We’ve all been living and working in unusual and extreme conditions now for a significant amount of time due to the COVID-19 pandemic, no longer interacting with people face to face on a daily basis, no longer taking our morning commute to the office. So it’s perhaps no surprise then that many of us are feeling burnt-out, overwhelmed or stuck in our careers.
Perhaps you’d been working hard towards a promotion before the crisis hit, only for that to be put on hold, leaving you feeling deflated. Or maybe you feel that you’re no longer developing as quickly as you’d like due to a lack of opportunities in the current climate.
Feeling stuck is incredibly frustrating, however there are some proactive things that you can do to regain control of your career and kick-start your career progression.
1: Define your Ultimate Career Goals
Often the reason we feel we have a career block is because our vision of success doesn’t match up to our day to day reality – we can become bogged down in mundane tasks or organisational politics, or we may feel we’re no longer adding value to our work. It’s important to really define what your goals are in terms of your career, and check in with them regularly as they can change over time in relation to life events and circumstances.
In order to define your goals effectively it’s key to identify what your purpose is. This is often a combination of your passions and your strengths. Think about why you got into this type of work in the first place – what did you hope to achieve? What are you good at and what do you enjoy? What drives you to get up in the mornings? Take some time to reflect on your career and your life so far – what are your greatest accomplishments? What are you most proud of?
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Through asking yourself these pertinent questions you will come to a realisation of what your long-term career goals will look like. Write them down and stick them up somewhere prominent so you’ll see them often.
2: Work out What’s Blocking your Career Progression
This can take some deep thought so you’ll need to make sure that you create the right conditions for thinking, with no interruptions. Think about when you have your best ideas – it’s usually when you’re doing something you enjoy that brings you peace of mind, such as walking, or time in nature, with animals or family. A simple and useful exercise to help you get to that deep thinking space is to do breathing exercises to calm your mind and release any tension, you can find these easily on sites like YouTube.
Once you’re in your “thinking place” now ask yourself some questions – what’s stopping you from progressing your career as you’d like? What’s the reason you’re no longer feeling fulfilled by your work? Think back to a time when you did feel fulfilled – what was different about then to now? Make a note of these things.
Create Your Career Strategy
Frequently, we go into our careers without much of a plan or strategy, other than to earn what we need to live or do the thing we enjoy. However creating a structured plan for the next 1, 2, 5 or even 10 years can really help you to take control of your career and give you a sense of ownership over your development. Creating a plan will help to motivate you to achieve it and give you a clear set of steps you need to follow in order to achieve your goals.
Using the goals you wrote down in step 1 and the blockers you noted in step 2, think about how you can overcome these barriers and create the ideal career for you. It’s important to factor in your lifestyle and personal circumstances into this too – for example if you have a family, how do your career goals complement spending time with your family? What does your career need to look like in order to support the life you want? How do you need to balance your work and home life to ensure you remain healthy in all aspects of your life? What needs to change in order to achieve this?
Work out what steps you need to take towards your ultimate career goal. For instance, if you want to achieve a Director level position in say, the next 5 years, what type of experience do you need in order to gain this role? Who do you know who’s done this before whom you can learn from? How can you gain some exposure to new experiences in your current role? What are the skills you will need to get to this level? What will your next role look like that will take you one step closer to your goal?
Again, write all of this down so that you’ve got a clear plan detailing your:
- Long term career goals
- Development you’ll need to get there
- What your next career move could look like
- What barriers you’ll need to overcome
Proactively Upskill Yourself
There are many ways in which you can proactively upskill yourself both in work and your own time, allowing you to take control of your own development and keep your career progression on track. Using your career strategy, seek out opportunities to grow your skillset and test it out. For example could you put yourself forward for new assignments or projects, carry out voluntary work or start a new online course or evening class? Perhaps there are people who you can learn from or shadow who are doing the role you next want to do.
If you can’t gain new skills and experience in your current job, think about how else you can do this. It may mean starting a whole new career path before leaving your current one, either through re-training or by starting your own business on the side.
Ask for Help from Others
Learning from others is a great way to develop yourself. In your career strategy you thought about who else you can learn from, in order to achieve your goal. Connect with those people, whether it’s in person or on professional networking sites like LinkedIn. Expand your network to include people you aspire to be like and don’t be afraid to ask for help – people love to share their own career journey and are often happy and willing to give advice. Surround yourself with inspirational people – sometimes these will need to be external to the role you’re doing now – but it will help you to find the motivation to progress in the way you desire.
A great way to help to develop yourself and progress your career is to use a career coach or mentor. They can act as an impartial and confidential professional “friend” who can help you to identify and overcome the challenges that may be preventing you from achieving your desired career goals.