Stuck in a Career Rut? 5 Steps to Get Out of It

Do you wake up every morning dreading the commute to work? Do you count the seconds until your lunch break? Are you jealous of friends who are happy with their jobs? Do you ever wonder what life would be like in a parallel universe?

Yes? Then the chances are, you’re stuck in a career rut.

Years ago at university, I took on a part time job as a shop assistant for a well-known British fashion label. On my first day I was introduced to the team, and learnt that my floor manager was looking for another job. “I’ve been here for 3 years” he said “I only wanted to be here for a summer, I have a degree in Graphic Design”. He was pretty bitter about it. When I left a year later, he was still there and as far as I’m aware, still is.

Career ruts are like quicksand, easy to slide into, difficult to get out of.

Whether you started a job and subsequently got swept away with the tide, or stagnated in what used to be in your dream position don’t despair, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.

Even if you hate your job, the good news is that the fact that you’ve already got one will work to your advantage. It’s a sad fact of life, but recruiters are more attracted to the employed than the unemployed.

The bad news is that finding the job you were destined to do is going to involve a bit of legwork. As the saying goes though, hard work pays off – and the cliché is no more relevant than it terms of your career. So let’s get started.

Lesson #1 – Figure out why you hate your job:

Is it the work or the dress code? The commute or the unreasonable deadlines? The uncomfortable office chair or your manager? Identifying exactly why you’re in a career rut will help you find out what you’d be better off doing.

A friend of mine, for example, had an awesome job as a city architect. Her bugbear, however, was the fact that she had to travel an hour to get to work every day, from one side of London to the other, and back again. After a year of slogging it, she gave in and found a similar position closer to home. It wasn’t as well paid, but she gained an extra 2 hours a day. Worth it? She thinks so.

The issue here wasn’t the work itself, and if that’s your case then a career overhaul probably isn’t the best solution. If you don’t feel challenged enough, ask for more responsibility. If you’re conflicting with a colleague, resolve it with a superior. If you hate your job and everything about, it’s time to look for a new one.

Lesson #2 – Work out your strengths and weaknesses:

I used to see a therapist who had spent the majority of his twenties managing a hotel restaurant. He began to notice that as well as running the place, he spent a lot of time listening to his staff and helping them solve their problems and this rapidly became his favourite part of the job. Eventually he quit the restaurant, went back to university and emerged years later as a trained counsellor.

Now, I’m not suggesting that everyone quit their jobs and go back to school to train as something new. The point I’m making is that it’s ok to do something different. Try and pinpoint exactly what it is that you do best, and work out what career would be most suited to your strengths.

Lesson #3 – Do your research:

Unless going to work every day is akin to sticking needles in your eyes, it’s ok to take your time to do some research. I’m not implying that you spend your office hours searching job boards, although that’ll have you out of the door quick enough. Simply assign some spare time each day to browsing what’s out there, and if you’re ready for it, applying for positions.

Getting a grasp on the job market will help you assess what’s achievable, and what’s not. You’ll get a better idea of the skills you need for certain jobs, or if you don’t have them, what positions you could apply for to get a foot in the door.

For example, you work in HR and your dream is to become an interior designer; you love decorating, trawling for furniture at the flea market and there’s a pile of ELLE Decor on your coffee table. Despite having passion, actually making that leap from office to decorator might prove tricky. However, finding a HR job in an interior design firm could be a realistic step in the right direction.

Lesson #4: Be prepared:

It’s realistic to say that our job market isn’t exactly thriving and the likelihood is, that it’ll take a while to find your dream position. With this in mind, it’s important to stay positive and have confidence that you will achieve your goal. Which you will if you keep at it.

Being prepared mentally is half the challenge; the other part is making sure you have a killer CV and an impressive LinkedIn profile. Don’t underestimate the importance of LinkedIn and your other social networks. The chances are, that the companies you apply to will spend more time researching your online presence than reading your CV. So remove any inappropriate tweets and lock down on your Facebook privacy settings pronto.

Lesson #5. Don’t be afraid of rejection:

Steve Jobs, Oprah Winfrey, Walt Disney and Elvis Presley are all famous examples of people who were rejected early on in their careers. Elvis’s granddad told him to go back to driving a truck, Steve Jobs was notoriously fired from Apple, before rejoining and later becoming CEO. Did it stop them from striving toward their goals? No.

Michael Jordan famously stated “I have missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I have lost almost 300 games. On 26 occasions I have been entrusted to take the game winning shot, and I missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

The bad news is, you will face rejection. The good news is, it will make you stronger and every step you take will bring you closer to your goal. Whether it takes 5 job applications or 50, it’ll all be worth it when you land your dream job, and finally escape that career rut.

By Selina Kerley

Selina Kerley is a blogger living and working in Berlin. She spends her days researching the world of online recruitment, in order to bring the latest news, hints & tips and hiring strategies to the world. Selina is currently working for recruitment software specialists softgarden.