Feeling stuck at work means you’re not sure what step to take. Whether it’s knowing your next best move in your career, knowing how to handle a difficult situation at work, or you know what you want but you think you’ve tried everything and you’re just not getting ahead.
Feeling stuck is stressful.
In today’s episode I’m breaking down for you WHY you feel this way so you can solve for it. I’m sharing some statistics on how this is impacting you and why you need to take action to move forward. You’re going to get simple steps you can make today that are going to help you get closer to what you want.
After this episode you’re going to have a whole new perspective on your career and know what to do next.
What You’ll Learn
6 reasons why you feel stuck in your job
Recent research on the impact of staying stuck in your career
Simple action steps you can take today to make progress
The 3 things you need to know that will change how you look at your career
Featured in This Episode
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Welcome to Navigating Your Career, the only podcast that blends personal development, professional skills and psychology to help you get happy at work and live the life you want. If you want to stop feeling stuck and start are feeling better, this is the place for you. I’m your host, Melissa Lawrence. Let’s get started.
Hello and welcome to this week’s episode of the podcast. I hope that you are doing well today. We are going to talk about what to do when you feel stuck in your career. Before we do, I want to share something with you that is a bit fun and it’s off of the career topic. This time of year is pretty busy for my family, so mine and Ellen and my wife’s birthday is in September, and our birthdays are actually four days apart, so it’s usually a lot of celebration. And for my birthday this year, I really wanted a new coworker. So when I am at home, I spend a lot of time on Zoom talking to my clients. I do some networking, I get out a little bit, but a lot of the time I’m home alone by myself while the kids are at school and Ellen is at work. And so I wanted someone to keep me company. And so we just got a puppy. And this was my birthday gift. I wanted a puppy to come and hang out with me in my office. And I now have this bougie puppy. Her name is Brooklyn.
She’s an Aussie doodle and she’s just the most adorable and cuddly puppy. She’s actually laying at my feet right now as I record this. And it’s kind of like having a newborn again because she wakes up in the night to go to the bathroom. My whole day routine has changed with added walks and feedings and all of the things. And I haven’t had a newborn for over a decade, but it’s definitely reminding me of those days. I could get some help with her, but because she’s my new co worker, I’m really trying to strengthen the bond with her. And so I’m doing all of the caretaking, but so far she is a very good coworker. She gets me up during the day, she makes sure that I take breaks, and she’s such a joy. So if we are connected on Instagram, I’ve actually shared some photos and videos of her there. That’s kind of where I’m a little bit more personal on the social media front, so you can check them out if you’re curious. I’ll put my Instagram handle in the show notes if you want to check them out. She is just so fun and I’m sure she’s going to grow so fast.
So that is what is new with me on the personal front. But as far as or as fun as I should say, as fun as puppies are, let’s get to the topic today. So I was reading an article from Reich that said that of employees suffer from workplace stress. And can you guess what a major reason for this is, other than poor management? It’s feeling stuck in your career. A study done by Oracle, which is another organization that looked at employees over multiple different countries. It was a global study, so that since the pandemic, they found that 75% of people feel stuck personally and professionally. That’s astounding. Now I’m not totally surprised because this is the main reason my clients can work with me, is to get unstuck that they’re in some sort of transition in their career and they’re trying to figure out their best path forward or the best way to be effective in a new role. But it kept me thinking about the impact of feeling stuck because I remember feeling this way myself back in the day. So let’s just talk about it. Let’s talk about the reasons you feel stuck, what it feels like, the impact of it, and then what to do about it.
I’m going to give you some actionable steps you can take to figure out what to do if you find yourself feeling stuck right now. So when you feel stuck in your career, it can feel really stressful or it can feel complacent, or like you have good days and bad days, which then turns into stress. So it’s really different for everyone how they feel. If it’s just feeling like drained and stressed all the time, you can’t stop thinking about it. Or if it’s just kind of just going through the motions and kind of like numbed yourself out. Or if you kind of are on this roller coaster ride of the good days and the bad days, which is really where I was. So the feeling of stuck is coming from you not making progress or being where you want to be or feeling like you’re not measuring up in some way. It can also be from not knowing what you want to do. So you may have a fear of taking a risk or making a bad choice, so then you end up doing nothing. A client recently told me that she called this being a hopeful settler.
She was in this place of settling in her career and hoping it worked out for several years. And so that was the term that she gave it that for several years she was a hopeful settler. But eventually she ended up leaving her job altogether and taking time off because of the burnout, the stress and unhappiness that she experienced. And then after some time to regroup, she reached out to me to help her figure out what she wanted to do that was going to be the best role for her, but also prevent her from making some of the same mistakes of overworking and letting it get to the point that it did in her last job. Now, in her situation, she stayed as long as she did because her job paid well. She had an amazing director level role in her area of expertise. So it was good enough. She didn’t know what she wanted to be different or what role to move to. So she just kind of made it work until it didn’t and she had to leave because it got to the point that there was really no other choice because she was so unhappy.
