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Published on April 2, 2019

Feeling Stuck in Your Career? How to Break Free and Get Ahead at Work

Feeling Stuck in Your Career? How to Break Free and Get Ahead at Work

Have you ever caught yourself in a daydream where you’ve gone for that upcoming promotion and you’re now the boss at work? Or how about the one where you’ve summoned up all your courage to quit your job and live your dream? Or when you’ve changed career path to do what really makes you happy?

Then you’ve snapped back to reality and realized that you’re not the boss, not living your dream and not even happy in the career path that you’re on.

Over the years I’ve worked with hundreds of individuals who’ve told me they feel stuck in their careers, that something had to change for them to break free and be happy but they lacked the confidence to take that step. My mission is to make sure that nobody feels stuck in their career because of a momentary lapse in bravery that’s dragged on for too long.

Vera is one of those who feel stuck in her career.

She’s been working in the same role for 17 years. She started young and progressed quickly. Although she’s successful and the envy of her peers, she is bored, restless and feels that there’s something missing. She can’t quite pinpoint why or what, but she knows that that she’s not fulfilling her purpose, that she feels stuck and is not sure what to do to move herself forward.

Sounds familiar? Read on to find out how you can stop feeling stuck in your career, break free and get ahead at work. If you stay until the end I’ll also let you in on Vera’s story.

Here are my top ten tips for becoming unstuck, breaking free and getting ahead at work.

1. Make Time for You

If you’re feeling stuck, frustrated or unhappy at how your career is panning out, the first step is to work out why.

Maybe you’ve arrived in your current career by accident and haven’t ever made time to deliberately think or plan what you’d love to do and how you’d get there.

Prioritizing time to think is the first step you need take to stop feeling stuck and start getting ahead. Book some time into your diary where you can have an uninterrupted meeting with yourself. This is your thinking time.

Work out what makes you happy at work, what doesn’t and where you might want to go. Decide on the steps you want to take to progress your career in the direction that you want it to take.

For example, are there training days, evening courses or online learning that you can do? Have you considered getting a mentor to help you get ahead?

By booking in a meeting with yourself, (I have a client who calls it her ‘meeting with Marvin’, the android from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy with a brain the size of a planet) it signals it’s important (to you and your colleagues) and also stops others spotting a gap in your diary and filling it with a meeting.

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2. Grow Your Network Before You Need It

Who you know is more important than what you know for career progression. Don’t wait until you’re feeling stuck in your career to start expanding your networks. Do it now.

Adam Grant the author of ‘Give and Take’, says you’re 58% more likely to get a new job through your weak ties than through your strong ones. Your strong ties are those in your immediate circle whom you interact with often. Your weak ties are your friends of friends. They move in different circles to you, they know different people, make different connections and are more likely to introduce you to new and different opportunities.[1]

When I was thinking about setting up my current company Lucidity, I turned up to every networking event, I drank a lot of coffees with a lot of different people to understand what they did, to ask for advice, to unpick what their problems were and look for opportunities for collaboration and connections.

It paid off because when I launched my business, I let my network know how I could help them and soon I had my first clients.

Pay attention to building and nurturing your networks, focus on how you can add value to others – that’s where your next career opportunity is most likely to come from.

3. Surround Yourself by People Who Inspire You

According to Tim Ferriss, ‘You are the average of the five people you most associate with’ and his associations with different people ebbs and flows depending on what he’s working on and trying to achieve.[2]

For example, if you are trying to be fitter, it’s easier if you hang around with people who love doing exercise – they help you to up your game.

If you want that promotion, a career change or to set up your own business seek out people who are excelling at it already. They’ll have valuable things to teach you about breaking free and getting ahead and they’ll also help you to up your game.

4. Work on Your Personal Brand

Jeff Bezos defines personal brand as ‘what people say about you when you’re not in the room’. People will talk about you when you are not in the room anyway, so you might as well be deliberate about what you’d like people to say!

Your personal brand isn’t about pretending to be something you’re not. It’s about being your best ‘real you’. It’s about owning your strengths and being purposeful about how you want to be perceived by others.

