Stuck in a Career Rut? Break Out In 6 Easy Steps


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Lauren McGoodwin, Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Career Contessa

Feeling unmotivated by your 9-to-5? Do you live for the weekends and in perpetual fear of Monday morning? Constantly wondering if you’d be better off doing something else? If you answered yes to (let’s face it) all of these questions, I’m officially diagnosing you with a case of the dreaded career rut.

Whether you’re seriously stuck or just battling a summer daze, it’s tough to power through 40+ hours a week when you’re not loving the day-to-day; which is why I’ve created a step-by-step plan to help you get unstuck and move forward with your career.

Step 1. Evaluate your current situation.

Start by making a list of specific things in your current job that you love and hate. For example, jotting down “I hate my job” is not quite as productive as writing “I hate that more than half of my daily responsibilities including making sales calls.” This is going to help you focus during your next job search, and narrow down the specifics of what you are and aren’t looking for in a new role. Make sure you create a detailed list including: work environment, commute, co-workers, manager, hours, job responsibilities, and anything else that might be affecting your performance.

Step 2: Network with no agenda.

Networking with no agenda, also known as informational interviewing, is an integral part of researching new job opportunities. Initiating conversations and informal meetings with no agenda (other than having interesting conversations with people inside and outside your organization, of course) is key to building meaningful professional relationships. And hey – when fitting opportunities do arise, those connections will probably think of you first.

Another reason I’m a huge fan on informational interviews (seriously, just look at my website) is because they allow you to discover if a certain career path isn’t for you. Speaking directly to someone in the trenches of the day-to-day is the best way to learn the ins and outs of a job, and more importantly, if the reality of their duties line up with the position you’re looking for.

Step 3. Indulge your passions and interests.

“Do something you’re passionate about” gets thrown around a lot, so I’ll try to make it really simple – explore outside activities that make you happy. If you like crafting, try taking classes at your local paper store. If you’re interested in website design, check out hack schools to expand your knowledge. Whether it’s a structured workshop, going back to school, or just finally finishing that Pinterest DIY project, I encourage you to indulge in your interests to help spur creativity. Getting creative in one aspect of life may help you approach your career rut with an open mind (and a potential portfolio).

Step 4. Create a digestible game plan.

The most important step in helping you work through a career rut is creating a manageable game plan. Define your goals and map out how you plan to achieve them. For example, if you want to pursue a job in search engine optimization, your plan might look something like this:

  1. Identify companies and evaluate my current situation. Do I have the knowledge and skills to qualify for SEO marketing jobs at Company X? What are my roadblocks, and how will I remove them?
  2. Polish my resume and LinkedIn profile. Read and catch up on any SEO industry news.
  3. Browse LinkedIn network and send an email to see if I have any contacts within Company X who might be willing to put in a good word for me. Schedule a time to meet with each of these contacts.
  4. Apply to open positions at Company X, and also send my resume directly to the hiring manager.
  5. Follow-up with any contacts I met with to let them know I applied, and circle back with one email to the hiring manager about my interest in the position.

Feel free to create a new game plan for each new role or company you pursue. They don’t all have to look the same; the point is to break down a larger task, like getting an offer from Company X, into more digestible steps.

Step 5. Consistency is key.

Consistently staying focused on accomplishing your goals is vital to getting out of your career rut. A good way to start implementing your plan without losing momentum is to write goals and schedule action items directly into your calendar, just like you would a workout or happy hour. Go out and buy that fancy day planner so you can schedule each networking event and informational coffee chat.

Step 6. Celebrate your mini-goals.

Getting an offer for your dream job is the ultimate goal, but don’t forget to celebrate the mini-goals along the way! Remember that while finding a new job can take two weeks or two years, small accomplishments along the way always deserve a pat on the back–you’re doing more on a weekly basis to move your career forward than some people will ever do.

Are you ready to take the next step in your career? Explore GA’s classes and workshops–from web development and user experience design, to business fundamentals, to data science, to product management and digital marketing.

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