11 Lessons for Those Feeling “Stuck” or “Trapped” in their Careers

Limitless, by David Melchor Diaz, Flickr

Limitless, by David Melchor Diaz, Flickr

Have you ever had the feeling of being “stuck” or “trapped” in a career or job? Most people have at one time or another.

The question of what to do with this “stuck” feeling is vital for anyone facing a challenging season, and is at the heart of what I’d like to engage in this brief reflection.

Changing Your Work Context

Sometimes this experience or feeling leads toward a shift away from one’s current role, whether this shift is dramatic or more subtle.

One expression of this might be the bold step of quitting a job even though a next step is not in place. Another expression of this might be putting your résumé out and getting a feel for other options. Still another expression of this might be going back to school in order to eventual make the jump out of a current role.

Changing Your Perspective on Your Work Context

Other times, the answer is not a shift away from a role or organization, but rather a shift in perspective within that role or organization. This path is about taking a proactive posture toward the stuck feeling. Rather than seeing this as something brought upon you by the organization or others, this is about shifting to take ownership and responsibility for what you have control of as you face this feeling.

Advice for Getting Unstuck

On this point, Robert Steven Kaplan provides thoughtful reflections in his HBR article entitled Reaching Your Potential. Here are some recommendations and reflections drawn from Kaplan’s work for those desiring to move out of this feeling of being “stuck” and “trapped.”

  1. Understand Your Strengths and Weaknesses
  2. Use this Understanding to Guide Your Career Choices and Goals
  3. Identify Three or Four Tasks that Are Central to Your Work Responsibilities; Make Sure You Excel at These
  4. Show Character and Leadership within Your Role and Organization
  5. Put the Interests of the Company and Your Colleagues ahead of Your Own Interests
  6. Be Willing to Speak Up, Even Voicing Unpopular Views
  7. Don’t Play It Too Safe
  8. Identify Your Dreams
  9. Develop Skills to Realize these Dreams
  10. Demonstrate Courage to Pursue these Dreams
  11. Remember their Will be Bumps Along the Way

What Are Your Next Steps for Getting Unstuck?

Although we could identify other recommendations to add to these, Kaplan provides great insight here for those wanting to move forward from this place of feeling stuck. The key is to move away from a passive posture and on toward an active posture of taking ownership in moving toward your career potential.

What steps have been most helpful for you in getting “unstuck” in the context of your job?

10 HBR Must Reads: THE ESSENTIALS

I’ve become a fan of HBR’s 10 Must Reads series. This series provides an efficient way to access key HBR articles on a variety of subjects such as teams, strategy, and change management.

Perhaps the best volume for getting started is their “The Essentials” volume. It is entitled HBR’s 10 Must Reads: The Essentials and provides what they say is “an introduction to the most enduring ideas on management from Harvard Business Review.”

Here’s an over of the10 articles in The Essentials for HBR’s 10 Must Reads. I’m putting in bold my favorites from this list:

  1. “Meeting the Challenge of Disruptive Change,” by Clayton M. Christensen & Michael Overdorf, (orchestrating innovation within established organizations)
  2. “Competing on Analytics,” by Thomas H. Davenport, (using analytics to determine how to keep your customers loyal)
  3. “Managing Oneself,” by Peter F. Drucker (managing your career by evaluating your own strengths and weaknesses)
  4. “What Makes a Leader?” by Daniel Goleman, (using emotional intelligence to maximize performance)
  5. “Putting the Balanced Scorecard to Work,” by Robert S. Kaplan and David P. Norton (measuring your company’s strategy with the Balanced Scorecard)
  6. “Innovation: The Classic Traps,” by Rosabeth Moss Kanter (avoiding common mistakes when pushing innovation forward)
  7. “Leading Change: Why Transformation Efforts Fail,” by John P. Kotter (leading change through eight steps)
  8. “Marketing Myopia,” by Theodore Levitt (understanding who your customers are and what they really want)
  9. “What Is Strategy?” by Michael E. Porter (creating competitive advantage and distinguishing your company from rivals)
  10. “The Core Competence of the Corporation,” by C.K. Prahalad and Gary Hamel (identifying the unique, integrated systems that support your strategy)

Check out this resource when you get a chance!