Climb Out of Your Career Rut
Q. Help! I’ve worked in the same field for years and am stuck in an unchallenging position. How can I move out of this career rut into a more fulfilling job?
A. You’re not alone. Many workers today feel stuck in their careers. In a recent survey by Rasmussen College, only one third of 2,000 respondents reported being “happy in their job.”
Of course, not everyone who has worked in the same job over the long term is unhappy. But the Rasmussen survey found that many employees feel trapped or dissatisfied for these reasons:
- Poor financial reimbursement and prospects
- Being “underutilized” or “unfulfilled”
- Lack of growth or advancement opportunities
- Too much stress
- Toxic work environment
Particularly for people in the IT field, career stagnation tends to occur when you spend a long time in an unchallenging position, feel that you are not advancing, lack challenging projects, or have little time to develop or update skills.
To get out of your rut, you will need to create a new “working identity,” says researcher Herminia Ibarra, who advises following a gradual “test and learn” approach, rather than making an abrupt change.
It isn’t enough to want a more satisfying career: You need to initiate gradual, manageable changes that will lead you to that goal. Here are some steps you can take to shift yourself onto a more fulfilling career path.
- Evaluate your current career situation. What do you love about it? What do you hate? The answers can help you learn what needs to change for you to feel fulfilled, either in your current organization or elsewhere.
- If you think a different industry or role will make you happy, try it out by volunteering or freelancing during your free time. This way, you can determine whether your “dream” change is as satisfying as you expect.
- Stop complaining and start planning. Develop goals related to your love/hate evaluation. Acting on those goals can help lift you out of the doldrums.
If you realize that changing careers involves a significant skill set adjustment as well, don’t despair. You can use your current technical skills as a bridge to a new career. Dave Fecak, author of Job Tips For GEEKS: The Job Search and creator of JobTipsForGeeks.com, suggests that you identify companies that need skills that you have — and provide opportunities to acquire the new ones you need. Find a new mentor, expand your network, and build relationships with those who can help you develop professionally and offer job leads in your desired field.
Another means of developing new skills and easing into a career transition is to work with a recruiter that offers training and flexible opportunities, such as workshops and contract or part-time work. An experienced recruiting firm that specializes in your chosen industry can help match you with a position that allows you to move forward in your career.