So when you think about the impact of that stress that you have for weeks, months, years of feeling stuck, there’s some different things that you might experience kind of as a human in your personal life. So one thing is sleep deprivation where you’re not getting a lot of sleep or maybe you kind of get anxiety at night, your brain starts racing and you kind of get flooded with just the stress and the thoughts of what to do and that you don’t know what to do. Or maybe you can’t stop thinking about work. Or maybe you then feel guilt because you are so focused on work and you’re not present at home. But whatever it is, you end up losing quality sleep, which doesn’t help anything because that really has a ripple effect into work, into how your mood is and how you treat people. So it definitely is not good to have sleep deprivation, but that’s definitely something that can show up for you. Maybe you have relationship conflicts from being impatient or crabby, from all of the stress going on or complaining about work a lot. You could experience burnout as you work a time, trying to get promoted or get an opportunity for a change.
But the combination of working a lot, working hard and spending your time off work, looking for jobs, or questioning your work, feeling unhappy and not being present at home, all of that can lead to burnout. And then on top of it, as humans, what we do is we want to feel better. And one way that we do that when we’re not really sure what we want, we’re not really processing our thoughts and feelings effectively, is we look to kind of numb that feeling and kind of do anything that we can to feel better. And so that might look like increased alcohol use, kind of living for that nightly wine or happy hours, trying to feel better and just numb that stress and get your mind off of it so you can stop thinking about it. You might increase your spending on shopping and dinners out, just kind of as a distraction and something fun to do. And when you think about all of this adding up over weeks, months, years, it can really take a negative toll, especially when you think about the flip side. So think about it this way. If someone were to ask you how work is and you said it could be better or it is what it is, why is this an acceptable response?
Because if you apply this to anything else in your life, it wouldn’t be something that you would just settle with, right? So if somebody asked you how your marriage is doing and you responded with, it could be better, or It is what it is. Right? If you had that response for any relationship, chances are you wouldn’t just let it go. You would take action to make it better. But with our careers, we’re almost encouraged to stick it out, to put up with being unhappy, to believe that it’s some sort of luxury to love our jobs, but it really can be the standard. It’s hard to see it when you’re in it and you haven’t experienced loving your job or if you haven’t ever figured out what you truly want to do. But listen, once you know, it changes everything. Once you actually experience it, once you know what you want and you have that confidence that you’re in the right place, that you know the direction that you’re going and how to get it, it just changes so much. Just imagine feeling present at home and energized at work, having time for things that you enjoy, knowing you’re working in your unique genius zone, making a difference.
Your ideas are heard. They are used. You are seen as an expert. You are valued and recognized. You know you belong. And you don’t question the path that you’re on, your future, or doubt yourself. This is 100% possible. I’m telling you, my clients who have done this work, I couldn’t pay them to reverse it if I said, I’ll give you your money back, but with it I’m taking the results. They wouldn’t do it because their career is not only amazing, but their life is so much better. Their marriages are better, their parenting is better, their health is better. They wouldn’t take even more money than what they paid me for coaching to give up those results, not even $100,000 or their annual salary. Because being unstuck, knowing what you want, realizing your potential, healing your brain from its sabotaging and negative patterns, that changes your career for the rest of your career. It changes the way you think about yourself, the opportunities you have, the bonuses you get. It changes everything for the better, and that compounds for the rest of your life. So you not only get those immediate results of knowing what you want and getting that fulfillment and happiness in your career, in your life, but you get that for the rest of your life, and it’s just going to provide more opportunities and more doors opening for you, and you’re going to achieve more and make a bigger difference because of it.
So they would just never undo it. They would never give those results back. All right, now, I’m clearly passionate about this topic. I went on a little bit of a tangent about it, but let’s just talk about the reasons why you feel stuck, why you’re not able to take action to change your situation. To get you out of this period of transition. And so you may resonate with one or all of these reasons. The first one is you don’t know what you want, so you feel stuck because you don’t know what you want. Your job is good, it’s good as is. And unless you really know what you want and that it’s going to be better or make you feel better, you don’t want to risk the change, right? Because it’s pretty good where you’re at. And what if it’s not as good if you go somewhere else? What if you take a risk and it doesn’t pan out? And so it’s like the discomfort of staying is better than the discomfort of making a change in being wrong or having it be the wrong change. So you stay stuck. Another reason is you don’t want to give up success that you’ve created.
