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Ask These 7 Questions to Inspire Yourself and Get Out of a Career Rut

Ask These 7 Questions to Inspire Yourself and Get Out of a Career Rut

Life is frustrating when you’re stuck in a career rut. I’ve been there and it wasn’t pretty. I felt stuck for years at a job I liked but didn’t love. Although my coworkers and clients were awesome, the daily grind of my weekly work routine gradually sucked the joy out of me. With a lot of hard work, I revamped my entire life. I rediscovered my passions, started a business, left my job, and am making my dreams my reality.

Here are some of the questions I asked myself to help me get out of my rut and feel alive again. Hopefully these questions will help you as much as they have helped me.

1. Is this really what I want?

Millions of people are dissatisfied with their jobs. If you find yourself gleefully announcing “Thank God it’s Friday!” every week, start paying attention to yourself. Life’s too short to spend your life in quiet desperation, craving to bust out of the confines of your job and make a different dent on the world.

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If you don’t love your work, have the courage to actually admit it to yourself and set out to change your situation. In this famous TED Talk, Mel Robbins describes how lying to yourself and telling yourself you’re fine when you’re really not happy sabotages your life. In her compelling speech, Robbins has some great tips to help you stop screwing yourself over and actually get out of your rut.

2. Who am I?

Becoming a self-expert is a crucial part of discovering the work you love to do. Study yourself and devote time to learning about your personality and what lights you up. When you understand your unique strengths and passions, you can set out to discover work that allows you to capitalize on the best parts of you.

If you’ve been stuck in the daily grind for awhile, just going through the motions of each day, you might feel like you don’t know who you are or what you love anymore. The good news is there are many great books and personality tests you can use for self-discovery. One of my favorite resources is Sally Hogshead’s site How to Fascinate. Hogshead’s assessments can help you discover your personality’s top advantages in the working world and in your personal life. Her site is unique in that it helps you understand how the world sees you. This information was life-changing for me when I was stuck in my career rut.

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3. If I had the time, money, connections, [fill in the blank…], what would I do?

What are your biggest dreams? Dreaming big is an incredibly important step in finding and doing work you love. Picture your life without constraints. Then get your big idea out of your head and onto paper. Write down your giant career aspirations in as much detail as possible to give yourself a clear picture of what your goals are.

When you find yourself immediately thinking, “That’s not possible; I don’t know how”, “I’m not smart enough” or placing any other limitations you put on yourself, reframe your thoughts. Changing your mindset to “I’ll do everything I can to learn how to do this” and “I’ll surround myself with people who can help me make this possible” can make an immense difference in your life and help you get unstuck.

4. What can I do today to move me toward my goals?

Start taking actions every day to move you closer to your long-term career goals. Immerse yourself in podcasts and books by people who inspire you. Taking small steps every day, even if it’s just 10 minutes per day, can help you move towards a career you’ll love. If you’re intimidated by your big goals, commit to taking a baby step forward every day. Eventually you’ll look back and be amazed at the progress you’ve made.

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5. Who do I need to help me?

Even professional athletes and many of the world’s most successful business owners have coaches. Identify the areas in your career where you could benefit from guidance. Maybe you could use leadership training or business strategy planning? Seeking out assistance and building a supportive team of people you can collaborate with can empower you to make your vision for your career a reality.

6. Are there luxuries in my life I’m willing to give up to have more freedom?

Many people feel trapped in their jobs due to financial stress. Yet sometimes this financial stress could easily be relieved by temporarily changing your spending habits. This Ellen Goodman quote sums up why many people are dissatisfied with their lives: “Normal is getting dressed in clothes that you buy for work, driving through traffic in a car that you are still paying for, in order to get to a job that you need so you can pay for the clothes, car and the house that you leave empty all day in order to afford to live in it.”

If you’re feeling stuck in your job, and craving getting out, carefully consider your spending habits. Making short-term sacrifices may allow you to decrease your hours at work, or to accept that job you’d love offering less pay.

