How to get new traction when your career is stuck
What do you do when your job appears to have no
future? Perhaps you are working for Attila the Hun with no salary
increase in sight. You have forgotten what an annual bonus is, because
you have not received one in many years. Yet you show up every day with
a smile and do your best because you need the job to put food on the
family dinner table. Some days, you wonder if this "hell on earth" will
ever have a happy ending.
As the T-Shirt says "Been there, done that,...". I
have been working full-time since I was 17 years old - (I needed to put
food on the table). Some jobs are "heaven on earth", some are bearable
and others jobs were just plain unpleasant. I have learned skills along
the way to help move my career forward out of these situations and now
share these strategies with clients through my coaching work. If your
career is a car stuck in the mud with wheels spinning and no forward
movement, then read on.
Here are the steps to become unstuck in your
current job and get traction to move your career forward to the next
1. Take time to think about what your ideal next
step is. Do you want a promotion? What appeals to you about the
promotion? Do you want to change careers? How will you enjoy the new
career once you have accomplished the career change?
2. What skills are needed for your promotion, or
new career? (Hint: Managers hire people who can do the job. Can you do
the job with your current skills or must you learn new skills? Do you
need to get an industry recognized certification?) Go and ask the
manager in the department that you want to move into, what skills are
required to be successful in this job.
3. Identify the gap between your current skills and
the skills needed for your current job. Write down the skill gap. Talk
it over with your professional coach so that you understand what the gap
4. Make a project plan to fill the gap. How can you
learn the skills you need for the new position? Set SMART goals, that
are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time bound to
realize your project plan.
5. Honestly, answer this question "What support do
I need to make this plan work?" Do you need your manager to
support you? Your family? Must you take a loan to pay for the training
that you need?
Although these five steps are simple, they are not easy. Face facts and
realize that you are making significant personal changes here. Reach out
and hire a coach to encourage, support and work with you. I wish that I
had engaged a coach at the various points in my career when I was stuck
and stayed stuck for too long.
Obviously, you should continue taking the proven
ongoing career actions of networking and personal marketing every day.
Keep on building your network of employees at your organization and use
every opportunity to get to know people. If your company has a
Toastmasters club, then join it and take a leadership role. Market your
skills during your daily tasks at every opportunity. Marketing is simply
"Telling people what you do". Go for it, and tell people what you do.
Harsh Reality check:
1. Your manager has a lot of influence on your life
at work. Do what you can to make your manager look good and be valuable
to your manager, even if you disagree on everything. He is also doing a
job for a corporation (although Attila the Hun types seem to get up in
the morning with the sole purpose of expressing their self-anger at the
world). As tough as this is to do, speak with your manager and find out
how you can add more value and make his life a little easier.
2. Your career is where it is because of you. You
have to change if you want to take control of improving your situation.
Personal change is hard because it requires you to admit that what you
are doing now, including your values and beliefs are not working. Maybe
you made mistakes and your past decisions would never have worked.
Perhaps your decisions were good decisions years ago, but are not good
decisions today. The fact is that something you believe in is not
working for you in this situation. You need to face up to reality, and
make changes if you want to gain career traction. It is hard for
everyone although you have to face it first-hand if you want to have
steak on the dinner table.
3. Get outside help. You have come to realize that
your job isn't fun anymore, yet clearly are not able to make
improvements on your own. Admit that you need help and get it. Don't
remain stuck hoping that your situation to improve. Find a trusted coach
who is strong enough to hold up the mirror for you so that can see what
you need to do next. Your coach will help you to identify a few
action steps each week that will get you out of the mud and put solid
ground under your wheels again so that your job becomes yet another
milestone on the road to your successful career.