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how to get out of a career hole

Image by renjith krishnan, via FreeDigitalPhotos.net

This blog post originally appeared at Webster University’s School of Business and Technology blog, to which I am a frequent contributor. Check out their blog for more insight on developing your career. ____________________________________

So often I talk with people that tell me they have not been happy in their career for many years. They have learned to cope with a job that doesn’t excite them. It’s great to have developed a skill that enables you to manage difficulties in job duties or to cope with poor leaderships. However, if this has become a way of job survival, then you may be caught in web that you have created. You may be searching on company websites for openings, but the thought of leaving your current position can sometimes be overwhelming!

At times, we can get stuck in a rut.  It’s like being on a road trip that will take you days to get to your dream destination. You stop at a small country town to grab a quick bite, but while you are there, an unexpected snowstorm comes along and you are paralyzed and can go no farther.  In fact, a day later as the weather breaks, you are tempted to stay and make the best of it.  But, you decide to give it a try one more time, only to find that you have followed the storm and find yourself stuck again. Little did you know that if you had driven North you would have gotten to your dream destination!

As you are driving your career, you may find that you run into what I call “career ruts.” Here are five career ruts that many of us have had to overcome.

The 5 career ruts to avoid at all costs:

“I have no other choice.” Believe it or not, you often have other choices about what your career can become. “What else can I do?” It’s a question that deserves an answer.  It could be that you are in the right career market but you need to change your focus or find a compatible culture.  Remember to say in an interview, “I have transferable skills.” It’s important that you understand what they are and how to market them. Talking with others in the market you would like to focus on is a sure way of helping you understand what skills you have or what skills you should develop.

“I can’t change…not really.” Believe it or not, people can reinvent themselves. Learning to articulate your strengths as a person and not talk so much about your past jobs can open up other doors you never knew existed. Get friends to help you brainstorm. Focus on personal strengths. You might discover a new job possibility you never knew existed.

“What I want isn’t the point…it’s all about what they want.” Believe it or not, what you really want in a career is important. Here is an example of someone caught in what I call a “broken career cycle.” An applicant whom I will call “Sally” takes a job just to pay bills, but instead of continuing her career search, she tries to make the job tolerable.  She soon finds herself arriving late at work, failing to cover the details of the job, and soon finds management at the door because of her poor performance.  Soon she’s let go. Her career “red flag” finally goes up and Sally frantically seeks another job…any job. In this story, Sally is reacting instead of responding and as a result she finds herself running away, jumping into just another job, and not giving any thought to what could be her career dream.

“Finding my dream job is just a matter of luck…and I’ve never been lucky.” Believe it or not, a systematic exploration of career choices can open up other options, including truly unexpected ones.  You will be surprised to find that others will help you along the way. Don’t stop with talking to one or two individuals and think that you have enough information about a particular job market.  Be systematic in your approach and allow the information to intrigue and inspire you by asking for and getting clarifying answers. Remember that knowledge will empower you.

“I’m too old and I’ve been in this line of work too long to think about changing now.” Believe it or not, you are not too old and it’s not too late to change.  This rut can lead you to permanent paralysis. There is life after 55 and even 65!  So many people are now finding fulfillment in their careers as they reach retirement age. Many find careers that give them chances to continue to make a little money while still giving back to others and their communities. I know of one individual who finished up her education at age 57 and now has a new lease on life.  She is excited about what she can do with the second chapter of her life! As long as you have a career, it’s never too late to change the direction of it.