No matter what profession you’re in, you may have questions about your career. Was this the right choice? Am I making an impact? How much longer do I want to be doing this?
Feeling stuck in your career is more common than you think – a report from the nonprofit research group Conference Board revealed 52.3 percent of Americans are unsatisfied or unhappy at work. The good news is that there are ways to avoid common traps that make you feel stuck in your career. Read on for five suggestions to boost your outlook and opportunities.
Being conscious of your values helps guide your daily actions and career aspirations. Try asking yourself what your three (or more!) uncompromising values are in life. Make a list that's visible while on the job and watch the way these principles impact your life and work. The important thing to be aware of is that you may switch to "autopilot" from time to time. Steering your career is a big-picture, long-term journey filled with professional challenges, accomplishments and opportunities. Writing down your values at work can have an immediate impact on the choices you make related to a current project, position or future employment opportunity.
Whether you're improving existing skills or building new ones, going back to school can provide new momentum in your career. You'll likely have some questions about where to start when thinking about returning to school – just remember you're not alone! The National Center for Education Statistics tells us that 40 percent of all college students are over the age of 25. By finding professional courses or a degree that helps get you where you want to be, you are investing in your future while gaining knowledge and experience you can apply to a specific field. If you're working in a specialized role in a shrinking field, secondary education can help you build new skills to improve your value and career options.
Understanding your priorities and keeping them visible will help you focus on what's most important and what needs to get done next. For example, being involved in large-scale projects can seem daunting at times without a plan of attack. Writing down priorities helps you conceptualize what needs attention and in what timeframe. Doing so will also aid your organizational skills by staying on top of what's important. Prioritizing your various duties, assignments, delegations/managerial tasks and other work will help you push forward in your career while minimizing stress.
It's natural to allow things that are outside your control to affect you, but it is ultimately a choice we make. As a companion to setting priorities, focusing on the small things you control helps build momentum and keeps you moving forward while checking things off your to-do list. If you're feeling stuck, ask yourself these questions: "What can I do today to make tomorrow better?" "What can I do now that will help move things forward?" "What can I accomplish in these 20 minutes between a meeting and lunch?" Slowing down to reflect on what you can do to advance your responsibilities or career can create a clearer picture of how you want to turn roadblocks into accomplishments.
Lifelong learners make time in their busy lives to absorb fresh information by educating themselves on new concepts and trends. Embracing this philosophy and keeping your skills current can go a long way toward showcasing your value to employers or shaping your career moves throughout your lifetime. Fortunately, finding outlets for continuous learning is easier than ever, with modern technology like smartphones and tablets to online college courses available at your fingertips.
If you're an auditory learner, the recent podcasting boom means experts are sharing knowledge through a medium you can use on a commute, at work, traveling – just about anywhere. If you're reading a book on a theory or physical skill, apply the practice in real time afterward. As you absorb new information and ideas, take the time to compare it with your values and career interests. If you are willing to expand your mental understandings, being a lifelong learner will serve you well in avoiding feeling stuck in your career.