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7. How can I make a difference where I am now?

Check out this article about how to make a difference in the world where you are now. It’s possible to make a big impact on others even when you’re working in a frustrating, thankless job.

Want more tips to get out of your career rut? Check out my advice in this article on the 7 Mindsets website for 7 tips to make your life less miserable when you’re thinking, “I want to quit my job!”

Featured photo credit: Hard Work Can Hurt/Dave C via flickr.com

More by this author

Dr. Kerry Petsinger

Entrepreneur, Mindset & Performance Coach, & Doctor of Physical Therapy

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Published on October 8, 2019

How to Advance Your Career (and the Big Mistakes You May be Making)

How to Advance Your Career (and the Big Mistakes You May be Making)

The late writer William S. Burroughs once said that “When you stop growing, you start dying.” It might have a morbid undertone, but it’s one hundred percent true in terms of one’s career.

The days of finding a job with one company that you can stick with for 30 years, and simply relax as you move up its company escalator are few and far between in today’s world. This isn’t necessarily bad news. On the contrary, it means that you’re the one in charge of shaping your career advancement.

By putting these principles and behaviors into practice, you’ll begin to see how to advance your career quickly. Ready? Let’s get started…

1. Define What Success Is for You

There’s no right or wrong definition of what success in your career looks like. The important thing is to figure out what success looks like for YOU. It might, and probably will, change along the way, but if you don’t have some sort of milestone on the horizon, then you won’t know which direction to go in.

Think about success in your career in terms of one year, five years, and 10 years. Once you have that, it’s time to lace up your boots and get to work.

2. Learn How to Develop and Follow a Plan

Nobody just stumbles upon success accidentally. Sure, they may stumble upon breakthroughs or new methods accidentally, but all success stories have one thing in common — a plan.

Establish a timeline for the things that you want to achieve in your career in the next year, five years, 10 years, and so on. Consider the skills that you’ll need to learn to make these things happen and work on acquiring them.

3. Surround Yourself With Those Better Than You

It’s a rule of thumb among musicians that if you want to get better, then you need to get out of the bedroom and play with people who are better than you.

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By surrounding yourself with people who are better than you and where you want to be, you’ll not only see how these people climbed to where they are in their respective fields, but you’ll learn from them and naturally want to push yourself to be better in your own job as well.

4. Seek Out a Mentor(s)

A mentor will not only be able to help you refine and reach your career goals, but will be invaluable in landing promotions and finding unadvertised job openings.

One unique approach is to work on fostering a relationship with a mentor both within and outside of your company. This will help in giving you different perspectives as you rise up through the ranks in your company and career overall.

5. Stop Wasting Your Mornings

You may not think you’re a morning person, but if you can learn to be one, you’ll thank yourself 10 years down the road.

Prepare a to-do list of tasks that you want to accomplish the day before and work on knocking them out for at least one hour before you respond to morning emails. The problem with responding to emails first, is you’re giving your attention to somebody else’s agenda, instead of plotting your own course for the day.

6. Arrange or Attend a Networking Party

If you’re attending networking events simply because you might get a few free drinks, you’re doing them wrong. These events are great for meeting new people and forming relationships. Your goal shouldn’t be to get hired by the end of the night, but to simply make a good impression by being friendly and authentic. So what’s next?

Reach out a few days later via email or on social media to follow up and connect!

7. Pick Up Some New Skills

Nobody wants to be the old dog that can’t learn any new tricks. To move up in your career, you’re going to likely need to pick up new skills along the way. Maybe your company offers on-the-job training or you have the option of taking online classes at night.

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By learning new skills, you’ll not only be able to expand upon what you can already do, but you’ll make yourself more valuable to your employer and future employers.

8. Exploit the Benefits Already at Your Disposal

Remember what we just said about the possibility of your company providing on-the-job training? Take advantage of these sorts of benefits!

