Stuck In Your Job? It’s Time to Create a Roadmap for Your Career!

by Julie Norwell

It’s Monday morning. How do you feel about getting out of bed to go to work?

With luck, you are among the 51% of U.S. workers who are satisfied with their jobs. This figure, reported last fall by the Conference Board, a business-research group, represents the highest level of job satisfaction since 2005. If you are among the remaining 49% of Americans, however, whose feelings range from a lack of passion to dread about starting a new week at work, it’s time to consider a change in your life.

Maybe some event has happened, like an illness in the family or a merger at work, that has turned your normal upside down. Maybe you feel under-appreciated by your boss. Maybe you feel that you are doing a good job with what’s within your control, but things outside of your control are preventing you from feeling successful.

Or maybe you just have a gnawing sensation that you want to do something different with your life.

Any of these situations should trigger you to re-balance your life so that you can approach your work with new energy.

Even if you’re satisfied, don’t wait until things go south at work to figure out how to improve your career prospects. It’s hard to understand why things are going wrong when you’re reacting to a bad situation. NOW is always the right time to think about your career strategically.

First Step: Figure Out Where You Want to Go

Before making any professional move, you need to figure out where you want to go. That’s harder than it sounds because there are many underlying factors to consider. For most people, work and every other aspect of life are closely tied together. It’s crucial, therefore, to find balance in your life.

The key to finding balance is, first, ascertaining what your non-negotiable goals are; these will be your beacon as you chart the course of your career.

Start by reflecting on what is right and wrong about your life – not just your work life, but every aspect of your life. What makes you happy and unhappy? How do you define a successful life for yourself? What do you most value?

There are no wrong answers to these questions as long as you are being honest with yourself.

Next, ask yourself what obstacles you face in achieving your goals. What will it take to overcome them? Warning: You may need to dig deep for that answer and you may not like what you discover (because sometimes the biggest obstacle you face is you). But if your goals are valuable enough to you, the pursuit of them is worth the challenge.

If this first step sounds more like life coaching than career advice, you aren’t wrong.  “Life coaching is a foundational process because I can’t help people with their careers if they don’t have that foundation,” says Dan Resendes, Chief Consulting Officer at career management firm, The Barrett Group.

Resendes touts the merits of The Barrett Group’s well-developed Clarity methodology, which calls on clients to rank their overall happiness, on a scale of 1-10, in four categories: financial independence, business success, family and relationships, and health and fitness.

“We ask our clients to set short- and long-term goals to get the highest score possible in all four areas. This process gives people clarity on how to see what is right and wrong about their lives and helps them make informed decisions. It gives them a roadmap.”

Create a Roadmap for Your Career

Once you have clarity about where you want to go, you can plan your path to get there. Know your core competencies – where are you an expert? This includes both hard skills (e.g. specifically learned skills) and soft skills (e.g. naturally acquired skills, such as ability to communicate or work in a team setting). You should also know your weaknesses. Are there gaps between your skillset and those in demand in your target career? If so, figure out how to acquire them.

Whenever possible, ramp up your skills. Read books, join professional groups, take courses, attend conferences and talk to people who do what you want to do. In the fast-paced business world of today you will lose your competitive edge if you don’t make upskilling a regular focus of your career strategy.

The value of networking cannot be overstated when it comes to career changes.

Most new jobs are landed when people leverage their social capital, according to Resendes. “Of our clients, 75% land a job through social networks – and many of those are unpublished jobs,” he said. No wonder then that The Barrett Group urges all clients to kickstart a career change by reconnecting with friends, family and business acquaintances.

That doesn’t mean floating your resume around or asking people for jobs. It means focusing on nurturing relationships – spending time to catch up and strengthen social connections. At some point the conversation may come back to you – your work and aspirations – and could yield some benefits. It may not happen immediately, but at some point in the future your friend may talk to someone about a topic related to you and will think of you.

If you are very serious about making a career change, you should consider working with a professional career coach. A coach can reframe things differently, help drive and navigate the process, and hold you accountable, like a trainer.

A coach can be more objective and ask hard questions that you won’t ask yourself. She can help you think outside your comfort zone and stretch your perspective. Once you do, you may stretch more than you ever thought you could – and change more than you ever thought you would.

Of course, a coach can also be invaluable in offering best practices when it comes to resume and cover letter preparation, interviewing, and job offer negotiations among other things.

What to Expect from Getting Unstuck

Be prepared for some discomfort as you travel your new career path. There will be highs and lows and the process may be fast or slow – it all depends on your circumstances and how much time and effort you put into it.

Indeed, you should be prepared to spend at least three hours per week working on your career plan. Treat your career with the same importance you do your work and your family by scheduling time on your calendar to work on it.

For many, time management will be a bear, especially during the self-reflection part of the process. Not only is it hard to make time to ask yourself uncomfortable questions, but also there is no immediate gratification.

Still, the biggest obstacle to achieving success is spending 100% of your time taking care of your family and job. Sure, it seems honorable, but if you aren’t committed to working on your career, nothing will change.

Professionals that commit themselves to the journey they have charted for themselves are always the first to land new opportunities. And those that continue to focus on their careers in a strategic, not reactionary, way will continue to discover new opportunities going forward.

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