What to do when your career feels stuck

Sometimes it can feel like you’re really making progress at work and in your career. Other times, you can feel stuck, or like things just aren’t moving the way you want them to. You might even be facing some hurdles.

But by identifying what’s holding you back, you can find a way to work through it – whether that’s by making a bigger change or a series of small actions.

Here are four situations where things may not be going as planned in your career, and how you can address them.

  1. You don’t see a future in the industry.
    The world of work is changing rapidly, and industries are forced to adapt and evolve all the time. New technology, different ways of working and challenging environments can all lead to change. While this change can create new opportunities, sometimes it means certain jobs or types of work decline or lose their demand. If you find yourself in an industry that’s declining, offering few opportunities for work or you have trouble seeing a future there, it’s worth exploring other options.

    It might feel like a huge leap to look to another industry if you have little or no experience in it, but that’s where transferable skills come in. Transferable skills are those core abilities, such as leadership or collaboration, that can be used in almost any role. Highlighting your transferable skills and how they can apply to a new role can help you to transition to a new industry. This transferable skills checklist can help you identify yours. It’s also worth taking a look at which industries are in demand, and the ways you can impress a potential employer in a new industry.

  2. You feel unfulfilled by your work.
    We all want and need different things from a job, from basics like being able to support yourself or your family financially, to work that suits your lifestyle. There’s also the driver of what you find fulfilling. There might be times you just need to focus on getting the basics from a job, and that’s ok. But if you’re seeking more fulfilment from work you deserve to explore it. It’s not uncommon to feel unfulfilled or dissatisfied by work. Perhaps you took on a job because it was right for you at the time, but no longer enjoy it. You may have even worked hard for something you were passionate about but no longer feel that way.

    Whatever the case, there are actions you can take to find more fulfilment from work. At a basic level, it’s about identifying what you’re passionate about then taking steps to pursue it. You could try assessing your values to find the work that suits you best. Breaking down the steps to following your passion is another way to look at it. You might find what helps is a career change – or it could be incorporating more things you’re passionate about in your current job, or starting your own project on the side. Or, you could see if you’re ready to be your own boss.

  3. You can’t see any growth opportunities where you are.
    Perhaps you’ve been in one workplace a long time and feel you’ve exhausted all areas for growth. Maybe you feel like your role is stagnating and don’t see how you could add new skills or move up. If you feel this way, it’s worth bringing it up with your boss or manager first. They might not know you’ve felt like this, and could be willing to help you or shed light on opportunities you didn’t know existed.

    But if there really are no options for growth or development where you are, it’s worth looking elsewhere. Focus on growing your network – this is just a matter of connecting with people professionally, and there are plenty of ways to build your network online. This can create a support base and open up potential opportunities. You could also think about the areas you’d like to develop in – perhaps certain skills, or things like leadership. Then take a look at what companies or organisations out there you could do this in. See if they have any opportunities, or get in touch to express your interest. It might also be a good time to look into the career risks worth taking.

  4. Your colleagues are getting opportuinties ahead of you.
    If you’re finding those around you are being given new opportunities or moving up while you’re left behind, there are things you can do. First, chat to your manager or boss to get feedback on your performance. They could draw your attention to skills you could develop, or help you set up a development plan – which could put you on track to bigger opportunities. You could also identify or ask for ways to take on responsibilities that are part of the role you’d ultimately like to be in. It’s also worth looking at any potential issues that could be holding you back. Is there a problem with the way you’re working, or a conflict that needs resolving? Working through any issues like this could help.

    If these steps aren’t an option or you still feel you’re being overlooked, it’s worth looking elsewhere. Again, building up your network is a good place to start. Update your SEEK Profile to highlight your skills and experience, and set up saved searches while you’re at it to be alerted to new opportunities as they come up. Exploring a sideways career move could be another option.

Sometimes, we can get stuck or hurdles can hold us back in our careers. But once you identify the situation you’re facing, you can find a way to address it. Remember – you’ve worked hard to get to where you are, and you can take the skills and experience you’ve gained to get yourself on track and moving forward, one step at a time.

Read more:

How to have a happy career
Being pigeonholed at work? Here’s how to break out