What do you want to be known for? By being more deliberate about how you want to come across and what you’re looking for in your career, you’ll increase your chance of attracting the right opportunities.

Once you’ve given your personal brand some thought, make sure that you show up online. Is your LinkedIn profile up to date? And if you don’t have one, get one. Make sure it communicates what you want to be known for and that it’s consistent with your other social media profiles.

Try these 5 Steps to Master Networking Skills and Perfect Your Personal Branding.

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5. Be Accountable

Achieve your career goals faster, grow and learn by making yourself accountable. Tell other people your goals and a timeline. and have them to hold you accountable.

For example, you might want to get a promotion by the end of the year, have decided the sector you want to move to by the end of the month, or have got your new business idea before the next pay day. Whatever your ambitions are, you can tell a friend or a colleague, or share about this with a mentor or a mastermind group.

When we tell other people our goals and intentions, they hold us accountable and we are more likely to make progress faster.

6. Make Sure Your Values Are Aligned with Your Companies

All the professional development, goal setting and networks in the world won’t make you happy if you’re working for a company that ultimately has opposing values to yours.

Figure out what’s important to you in a job. For example, does your company’s product help people to live a better life? Do you feel strongly about your companies’ ethics and social responsibility? Does the company culture allows employees to be themselves and shine? Or maybe flexible working and more holidays for employees with families is where your heart is?

Some companies put their employees well-being at the core of their business, others put profits first. If you feel that your values don’t match the core values of your employer, it could be a reason why you’re feeling stuck and unhappy.

It’s important to work through this and identify whether it’s the job that is not right for you; or if it’s a great job but the organization or sector is wrong for you.

7. Get out of Your Comfort Zone

Your comfort zone is your safe place. For any change to happen, you have to step out of your comfort zone.

It’s actually much easier not to change anything and to keep grumbling on about how you’re stuck and unhappy in your career, than to step outside of your comfort zone to address the fearful unknowns associated with change. It’s part of the human nature that we’d put up with the devil we know than risking the devil we don’t.

This is true even if the devil we know is your boring unfulfilling job: because we’re wired to think that making a change to find a better option might actually leave us worse off.

If you feel stuck, it might be that your confidence has got the better of you.

To get ahead at work, start taking small steps outside of your comfort zone. Consider what you’re scared of that is stopping you from making a change. Then tackle that in small steps.

For example, if you know that to move into the job you want, you’ll have to do more public speaking. But public speaking terrifies you so much it’s stopping you from going for the job. Then start small to build your confidence. You can speak up more in team meetings, then slowly build from there.

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You might also choose to set up or be part of a specific group. One of my clients, who found that confidence was holding her team back in achieving work goals, set up a ‘get out of your comfort zone club’ where they challenge and support each other to build their confidence by regularly leaving their comfort zones.

They’ve learned a lot and achieved all sorts of things from public speaking, to eating crickets, to heart surgery.

8. Learn to Embrace Failure

Failure is part of life. A New York University study found that children learning to walk averaged 2,368 steps and fell 17 times an hour.[3]

Truth is that we don’t get everything right the first time. We fail, we learn, we pick ourselves up and we try again.

In my experience, it’s common that whilst the theory of learning from failure is supported, the reality of being open about failures to enable personal learning is much harder to achieve.

We don’t like to admit that we’ve failed. We have a fight or flight response to failure. It’s a normal gut reaction to ask ourselves ‘Will I get away with it if I don’t tell anyone?’ We are fearful of criticism, of losing face in front of our peers, our managers or the people we manage, or even being fired for failure.

However, if we’re going to progress our careers, break free and get ahead at work, we must be open to learning from failure.

Reframe failure by viewing everything as a test, because you can’t have a failed test – you just learn whether something worked or not. Think of Edison inventing the lightbulb, when he said,

‘I’ve not failed, I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.’

9. Build Your Resilience

Resilience is the ability to tackle difficulties and setbacks, to bounce back, regroup and to keep going.

Getting unstuck in your career, taking a different path and achieving the results you want will take resilience. Having resilience is also the capacity to choose how you respond to the unexpected things that life throws your way and adapt and thrive in times of complex change.

