Career Flat Spots
I recently had a client tell me they felt stuck in their career. A sort of career stagnation or sense of spinning wheels. I know this sensation isn’t a rarity, so just what do you do when you feel stuck in your career? Firstly make sure that you don’t make the feeling wrong or bad. When you do this you demonise feeling stuck and then ironically the stuckness prevails, once you stop demonising the feeling very often, you then discover what’s underneath it.
Reasons we feel stuck
There are a variety of reasons why we can feel stuck in our career.
- You think you should be further on in your career. You think something else should have happened by now. The difficulty is in resolving the tension between your expectations and what currently is. There is a feeling of impatience and rather than feel that; it’s easier to delude ourselves and say we’re stuck.
- The second option is that there is something that is calling you, but it’s left-field, it’s weird, it’s not in line with the plans you had, and because it’s left-field you don’t necessarily embrace and want to explore it. In this case, being stuck is not necessarily a bad thing and can often lead to the next point.
- Lastly, sometimes we are stuck because we are being held in place for a moment for things to catch up, for new things to come into place. And if we demonise being stuck, we shut down our brain from operating at its full capacity, utilising its full creativity. Here a good test is to check the following, is the sense of stuck accompanied by loss of energy? Does what you’re doing feel dead to you? If the answer is yes, look around and ask yourself what is there that gives you more energy, that feels more alive for you? Then pursue that because somehow in pursuing that it may get you out of whatever is stuck in your career.
Pass me the career ladder
We don’t necessarily have a career ladder anymore. You know that nice straight-line path, all the moves and promotions mapped out. Now it’s more likely that a career starts off in one domain and ends up in a completely different one. My career has spanned 30 years. I started out working in a laboratory with chemicals. It’s also included running a technical library, searching patents, managing projects, working in different countries, leading teams and departments. For me, there is a theme, analysis, and releasing and utilising the potential from the ‘bodies’. Whether that was a chemical, a company, a business or an individual; but on the face of it given some of my job titles, it wouldn’t necessarily look like a logical career path.
Moving beyond stuck
Having read the common reasons we feel stuck, you may have identified which one fits. If you want to put yourself in a space that feels more useful and productive then I suggest you do anything that energises you. Daily do something, anything that makes you feel alive. It doesn’t even have to be work or career orientated. Then secondly look at what’s going on in your head. What’s the narrative that’s running? What’s the overall attitude you’re walking around with? Maybe it’s time to re-write the story.
Remember when you were 4 years old
Allow yourself to reconnect to your imagination. Watch young children, and their imagination lets them be all sort of things. One minute they’re making pizza, the next they’re a doctor fixing you up, and as they leap around the garden they’re a superhero saving the world. Now you could recall all those jobs you fantasised about when you were 4,5 or 6 and see what the theme was. And you could tap into your imagination now through creativity.
Create anything you fancy, just for the fun and pleasure of it. Don’t make it a big deal; it doesn’t have to be about your career; it doesn’t even have to be perfect. You could paint, draw, take photographs, write poetry, do woodwork, make a cake. Just do it in a relaxed, non-judgemental fashion. At the very least you’ll have some fun. And very often it helps unlock something within you. I’m not saying it will instantly solve your career stuckness, but it will take you forwards.