Are you a graduate early in your career struggling to decide whether to stay or go in your job or to change direction? My recent research with graduates on job searching in your 20s identifies lack of clarity about the next step as a barrier. This post looks at 5 ways to get out of an early career dead end.
Is this you?
- I like my job, but they are not getting the best out of me.
- There aren’t any development opportunities here.
- Everyone says they are happy with my work, but it’s unfulfilling.
- I’ve just completed several years studying on top of my degree for a specific career, but I’m not sure it’s for me.
- I’m on a graduate development programme, but I feel trapped.
- I like my job, but it’s very challenging and I risk burn-out.
Expectations are a future foretold. Real or imagined expectations can hold you back. What if you reframe your expectations to get unstuck?
Escaping a career dead end
Here are 5 ways to help you take the next step that is right for you:
Manage your discomfort differently
When you feel pain, it’s natural to focus on what is happening to you right now. Clearly, the better you manage your discomfort to alleviate the pain, the better you feel. An antidote to unmet or unrealistic expectations is to build resilience and mental toughness.
Distractions always help. So does shifting your view to what is going right. Increase your awareness of other more rewarding and enjoyable aspects of your job or life outside of work. By managing your discomfort differently, you create more favourable conditions for focusing on the possibilities.
Face your true fears
It’s tempting to say that life is not fair, blame others or bemoan something beyond your control when you’re at a job or career dead end. Let’s be honest, it’s much harder to look within ourselves and acknowledge our true fears. However, naming the elephant in the room can be a relief. Do you recognise any of these? Which of the alternatives resonate with you?
- I don’t want to let myself or my clients/colleagues/parents down.
It’s my life, nobody else’s. People do move on quicker than it feels right now.
- If I leave now, I will have failed.
This is a career building block rather than a career roadblock. My experience and learning add value to where I go next.
- I don’t know if this is the right place for me.
I’m going to explore to compare so I can make a decision.
- Am I doing my best? Could I be doing more?
I will seek feedback on my strengths and if others can see me using or underusing them.
- I think I’ve made a mistake and don’t want to waste it all.
Many of my skills and experience are transferable.
- I don’t know how to escape.
I will focus on what I want to move towards rather than escape from. Who or what can help me?
- I expect promotion by now.
I’m not going to let this experience define me or become bitter.
- This is not the job they sold to me.
I’m going to re-negotiate and clarify my role here or leave.
- I haven’t found my passion or purpose here.
My passion or purpose is more likely to find me when I do something different.
- Do they expect me to stay and pay them back for giving me the chance and investing in my development?
I’m committed and give value in my current job. I will always talk positively about my employer after I leave.
Test your assumptions
It’s tempting to say the grass is always greener when things don’t go well or feel right. Test your assumptions to inform the decision to stay or go. Is it really a career dead end? What evidence do you have for your belief?
Shape your expectations
Shape your expectations using your standards, aspirations, and ambitions. ‘This is the standard I expect of myself, what I believe I’m capable of, and where I want to be or expect to reach’. Setting personal expectations are self-motivating and a framework for exploring your potential. For example, every Olympic medal-winner dares to dream.
Your expectations, more than anything else in life, determine your reality. When it comes to achieving your goals, if you don’t believe you’ll succeed, you won’t. Dr Travis Bradberry
Get a different perspective
Step outside of your personal echo chamber and seek a different perspective. Explore and discover to exploit serendipitous opportunities. Make space for the unexpected and serendipity. Back yourself whatever decision you make. Change your mind to change your mind.