Given that the world we live in is in constant flux, and the only thing that is certain is uncertainty; the ability to adapt and bounce back is an important life skill as well as a career skill.

In her book Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, Angela Duckworth’s research shows that when measuring success, the ability to persevere beats talent every time. You can also check out how gritty you are here.

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Learn more about how to build resilience in this guide:

What Is Resilience and How to Always Be Resilient (Step-By-Step Guide)

10. Ask for Help

It can be hard to ask for help, it can make us feel vulnerable.

No one person can be expected to have all the answers. That’s why we need a troupe of people that we can go to for help, people who can pick us up when we have setbacks and also help us to celebrate success.

My advice is to be deliberate about creating your troupe. You can do that with a tool called a ‘Me Map’, here’s how:

  1. Write down all the things that you might need support with, for example, help with career progression, interview practice, making new connections, talking through business plans, learning from failure, etc.
  2. Next to each thing, write the names of the people you go to when you need that particular thing.
  3. Make sure you get in touch and regularly connect with them.

Final Thoughts

Remember Vera? After 17 years in her career as an Editor for Vogue, she switched professions and went to work for luxury fashion designer, Ralph Lauren for two years. At 40, she resigned and became an independent bridal wear designer.

That’s right, I’m talking about Vera Wang, one of the most influential bridal wear designers in the world.

If she had ignored her instincts that were telling her to switch careers and break free, if she had stayed in her comfort zone or let the fear of failure stop her in her tracks, she would not have fulfilled her purpose or bought her extraordinary design gift to the world.

You too can stop feeling stuck in your career, break free and get ahead at work by applying the tips in this article. Start small by incorporating three new things in your first week, and then adding more as your comfort zone and capacity expands.

Remember no matter how stuck you feel, it’s never too late to make a change and leading the career that you truly want.

More Resources to Help You Get Unstuck

Featured photo credit: NEW DATA SERVICES via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Lucy Gower

Founder at Lucidity. Coach, trainer and consultant as well as a best-selling author and international speaker.

How to Gain Confidence and Really Boost Your Self Esteem Feeling Stuck in Your Career? How to Break Free and Get Ahead at Work How to Stop Being Socially Awkward and Start Shining at Work

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Last Updated on June 13, 2019

15 Best Entrepreneurs Books to Start Reading Now to Be Successful

15 Best Entrepreneurs Books to Start Reading Now to Be Successful

Knowledge is power, and you’re going to need a lot of it if you’re going to be able to steer your business to success.

Without further ado, let’s take a look at the 15 best entrepreneurs books to get inspirations about success and grow your business.

1. Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill

    This book has been dubbed the Granddaddy of All Motivational Literature, and it was actually the first book that gave a prescription of what it takes to be a winner.

    Napoleon Hill draws from the stories of millionaires like Henry Ford, Andrew Carnegie, and Thomas Edison to illustrate the principles he put forth.

    Get the book here!

    2. The Lean Startup by Eric Reis

      A lot of startups end up failing, but many of these failures are actually avoidable. The Lean Startup provides a different approach that is now being adopted all over the world and changing the way that companies are developed and products are being launched.

      In The Lean Startup, Eric Reis describes what is required for a company to penetrate the fog of uncertainty in order to discover a path to a sustainable and successful business.

      Get the book here!

      3. The E-Myth Revisited by Michael E. Gerber

        In a revised edition of the 150,000-copy bestseller, The E-Myth, Michael Gerber refutes some of the myths that surround starting your own business and shows just how commonplace assumptions can end up getting in the way of being able to run a successful business.

        Gerber succeeds in walking the reader through the steps that occur in the life of a business, from infancy, through the pains of growing as an adolescent, to the perspective of the mature entrepreneur.

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        Get the book here!

        4. Rework by Jason Fried

          Most of the business books that you get today will give you the same advice: draft a business plan, study the competition, look for investors, and all that.

          However, Rework shows you a more effective, easier and faster means of succeeding when running a business. By reading it, you’ll be able to know why some plans are harmful, why you don’t really need to get investors, and why you’re better of shutting out your competition.

