Are you feeling stuck in your career? Have you lost your mojo? Are you bogged down by the same old, same old, but try as you might, you can’t put your finger on what you really want and what to do about it?
Even though the dreaded year of 2020 is over, not everyone is feeling motivated and hopeful that 2021 is going to be a lot better. Not everyone has started the year off with a bang and has buckets full of energy that are carrying them through.
Despite what you might see on social media, there are plenty of other lawyers, accountants, and consultants who are run down and exhausted. Even after the festive break. And this is a sign of burnout. Of course, you’re going to feel like you’re at a career crossroads if you plateaued. Of course, you’re not going to have any zest or mojo if you’re exhausted.
If you’re feeling stuck in your career, tired of the grind or you want to turn this year around, here is how to pick yourself up and kickstart your career. Not just for now, but for the whole year and beyond it.
Stuck in your career? Here are 8 ways to get un-stuck
1. Take care of yourself
We are like a broken record when it comes to self-care, but this is because it is so vitally important for everything. If we don’t fuel our bodies, then how can we expect to perform at our best?
Whether you’re feeling stuck in your career, you’re at a career crossroads or you’re burning yourself out, the first thing you should always do is check that you are regularly ticking off the core four:
- Sleep – are you getting 7-8 hours of sleep consistently? Is it good quality sleep? Sleep allows our bodies to repair and replenish, which is essential for our physical and mental health.
- Recharge time – do you regularly switch off from work? Do you have hobbies or extracurricular activities that you do that make you happy? Anything that brings you joy and recharges your batteries should be a priority.
- Exercise – do you exercise often? Do you get outside, even if it’s just for a walk, every day? Exercise is good for the body, mind, and soul. Not to mention those lovely endorphins that help clear the mind.
- Food and drink – do you eat and drink things that work for your body? E.g. are you eating things that give you energy rather than depleting it? Sugary drinks and fatty foods are the main culprits for making you feel sluggish.
These four elements are the foundation for you and how you perform on a daily basis. Think of them as the four pillars holding you up. If you’re not reinforcing one of them, that’s enough to bring you crashing down.
If you’ve started the New Year feeling like you haven’t had a break, that is a massive sign that there’s a problem. If you were ill over the festive break or you feel just as tired and exhausted as you did before the break, that is a sign that there’s a problem. Look at these 4 areas of your daily life – are any of them causing cracks to form in your foundation?
2. Make time for more headspace
If you are full-on at work and then full-on at home, and every day is an eat, sleep, and repeat…you’re never going to be able to find your mojo again. You can’t be full-on all the time, so take some time out.
You need real space and time to think if you want to figure out what you want and where you want to go. If you don’t have this, then how do you expect to get out of this funk and back on track?
Scientifically speaking, when you’re very alert and on the go all the time, gamma rays are firing off in your brain like crazy. While this isn’t a bad thing in the short term – this high-energy helps us to focus and problem-solve – in the long-term, it prevents your conscious brain from accessing the stuff that’s in our subconscious brain.
If you want to figure out big-picture problems such as being at a career crossroads, it is essential that you carve time to properly relax. When you’re relaxed, your brain waves become slower (they change to alpha and beta waves), and you are then able to unconsciously sort through the more complex problems. Have you ever had a eureka moment when doing something mundane? Without even thinking about it, you’ve figured something out because you’ve let your subconscious take over.
To get unstuck in your career, try diarising some thinking time. Call these blocks of time ‘head space-time’ and when it comes to it, do try only doing things that switch your brain waves. Things like:
- Going for a walk, run or cycle
- Meditating or mindful breathing
- Journalling or reading
3. Treat your career like a client
If you’re stuck in your career, it might be because you are not prioritising yourself. What we mean by this is, if you treated your career like it was a client, you would make time for it, you would know what you need to do, and you would have a plan for the future.
Try it. Diarise the time for you and actually put some time towards it. If it helps, create a different name and persona. Detaching yourself from you might help you to break through that mental barrier and think about what ‘they’ want and what ‘they’ should do instead.
You never know, approaching it this way may help you figure out what you want and need.
Here are some resources to help:
- How to find and make time for your own career (even if you already work too many hours)
- How to really create the time to work on your career
- How to set career goals that you actually achieve
- Fighting the “I don’t have time for this”. How to create daily habits for business development
- The Lawyer, Accountant, and Consultant’s guide: How to create a new daily structure when working from home for the first time
If you need help with this, download our free weekly planner template with full instructions, to make sure you prioritise what needs to get done.
4. Remind yourself of your values and your vision
Sometimes, going back to the basics can help if you’re feeling stuck in your career, burned out, lost or overwhelmed. By basics we mean, your identity. What makes you, you? What are your values, your vision and your purpose?
You might think that this is a load of rubbish but think about it for a second. Your values are the rules and the principles for how you choose to live your life. They make you who you are and you can’t change these. For example, one of my values is integrity. I both love and hate this value. On the one hand, it makes sure that I always do the right thing, but on the other, sometimes doing the right thing is really hard.
Then, there’s your vision. Your vision is your longterm direction and where you want to see yourself going. It might not be anything big, but it is still in the back of your mind influencing your decisions and actions on a daily basis. For example, my vision is to see myself semi-retire in 5 years time. This is what drives me and keeps me moving forward.
