How to Move Your Career Forward When You’re Stuck in a Rut

If you’re dissatisfied with your career and want to change your life, how do you find a way to achieve worthwhile change and reach your full potential? It requires determination and hard work of course, but you also need to have a clear idea of the specific steps you can take in whatever position you find yourself that will lead to a positive outcome.

Why you’re stuck in a rut

There are all sorts of reasons why people get stuck in a rut with their career. It’s usually a result of the influences of circumstance; what’s happened in your life that’s gotten you where you are today. Maybe you couldn’t afford college and weren’t able to get a scholarship, so you had to get out and find a job with your academic ambitions unfulfilled.

Relationships often influence career paths, so you might have had to move to be with a partner or relative, had to care for someone, or perhaps started a family. Sickness can ruin the best-laid plans; maybe you were too ill to pursue your ideal career, or it set you back and you’ve never made up lost ground.

Very often, people don’t have a clear idea of what they want to do as a career when they leave high school or college, and end up working somewhere because there happened to be a vacancy, not because it was their aim in life. Or they go into a career believing it’s what they want to do only to discover it’s not filling them with enthusiasm each day.

These and many other of life’s circumstances and peculiar quirks can mean you find yourself five, ten, even 20 years from leaving full-time education doing a job you feel no passion for and wishing you could be doing something else.

How can you change your life?

Changing your life starts with how badly you want to make a change. How many people do you know who moan about their job but stick with it year in year out because it’s easier than making things change? You have to be able to move past the barriers of habit and routine and see what you can achieve if you put your energy into making changes.

The longer you’ve been in a job very often the harder it is to leave. This may sound counter-intuitive, but it’s because of a mistaken belief that having put so much into this career, you don’t want to waste what you’ve invested by giving it up now. This attitude is what’s known as the sunk cost fallacy, and it applies to many areas of life. You keep doggedly trying to keep your marriage going because you’ve been together for 18 years; you keep placing money on a sure thing because you’ve bet so much already; or you keep working with a difficult customer because you’ve put all that effort into gaining their custom.

On the face of it, you can see why there’s a reluctance to abandon something into which you’ve put so much blood sweat and tears. This is your sunk cost – what you’ve put in and you’ll never get back. The fallacy is to believe that if you keep on putting money, time, and effort into something, at some point it’s bound to turn around and reward you for your efforts.

This is a mistake, and it’s something that you’d see only too clearly if you weren’t the person involved. What you need to do is step back from the situation and look at it objectively. Just because you’ve invested heavily already doesn’t guarantee future success; in fact, if you’ve been working at something for many years and it’s still not paying off, chances are it never will. So you’ll be wasting even more time and effort if you carry on. If, however, you call it quits and take what you’ve learned with you to the next project, you have a much better chance of success. Learn from your mistakes, but don’t keep repeating them in the blind hope that all will come good in the end.

First steps to change

Having seen the light and realized that change is the way forward, how do you get started? There’s no harm in being ambitious – write down your ultimate goal, whether that’s teaching kindergarten or being on the first manned flight to Mars, and break it down into the steps you would need to take to make it happen. For instance, if you want to be a teacher, then find out what qualifications you’d need and how you can study for them.

It’s never been easier than it is now to make life changes, due in no small part to the availability of online education and training, that opens up a world of possibilities for anyone who has the drive to study in their own time. Say your ambition is to land a senior management role at the large corporation where you currently work. There’s no qualification that’s more respected than the MBA, and you can study for an MBA entirely over the Internet with Walsh University Online. Achieving an MBA is impressive enough, but when your current bosses or prospective employers know you did it all in your own time they’ll be even more impressed.

Qualifications in a subject that’s going to give you the skills to change your life are invaluable, but you can also undertake many other productive activities. Volunteering for special projects, joining clubs and societies, research, taking advantage of opportunities offered by professional bodies, and offering your assistance in the field when you’re making a radical career change can all gain you valuable skills and get you noticed.

If you’re stuck in a rut, the only person who can change your situation is you. You need to have the will to put in the hours and make sacrifices, but if your career change is one that genuinely excites and stimulates you it’s likely you’ll be more than able to stick with it and achieve your ambitions.

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