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  • Perhaps you had been working hard towards a promotion before the crisis hit, only for those plans to be put on hold, leaving you feeling deflated. Or maybe, you’re concerned your learning and development is stalling as you deal with the ‘here and now’ implications the pandemic has for your role and the wider organisation. Or you simply feel stuck in a job that you don’t like, resigned to the fact that now isn’t a good time to search for a new one.
  • Feeling stuck in your job can be extremely frustrating, particularly in a difficult labour market like the one we’re experiencing now. The good news, however, is that there are some proactive things you can do to help you feel as if you’re moving your career in the right direction, instead of standing still.

Nine actions to take if you feel stuck in your job

1. Find your self-confidence again: Working remotely, or at least in a hybrid way, can leave you devoid of all those positive reinforcements and small ‘confidence boosts’ that you would ordinarily experience throughout the day – often without realising – when working in a buzzing office. This may have left you doubting your skills, denting away at your ‘work mojo’ in the process. Perhaps imposter syndrome has started to creep in, knocking your self-confidence even further.

If this sounds familiar, stop and take a moment to reflect; something you probably haven’t had a chance to do much of if you’ve been working non-stop throughout the pandemic so far. Take some time to reflect on all that you have accomplished in your career so far and realise that your success is down to you – no one else. Write down your accomplishments and what you’re proud of, and refer back to them when you need a confidence boost. It might simply be that your growing lack of self-confidence and constant negative self-talk is what’s really holding you back from giving your career forward momentum and adding to your feelings of being ‘stuck’.

If you show the classic signs of ‘imposter syndrome’ – such as crediting your career successes to mere luck or ‘being in the right place at the right time’, instead of your own capabilities, skills and hard work – be sure to remind yourself that you aren’t alone in suffering from this, especially right now. Learn how to accept compliments from others on your work performance and achievements, and take the time to celebrate your successes.

2. Create your own career strategy: While you might share this with your boss, often the greatest value of putting together your own personal career strategy for the next one, two or even five or 10 years, might be in how strongly it motivates you to drive your career forward and pull yourself out of the work rut you’re experiencing.

Detailing what you want to learn and where you want to get to can give you a greater sense of ownership of your own development – ultimately putting the power in your hands – especially at a time when the world is so full of uncertainty, with many feeling a lack of control.

After all, this is your development, and you’re the only one that can really drive it. If you’re feeling stuck because you’re not clear in your mind as to where you want to go or which routes are an option for you right now, creating this personal development strategy will help you crystallise your thoughts. Then, once you do have a plan, stick to it and break it down into manageable steps.

Brendan O’Donovan, Group Data Marketing Director at Hays, has outlined the key features that your career strategy ought to have, including:

  • Your ultimate goal: This can obviously vary from person to person, but can include: reaching a certain level of seniority, to work for a specific company, to earn a certain salary, to have a specific impact on society at large, to attain public recognition or to achieve a healthy work-life balance.
  • Clear insight into the context: Ask yourself questions on your internal and external context including:
    • Internal:
      • What skills and capabilities do I have?
      • What are my strengths and weaknesses?
      • What types of work have most energised me over the last year?
      • How have I grown and developed professionally over the last five years?
      • What professional network do I have (mentors, colleagues, contacts)?
    •  External:
      • What are the typical intermediate career steps to get to my goal?
      • Who are the people whose career I’d want to model my own on?
      • What are my strengths and weaknesses compared to people I compete with for promotion or a new job?
      • How are technology trends changing the types of opportunity available to me?
      • How are my potential employers performing in their market?
  • Your route to success:
    • An action or attribute which everyone who has succeeded at your goal has in common (and which sets them apart from everyone who has tried and failed at the goal).
    • Something that nobody you’re in competition with is doing, but which would be highly valued by an employer of choice.
    • A new area of employment which is emerging or growing, which you could get established in before anyone else.
  • Plans and actions:
    • What skills do you need to develop? Can you develop them at work, or do you need to learn outside?
    • What is your ideal next career step? Is there scope for promotion at your current employer right now, or do you need to look elsewhere? Is it realistic to achieve it over the next year? If not, how can you begin to take on those responsibilities early and volunteer yourself for stretch assignments?
    • Imagine yourself at the end of next year, talking an interviewer through an example of something you’ve done over the past year that makes you perfect for your ideal next job. What is that project or performance, how can you ensure you’re involved and able to make that example a reality? What are the barriers you’ll need to overcome?

3. Proactively upskill: There are many ways you can proactively add to your skills in your own time, which in turn, will help drive your professional development and keep your career progression on track. Committing to adopting a growth mindset and your own lifelong learning, including staying up-to-date with trends and developments in your industry, will help you feel that you’re moving forward productively in your career, even if COVID-19 unfortunately means you may not be promoted as quickly as you’d like.