If you’re working for a company that allows you to job shadow other employees or has company mixers, you should attend these. They not only allow you to develop your skills within the company, but show seasoned executives within your field that you’re interested in more than just clocking in for a paycheck.

9. Make Yourself Indispensable

Good help is hard to find and employers want to retain outstanding employees. If you can learn to make yourself indispensable to your company, you’ll not only communicate that you’re successful, but will have a lot more job security. What’s this entail though?

It’s actually not all that difficult. By being reliable, adapting to new challenges, and holding your own work and performance to a high standard, you’ll stand out among your peers and others will take notice. Easy enough, right?

10. Get Off the Fence

People who advance in their careers are those who don’t shy away from voicing their opinion and stand up with authority when the opportunity arises.

If a problem arises in your company and you think you might have a solution or are willing to work to find one, then let others know. Employers value and promote problem solvers. Start off with something small and work your way up towards tackling more difficult tasks and projects.

11. Don’t Wait for More Responsibility, Ask for It

If you want more responsibility in your job, then be open about it with your manager. Your manager may be so busy with their own work that they weren’t aware you were looking for more challenges.

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Just make sure you can handle it and that you already show strong performance in your current duties. And if your manager doesn’t seem supportive about offering you more responsibility, well, then it could be time to look for new employment.

12. Stop Wasting Time on What You Don’t Want

If your career goals start with “I should do this…” there could be a problem. This kind of language in referring to goals can doom them to failure because the want isn’t there.

Consider using the RUMBA method (Reasonable, Understandable, Measurable, Behavioral and Agreed) when setting your goals. That “agreed” part should really be “want.” By going after career goals that you actually want to accomplish, you’re much more likely to achieve them.

13. Seek Out Feedback and Apply It

Simply doing your job might not always push you up in your career advancement. Too often, employees just assume that their bosses will notice their performance strides and reach out when the time is right to advance.

Don’t be afraid to regularly seek out feedback and ask for constructive criticism. It not only shows that you value your manager’s opinion but demonstrates that you care about your job and want to become better in your chosen field.

14. Pick Your Bosses Wisely

Advancing in your career can move a lot quicker if you’re working for the right people. If your boss isn’t any good at their job or doesn’t value you, then moving up could become difficult.

A great boss though, will be able to help you capitalize on your strengths and be an advocate for your success. If there aren’t any strong developers of talent in your management chain already, then look around for some and seek them out as mentors.

15. Learn to Develop Your Sense of Timing

The odds of asking for a promotion or raise are in your favor with over 70 percent of respondents to a survey from PayScale reporting some success. One thing to keep in mind that can make all the difference is when you ask.

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Some corporate cultures may prefer that employees reach out about advancement during their annual review, but maybe you work for a more free-spirited startup. The best approach may be to take note of when others advance and ask about how the organization handles employee development.

16. Work Hard and Promote Yourself

Working hard and delivering a solid job performance are the keys to advancing in your career no matter what field you’re in. This doesn’t mean you need to be completely humble about your accomplishments either.

Keep a record of your positive impact within the organization and let others both within your company and your field know that you’re enthusiastic about your role and work.

17. Don’t Just Build Your Network… Cultivate It

It’s way too easy to add new people to your LinkedIn network and then forget about them for all eternity. Rather than just collecting business cards or social media contacts, you should be cultivating relationships with the ones you already have.

Follow up with people that you haven’t spoken to in a while, offer to connect them with somebody you know in their field, or ask about a new job title they may have taken on. Doing so could be the spark that leads to a potential job referral.

18. Join a Professional Organization

The National Association of (insert your industry here) and other professional organizations can still offer a great wealth of advantages from networking to industry insights, and skill development.

Even outside of professional organizations dedicated to particular job fields, civic organizations can also be fantastic for making new contacts. After all, so much about career advancement is who you know, and you never know who you’ll meet who knows somebody else who is looking for someone with your skills and experience.

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Featured photo credit: JESHOOTS.COM via unsplash.com

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