Feeling Stuck in Your Career? What Should You Do and Can a Career Coach Help?
Though I’m not a mind reader and you and I haven’t met yet, I bet that if you’ve landed on this page, something is really not working for you in your career as it is today.
And that, to be perfectly blunt, sucks. Because it doesn’t have to be that way.
You’re at the right place. I'm Sasha Raskin. I'm an author and a career coach in Boulder with clients all over world, and after a few meaningful career coaching sessions I had today I felt called to share some in-depth insights with you about feeling stuck in your career and how you can take the necessary steps to get unstuck.
If you're feeling overwhelmed, unsure of what to do next, or just plain frustrated with your career path, this comprehensive blog post is for you.
Let's do a quick dive into the main reasons why people get stuck in their careers, explore the mental and emotional aspects of feeling stuck, discuss some practical solutions to help you move forward, and understand how a career coach can support you throughout the process.
Main Reasons Why People Get Stuck in Their Careers
Whatever the job situation is, when potential clients reach out to us for help, they usually feel stuck and are not sure where to go next. To simplify, they stand paralyzed at a metaphorical crossroad, now knowing if they should turn right or left, usually because they don’t like either option. And being stuck in “freeze” mode definitely doesn't feel good either.
Here are just a few common ways that people describe where they’re at when they reach out to us for help:
“I feel like I am trapped in this position”
“I made it to the top of the career mountain but I’m not happy up here and am stressed all the time.”
“I have recently left my job, and I am attempting to start my own business.“
“For a mix of personal and professional reasons, I decided I just needed time away. I’m preparing to re-enter the workforce in the next few months.”
“I am at square 1 of finding a new career. I am paralyzed and don't know where to start, and I do not know what I want to do or where I want to go. I am not even clear on my strengths.”
“I want to find the next opportunity that will give me purpose.”
“The environment is becoming toxic and I'm very burnt out.”
Do you recognize yourself in any of the statements above?
I wouldn't be surprised if you did. It’s incredible how similarly our clients describe their career struggles, even if they’re in totally different career tracks, industries, and stages.
There are several, very valid factors that can cause you to feel stuck in your career.
Here are some of the most common reasons:
Lack of career growth opportunities: According to a Gallup study, 87% of millennials and 69% of non-millennials rate "professional or career growth and development opportunities" as important in a job (1). If you're in a job where there's no room for advancement or personal development, it's natural to feel stuck and disengaged. To use a simple allegory, some fish actually grow based on how big the body of water they live in is. It's a curious phenomenon called "density-dependent growth," which basically means that the number of fish in the area or the resources available can affect how fast they grow. Goldfish for example can grow way bigger if they have more space to swim around in. So, if you've got a goldfish in a small tank, it'll probably stay pretty small, but if you put it in a larger pond, it can get much bigger. If you feel too constricted to grow where you’re at, it might not be you, but the environment that’s to blame.
Job dissatisfaction: A study published in the Journal of Vocational Behavior found that job satisfaction is closely linked to overall well-being and mental health (2). If you're not happy with your job or the work environment, it can be difficult to feel motivated and engaged, leading to a sense of stagnation. I’m not saying that it’s realistic to be constantly ecstatic about what you do without experiencing any ups and down. What I am saying is that the baseline should be high enough, so that even the occasional lows don’t feel that low.
Unclear career goals: A study in the Journal of Applied Psychology found that setting specific and challenging goals can lead to higher performance (