As much of the world goes through continued lockdown and reopening cycles to help limit the spread of the virus over the coming months, you have a lot of options for upskilling even if you aren’t in the office all of the time at the moment. Those could include – as Hays Australia Director Jane McNeill has suggested – learning a new language or two, training or mentoring someone else, keeping an eye out for relevant webinars and podcasts, and accessing any training or development resources your employer offers. The key thing is to keep your upskilling going even in these strange times, instead of leaving it on pause, which will only add to your feelings of being stuck in your job.

If you’re interested in upskilling, I’d recommend that you take a look at My Learning, our free online training portal.

4. Regain your passion for your profession: The challenges, disruption and stress brought by the pandemic may have left you feeling as if you’ve lost your ‘work mojo’, the fire in your belly, the passion you have for what you do, leaving you feeling deflated and stuck. Now is the time to regain that passion. Take some time to reflect and think about what it is that you love about your job. But not only that, also ask yourself what your own personal purpose is.

One great way to summon up some of the old passion is to remind yourself why you took on your current job in the first place. Also, as I said earlier, give yourself a pat on the back for all of the progress you have made in your role so far. Make sure you break out of your usual daily routine from time to time – perhaps shaking things up by volunteering for different tasks, which I’ll touch on in a bit more detail later in this blog. Learning a new skill or reading about new trends in your industry will also help you regain the passion for what you do.

And if all else seems to fail, remind yourself that you’re far from the only person who’ll be struggling to regain their ‘work mojo’ right now. These are bizarre and difficult times, and a lot of people are more despondent about the situation than they’re necessarily letting on. But as Dr Maggi Evans has previously explained, simply being honest and kind to yourself, as well as taking small steps to adjust your energy flow, can greatly help you to feel better about your life and career.  

5. Turn to others for inspiration: Explore what experts or those you look up to are doing in their careers and how they got there. Expand your network to include those you aspire to be like and learn all you can from them. This will give you the motivation, inspiration and knowledge to really drive your career forward.

A great way to do this is to find a career mentor. By ‘career mentor’, I’m referring to a confidential advisor who can help you to overcome the challenges that may currently be preventing you from achieving your longed-for professional goals – here are four key steps that will help you to find and nurture your own mentor-mentee relationship.

6. Optimise your personal brand: Opportunities for a promotion may or may not be available to you at the moment. Either way, it’s important that as part of your personal ownership of your career development, you take steps to optimise your personal brand and perfect your online presence. This will position you as an expert in your field, and the very act of doing so will give you back an element of control, making you feel less ‘stuck’.

The development of a strong personal brand online is a gradual and multi-layered process, encompassing first steps such as Googling your name to see what the rest of the world currently sees, and checking that your various social media profiles are consistent in how they represent you.

Catherine Gutsell, Global Head of Content and Social Media at Hays, has previously gone into greater detail about how you can clean up your act on such key social platforms as LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.

7. Have an open and transparent conversation with your boss: If you feel stuck in a job with no progression in sight, and you’re comfortable with the idea of having an open and honest conversation about it with your boss, then do so. Your manager’s role is to help you succeed, and they can only do that if they understand what your career goals are and what barriers or blockers you’re experiencing.

Where possible, it’s in the best interests of not only you, but also your employer, to have these open and transparent conversations about the future. It helps to avoid both of you sailing blindly into the future, perhaps with very different expectations of what that future is likely to look like.

To help ensure you can plot the right path forward for your career as a result of these conversations, be sure to ask yourself certain questions in advance. Those might include what you do and don’t enjoy about your current role, how you see your role progressing in the coming years, and what kind of work you would love to do in an ideal world. This information will help your manager understand your situation and agree on steps forward.

8. Stop ruminating on how stuck you feel: Your job and your professional development absolutely should be part of your focus. Of course, your career deserves careful consideration and should occupy your thoughts, to an extent. If, however, your frustrations are consuming your mind, then it’s time to find some more balance and focus on other aspects of your life. This will help you gain some perspective and ultimately take the most effective approach to alleviating those feelings of being stuck in your job with no way forward. So, pick back up on a once-loved hobby, spend time doing the things you enjoy and make sure you’re getting enough rest – instead of working unhealthily long hours in a desperate need to prove yourself or pull yourself out of your rut.

9. Look for a new job: If you’ve done all of the above and you feel your career progression goals won’t be met at your current organisation, or are continuing to feel increasingly ‘stuck’, it might be time to explore another role. Before you start your job search, talk to a recruiter and take time to reflect on exactly what you want from the next stage of your career. Also be sure to update and optimise your CV and LinkedIn profile, and tailor each application where possible.

Feeling like you’re stuck in your career is frustrating to say the least, even in non-pandemic conditions. In current times, when it can often feel as if so much of ‘normal’ life is effectively in suspension, it can be all the more agonising. By following the above tips, however, you can regain some control and take steps to ensure you’re still moving forward in your professional life, pulling you out of your career rut and back onto the right track.