          Get the book here!

          5. How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

            This is one of the most successful motivational books in history, selling well over 15 million copies since it was released in 1936. The book is timeless, and it appeals to businesses, self-help startups, and general readers.

            Carnegie believes that a lot of successes come from an ability to communicate rather than having brilliant insights. In his book, he teaches how to value others and make them feel appreciated and loved.

            Get the book here!

            6. Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell

              Through this amazing book, Malcolm Gladwell is able to take the reader on an intellectual journey through the world of ‘outliers’. He asks the question of what truly differentiates high-achievers.

              His answer to this question is that we tend to pay too much attention to what successful people are like, and less attention to where they are actually from.

              Get the book here!

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              7. Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert T. Kiyosaki

                This is the best personal finance book ever written. It tells the story of Kiyosaki and his two fathers; his real father, and that of his best friend (his rich dad), as well as how the two men helped him shape his opinions on money and investing.

                It refutes the myth that you need to earn high to become rich, and it distinguishes between working for money and having money work for you.

                Get the book here!

                8. The Ascent of Money: The Financial History of the World by Niall Ferguson

                  Niall Ferguson, in this book, follows the money to tell the story behind the evolution of the word’s financial system, from the beginning way back in ancient Mesopotamia to the latest occurrences in what he had dubbed Planet Finance.

                  Fergusson also reveals financial history as the backstory behind our very own history, with an argument that the evolution of debt and credit is as significant as the history of technological innovation and the rise of civilization.

                  Get the book here!

                  9. Liar’s Poker by Michael Lewis

                    Michael Lewis landed a job at Salomon Brothers after getting out of the London School of Economics and Princeton within three years, he had risen to the rank of bond salesman, making millions for the firm and cashing out steadily.

                    Liar’s Poker is the amalgamation of these years — a look behind the scenes at one of the most turbulent times in American business. His book is Lewis’s account of an era where greed and gluttony were the order of the day.

                    Get the book here!

                    10. Drive: The Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us by Michael H. Pink

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                      A lot of people see money as the best motivator. Michael pink says it’s a mistake.

                      In this provocative book, he asserts that the secret to high performance anywhere is the need to direct our lives, to learn and create, and to do better by our world and ourselves.

                      Get the book here!

                      11. Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen

                        Outdated methods don’t work in today’s world. In this book, Allen shares some awesome methods for stress-free performance that he has shared with thousands of people all over the world.

                        His premise? That productivity is proportional to your ability to relax.

                        Get the book here!

                        12. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey

                          In this book, Stephen Covey presents a holistic approach for overcoming both professional and personal issues. With insights and anecdotes, Covey presents a way to live with integrity fairness, service and dignity.

                          Get the book here!

                          13. The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape the 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich by Tim Ferriss

                            In this book, Ferriss dishes on the tips he has learned from studying the New Rich, a subculture of people who did away with the deferred life plan and mastered time and mobility to developed luxury lifestyles for themselves.

                            If you’re looking to make your way in this revolutionary new world, this here is your compass.

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                            Get the book here!

                            14. Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose by Tony Hsieh

                              The CEO of Zappos shows how a unique kind of corporate identity can help deliver a huge difference in the way results are being achieved — by creating a company that values and delivers happiness.

                              Get the book here!

                              15. Losing My Virginity: How I Survived, Had Fun, and Made a Fortune Doing Business My Way by Richard Branson

                                From Virgin Atlantic Airways, Virgin Records and V2 to Virgin Cola, Virgin Megastores and a wide array of other companies, Richard Branson is the rockstar billionaire that a lot of us want to be.

                                Branson, however, did business by following a simple philosophy:

                                “Oh, screw it, let’s do it”

                                Losing My Virginity is an unusual, borderline outrageous autobiography of one of the greatest business geniuses in the world. Branson and his friends named their business “Virgin” because that was what they were — virgins at the game.

                                Since then, he’s written his success rules, creating a global business that has no headquarters, no management structure no corporate identity as it were.

                                Get the book here!

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                                Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

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