their careers to me is ‘stuck’. Followed closely by ‘lost’. So how do you get your career unstuck? We have 3 actionable steps to get you going!
You may have been working since colleague or uni and not have not stopped for a breath of air? Maybe you have been promoted internally in your company or have just been so busy you haven’t stopped to think if you really enjoy your job? Sometimes there will be a clear trigger that makes you stop and think, other times it will be like a scene out of a Bond movie with a candle burning the rope until you snap! Let’s try not to let it get to that.
We have 3 actionable steps in this blog post to assist you in moving through those feelings to develop some career clarity to your next steps. Firstly, we will explore the parts that make you whole. Secondly, we will teach you how to desktop design your new roles and thirdly explore a range of career destinations.
In a recent research report by ING Future Focus developed with futurist Anders Sörman-Nilsson they noted there are 3.3 million Aussie adults want to change their job. You are NOT alone! Sometimes changing your job is not always the change you need and there can be lots of factors that contribute to feeling stuck or lost beyond your career. The good news is being stuck or lost is all part of a process for you to find out what is important. These states of being ‘lost’ or ‘stuck’ often will cause you to redistribute your resources and brain power to focus your time and attention to the subject to help yourself find a way out.
So now you know what you are going through is completely normal and not only normal but a trigger for action, let’s keep rolling into our three basic steps to get your career unstuck ready for that career change.
Step 1. Explore the parts of you that make you whole
Being a ‘little lost’ through to ‘trapped in the wilderness’ lost is often is a pervasive feeling or a sense that permeates all other aspects of your life and could lead to your feeling demotivated, uninspired which may negatively affect your health and relationships. It makes everything feel a bit crappy.
The key is to climb out of the ditch is to have an action-bias. Which means you need to do %$*&. Just start with small %$*& but watching instagram reels or bingeing on Netflix while scrolling LinkedIn looking at all your friends get promoted isn’t going to be the actions that help you move forward.
No matter how small a step. Start small and simple. Catch-up with friends, go for a hike in a forest, take a bath. Find or re-embrace the very small things you find joy in. From here you can build on a solid foundation of a good night’s sleep, eating well and exercising. I’m not imagining you need to embrace a 6 week shred or a 30 day super green smoothie detox. Just stick to the plain ole, essentials of sleep, sunshine (not too much speaking from experience), good food and water. A few things that make you happy that don’t cost you ANY money and can build some foundations to help make your move, clear your mind and mix up your routine.
Start taking notice
Next step is to start noticing the sorts of things you are interested in. Go back to your google history over the last 2 weeks. Cross out all the gossip trash/sports news and bitcoin updates and find out what you could class as professionally-related interesting information you have been drawn to. It doesn’t have to be related to your current role. Anything in the professional sphere. Just note it down. Think about the professional associations or networks you are a member of or may follow on social media. What zoom seminars, workshops or other events have you attended virtually or otherwise in the last year? What professional event, course or conference have you paid for in the last 12months? Note it.
Block out an afternoon and double down on some self-reflection. If you have ever done a Myers-Briggs test, a disc profile or personality test, dig it out and remind yourself who the test says you are? Do you agree? What parts do you relate to that triggers a sense of ‘that’s totally me’ or ‘I’ve changed’. If you have ever done any career reflection, card tests, look back over your values, skills and capabilities. If you haven’t done anything like this before short-list your values, skills and capabilities. (Hint: you can google these 3 categories and get lists you can use to shortlist your expertise)
Looking over your resume and seeing your work time-lined remind yourself where you felt you were contributing at your highest level. Note down all of those things about that time and that role that made it awesome. Was it the team? How you felt you contributed? Where you recognised. Also do that for the times where it wasn’t so good. Write down any running commentary that pops into your head. Just get thinking.
So now you have your skills, interests and capabilities mapped, you have looked back on your roles and see aspects of the job design or organisational structures where you thrived and where you didn’t thrive, could you now write the conditions that make you contribute at your highest level and the ones that don’t. So now you know a little more about you. And that is always the best place to start.
Sometimes this is a hard process to do independently so there are always professionals career coaches and consultants who can help. In Australia we have Career Development Association of Australia, the Career Development Institute in the UK and the National Career Development Association in the US. In Australian Dollars you can expect to pay between $200 – $600+ per session from general through to executive career coaching. But don’t get stuck in this bit. Keep yourself accountable to taking the time to do your reflection and moving through the next 2 steps.
Step 2. Desktop design your ideal roles and get your career unstuck
Think about the conditions under which you thrive which you listed above. Now design your perfect day. Activities like these are great to draw on a whiteboard or a large piece of paper, to tap into your creative side. When would you go to work? When would the ‘thinking’ work you do be done in a day? How many employees would you manage or what project/s would you work on? What skills would you use? What would you keep and what would you take out if you could design it all yourself?
Design your conditions
So now you have your perfect day, start turning that into a career path. This is an imaginative and creative way to get you out of your current head space and changing gears into 4WD exploring mode. Remember there is never just one career path out there for you. Draw up to 4 career paths.
For instance, if you were to design a role around the conditions that make you work at your highest level or a role constructed the way you work best. What would that look like?
Think about how you like to work and how important work is compared to other aspects of your life (eg leisure, family, community etc). Consider the consumers/customers or clients you enjoy working for? Are they in a particular demographic? Think about how you work with others and the ideal team environment and your leadership style? Consider what leadership style do you enjoy working with or live by yourself? Now with 3 or 4 possible pathways you can start examining them.
And for all you Eeyore’s out there who don’t agree with the curious approach and want to wallow more in a job you don’t love. Please note, even the CEO of IBM is highlighting curiosity as THE most important for any of us to be in our jobs, and I’d like to add, about our jobs. When you are curious, you are open. You are open to explore new pathways, options, connections and experiences. Open to the challenge to embrace the discomfort of something new or different. Open to consider the beliefs that not only helped you get stuck but kept you there. Having curiosity and being open will make your career change more enjoyable and will often speed up the transition.
Step 3. Design your directions and make your career change
Now you have mapped out several ‘yellow brick roads’ consider the industry ecosystems they are in. For some of them, you may have no idea at all. Research and understand the job opportunities, the medium salary, industry trends, gender balance, perks. Key employers in corporate, Not For Profits and governments, Small to Medium Enterprises. Map out the ecosystems the roles you are aware of aligning to each career pathway. This provides you with a systems view where you can observe where the money flows, who is delivering the value, who is really making the change.
You may find in one of you career paths for you is to make a difference in women’s literacy in Asia. When you develop your ecosystem map you can assess through your own research which organisations have greater impact and who is really making the difference. Is it the UN or is the bank funding a grass roots program? Quite often we have a surface-level view of an organisation if we have not been employed in their ecosystem and it pays to dig a bit deeper to know you are meeting the criteria that is important to you.
Consider what you are moving away from?
Consider where you are at right now inside and outside work. What’s not working? What could you change if you had a magic wand? Sometime your career change doesn’t have to be as big as moving jobs or transitioning your career. You might not be gelling with the vision anymore, the transparency, the team dynamics have shifted or you are just not being valued or challenged in the work that you do.
Once you have your pathways creatively mapped. And feel free to get really creative with pictures and images and drawings, or go with word clouds work all the same. Consider how you can weigh up one pathway over the other to make that career change? Everyone has different criteria. Some criteria considerations you might have are:
- Travel or no travel
- Front-line versus strategy
- Amount of direct reports?
- Transparency and Trust
Do these three steps of exploring the parts that make you whole, desktop designing your new roles and your career destinations and you will get closer to getting your career unstuck and making that career change. Better still, join a community of professionals just like you, looking to make a change.