Stuck in a Job You’ve Outgrown?

Let’s face it. We’re not moving around (or up) as easily and speedily as we used to.  For the moment, companies aren’t hungrily seeking us out and offering signing bonuses just as a reward for having a pulse. Can’t sell the house in order to move to a more happening hot spot? Stuck. Spouse is stuck? You’re stuck. The person who has the job you would naturally be promoted is just too comfortable in his comfort zone to vacate it?  Stuck.

You are in what Dr. Seuss called “the waiting place.”  Welcome. Have a seat.  Enforced waiting has commenced.  The question is now, “What do you do with all this time on your hands?” Do you use the stuck spot to punish yourself for the woulda coulda shoulda decisions that you made in a different economic environment? Watch hours of news every day to justify your growing conviction that there’s no point in trying to bust out of the stuck spot?

Or do you decide to make really good use of your time in “time out” to get ready for your next big career leap?  That one.  See? I knew it! You’re so smart. Here are some things to get your career sticker unstuck:

Be grateful for what you have. Had to be said. I know, there’s nothing more obnoxious, preachy, Oprah-like to be reminded to be grateful.  But if you have a pulse and a paycheck, you’re doing better than most people in the entire history of mankind.  Think of all those dirt-nappers who’d give anything to be in your shoes, with toes pointing forward instead of up. At least you still have hope. Okay. So moving on…

If you’re stuck with your employer, look for ways to recommit to your company’s mission. Rekindle that original romance you had when you first signed up for the job. Revisit its mission and values statement.  Consider the ways your company really does make life better for other people. (If it’s successfully selling its products and services, it is indeed making life better for others.) You can reignite that old spark of wonder and magic you had with your employer during your initial honeymoon period.  It’s a matter of identifying where the new sparks are. 

Remind your leadership that you’re alive.  Chances are very good that they’re not in the habit of regarding you as a high-value, high-potential employee. Could they have started taking you for granted? Talk to your boss and other leaders around the business about taking on new projects, especially projects where you can learn new skills and gain heightened visibility among departments and divisions that might not know you.

Speaking of other departments and divisions: identify what new businesses and products your company is investing in and put yourself forward for consideration in those areas.  (Don’t put your current job at risk, of course, in your pursuit for the next dream.  Just tactfully let it be known that you’re eager to grow, etc.) When you’re helping your company stay on the leading edge of its market, you’re helping your career’s leading edge move forward as well.

Get interested again. Give yourself an independent study assignment.  Part of the rut you’re in may have something to do with the fact that you’ve gotten tunnel-visioned about your company, its industry, its affiliate industries and where you fit in.  You know who your competitors are.  But what about your industry’s suppliers and their business models? What about the academics who are developing theories and formulas that will be incorporated into the products and services that your company will bring to your customers. Explore these avenues that you might have once dismissed as tangential to your core responsibilities, and you might find some interesting opportunities there.

Just get moving.  Waiting does not mean stagnating. You probably already know this: Sitting around like this guy is going to make you feel funky, fat and a failure. Action is the high road to self esteem. Use the power of your company’s role in your community to get active in a cultural or social cause near you.  Start an internal peer coaching or training program where colleagues across the age groups and company functions have the chance to teach each other informally. Work with corporate communications to launch a speakers series.  Take action and your career life will get interesting again.

Side benefit:  Your upcoming job interviews will also be more interesting and memorable to recruiters.  You’ll have something to say about yourself that is positive, energized,  inspiring and recent.  Even more closely aligned to the new job you want — so the recruiter doesn’t have to take a leap of faith in you. And with all the self-discovery that you’ll be able to achieve while in The Waiting Place, the next leap on your career ladder will take you to an opportunity that will be even more exciting and valuable to you on that career journey you’re on.

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2 Responses to Stuck in a Job You’ve Outgrown?

  1. Libby Gill says:

    Well said, Martha! The waiting place can, indeed, be frightening or fruitful – it’s all about what you do while you’re there. And you’ve given some excellent suggestions for using your stuck state to best advantage. As the author of “You Unstuck: Mastering the New Rules of Risk-taking in Work and Life,” I encourage people to clarify their vision for success (whatever their current circumstances), simplify the path to get there and execute the plan with flawless follow-through. Or as you say, “Just get moving.”
    Libby Gill – Executive Coach and Author of “You Unstuck”

  2. It is so incredibly difficult to stay motivated when you feel stuck. These are terrific tips.

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