Both your values and your vision are what give you purpose. They give you the motivation to jump out of bed every morning and to get stuck in with work. If you’re feeling lost or stuck in your career, try reminding yourself of your values and review your vision. Maybe that has changed and identifying your new vision will give you a sense of purpose again.
5. Rediscover your why
Your sense of purpose is your ‘why.’ Why do you do what you do? What makes you tick? Why are you going through the gruelling process of making partner?
It’s important that you know your ‘why’ because this is what will carry you through the hard times. This is what will help you kick-start your career when you feel lost or at a crossroads.
Now, this can be very different from the direction you’re going in. For example, my purpose/what makes me tick/my ‘why’ is that I’m always after a challenge. If I’m not getting challenged, then it’s time to stop and change direction. It’s as simple as that. If I look at all of my career choices, they normally come under the umbrella of “I like a challenge” and that’s what drives me.
If you are needing to kick-start your career or to rediscover your mojo that has gotten lost along the way, rediscover your why. Go back to the basics as, often, the answer lies within those.
6. Practice gratitude daily and identify what you can change
This may sound like a strange piece of advice, but this simple thing can really help you become un-stuck.
Practising gratitude, i.e. writing down 3 things every day that you’re grateful for, is a great technique for self-care. This simple act grounds you within the moment; it gets you to think about what’s really good in your life and it switches off that future-focused voice in your head.
Usually, that future voice is fear of the unknown. The ‘what if..?’ demon that can plague your day-to-day life. What this gratitude exercise does is that it silences this voice, and instead, switches on the pleasure pathways in your brain. Think about something you are thankful for right now, did it bring a smile to your face?
When your brain is in a pleasurable state, you are more creative and focused and far more able to think laterally. Only then can you start to put some answers to what it is that you want and need.
Try it – what have you got to lose? Arm yourself with a pen and paper and start writing a list of what’s good about your career role and what’s bad. Can you do anything to improve on the bad stuff? Sometimes, all it takes is realising that the positives outweigh the negatives or that you can actually do something about the negatives. It’s easy to blame other’s and even the firm for certain negatives, but if you really look deeply, often, you can change certain things yourself.
Once you have identified what you can change, don’t forget to download our free weekly planner template! This will help you prioritise what needs to get done.
7. Reflect honestly
If you’re at a career crossroads, don’t fret. It’s time to look at yourself in the metaphorical mirror and reflect. Start by thinking about your younger self – can you re-light the passion and spark that you once had?
Here are some questions that you can ask yourself when you’re not sure which way to go:
- Why did your younger-self choose your career?
- What was it they really aspired to be?
- What was it that caused them to want to be an accountant, a lawyer, a consultant?
- What was it that you were going to change about the world and are you doing it now?
- What can you change to get that back into your role? If you had no fear, what would you go for or try to do?
Once you have answered these questions, it’s also a good exercise to reflect on the following (write these down):
- When are you at your happiest and most fulfilled at work? Why?
- What is important for you in a job?
- Look at your firm’s role description and competency frameworks vs other job boards – are there roles that excite you and if so, why? What is it about them and can you take some of that excitement into what you’re doing now?
You might find that all the ‘boring bits’ of your job are what would be left behind if you were to get promoted. In this case, write down a list of what you need to do to get promoted and that will be your new drive to kick-start your career!
8. Set new goals and develop positive habits
By now, you should have a very clear idea of what you want (your overall goal) and why you want to do it. So now the question is, how do you keep yourself true to your intentions?
Firstly, you need to create some short term goals (weekly and monthly goals) that are linked to your purpose, your why, your ambitions, your vision, and your values etc. This is where SMART goals come in. If you link every single goal that you have to your bigger picture, you are far more likely to be successful in carrying those intentions out. Just think of New Year resolutions. Often, they are thought of in isolation and within a few weeks, they become less and less relevant until they are a distant memory.
To make sure that you are moving forward towards your overall goal, for each of your short-term goals, outline the steps you will take to make them happen. Once you have done this, you then need to consider how you will make these into habits. (Discover Why habits, not goals, are essential to progress your career)
What trigger can you link your new habit to? Can you change an old habit or substitute this new habit here instead? For example, if you need to start doing a bit of business development each day, you could link this habit to whatever you do first thing when you start your workday. This could be to grab a cup of tea or coffee and then jump on LinkedIn for 10 minutes of engagement. Or, this could be switch on my computer and write a piece of content.
All habits are triggered by something, so if you can identify a trigger or link your new habit to an existing one, you’re far more likely to be successful in carrying out this action consistently.
Note to Progress to Partner members: You can find out more about effective goal setting in the Mindset part of Progress to Partner. In particular the on-demand course “How to truly commit to moving your career forward” course
Take control of your future
Ever heard of the saying, “Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change. Courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference?” This quote is incredibly apt for this topic.
When it comes to your career, you must remember that you are in the driving seat. It’s easy to become overwhelmed and it’s easy to place blame on others, but at the end of the day, if stuff needs to change, only you can do this.
If you don’t know what you want and you feel stuck in your career, then that’s another matter. Don’t just sit back and take it. Use these 8 steps to reflect on your situation and to retake the reins for your career. Remember, only you can find the courage to change your situation.
- 16 proven strategies for coping with a big life change
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- How to curb your overwhelming anxiety (particularly when worrying about the impact of CV-19 on your career and livelihood)