You think you’ll lose credibility, that your education or experience would have been a waste. You worked really hard to get where you are and you deep down wonder if what you discover would be so different. You’d have to lose a part of what you’ve created and who you are. Maybe it would impact your family in some way. It might feel daunting to open the box to the possibilities that exist for you. Plus your job may have a lot of perks. It might pay you well, and you don’t want to go through that discomfort. So you just become a hopeful settler, as my client called it. Another reason is you don’t have time. So you might think that making a change will take a lot of time. The idea of setting aside time feels overwhelming. You might even buy some books, try to schedule some time for yourself to figure this out and what you want to do. But time gets away from you and it just seems like it’s just too much work. Another reason you might feel stuck is you’re not progressing and you don’t know what to do about it. So you might feel bored or stuck in the same role.
Maybe you look around and see other people get promoted, or people on LinkedIn with less experience and they’re at a higher level than you. You don’t think you’re valued. You might think you’ve done everything you can do. So now you just have to wait for that reorganization or for your boss to do something. You don’t want to be uncomfortable and leave if things will work out eventually. So you end up just kind of waiting it out. But then you have that doubt that it’s not the right decision. You might feel like you’re disrespecting yourself even by staying. But again, that idea of change feels overwhelming when you don’t know what you really want, so you do nothing. Now, the next one is you feel guilty for not being happy, for not being grateful, for not settling and being okay with it, right? And this is a tough one. I experience this one myself. You might feel like you have a good job, better than most people, so you feel bad for wanting something more. Or you might think of getting help, like taking a course, maybe hiring me or hiring another coach. But you feel guilty about taking time or resources away from your family.
You may even think you’re not worth the investment or effort to explore what you want and make a change. Now, the last reason that I’m going to share with you is you don’t believe that you deserve more. This one usually shows up as thinking success or the happiness that you want is just for other people. It might even show up as you telling yourself that you don’t have time to work on this or you need to just wait it out. You might worry about what works for other people, even if you see proof that it works won’t work for you if you don’t truly believe you deserve to be happy in your career or that you can create exactly what you want. Your brain will offer many reasons for why you shouldn’t make a change and that you should stay stuck. And they will be disguised as very logical the reasons that your brain offers up to you. So those are six reasons that may be the source for you for why you’re feeling stuck and you may resonate with one of them. You may resonate with all of them. Now, I’m going to share some actions that you can take to stop feeling stuck and get you closer to knowing what you want and pursuing it.
So before you make a career change, it is critical to know what you really want without the influence of other people. Part of the reason you feel stuck now is because you have the voice of yourself, your intuition, your gut, your personal North Star, whatever you want to call it, telling you that you’re not happy and it’s time for a change. But you also have the voice of others and their influence making you doubt yourself and making it difficult to know what you really want. Some things you can explore to help you identify what you really want is your values, the lifestyle you want to have versus the one that you don’t. What would be your dream scenario? What problems do you want to solve? When was the last time that you were really excited and lost all sense of time? Try to explore your wants and needs without adding in that voice of what is logical or what is reasonable. Just let yourself dream and brainstorm. This is something that I help my clients with actually have a structured, systematic process I use. It’s a career discovery process where we go through an exploration that reveals your authentic self and zone of genius, the thing you want to be known for and like that thing that will light you up and what that role looks like for you.
So this is where I would start. And if you want help, reach out to me and let’s have a consultation, call for coaching to see if it’s a good fit for you, if you’re having a hard time really figuring out what is true to you without that influence from other people. Now, if you resonate with not wanting to give up the success that you’ve already created, something you can ask yourself is how you define success today. How can you leverage everything you’ve done? In fact, how can it all be perfect, everything that’s happened so far to lead you to this point, across roads or transition? How do you want to define success for yourself and for your career? This is an important piece because if you answer both of these areas, you will know what you want and your success criteria. It’s possible that what you think is successful and is making you miserable right now isn’t actually what you want, that there’s some misalignment. So it’s really important to do this work. Many people chase promotions or new jobs because they’re comparing themselves to other people because they think that’s what they should do.
And then they’re miserable thinking that they aren’t valued or good enough until they reach that milestone or get that promotion or make that change, only to realize that once they’re there and they’ve actually achieved it, they still aren’t happy. The excitement of the change and promotion just wears off. And this is a sign that you made the change for the wrong reasons. You didn’t really make the best change for you. So you have to get to a place of peace with yourself and make decisions for you, not anyone else. Letting go of that social conditioning and influence so that you can really be happy. Because once you can answer the question of what you want, everything will fall into place. It’s really the core of everything. The work you do, the level you get to how happy you are outside of work, the type of leader you are, it all needs to come from you first, from within. Then we can add in the career strategy and the tools instead. What people do is they try to learn the tools, read the books, take the leadership courses, and then fit themselves into this kind of generic packaging that already exists.
But those things don’t stick, or they’re not prioritized or implemented when they’re not aligned with the authentic version of you. It’s like you try to fit yourself where you think you need to be. Then when it doesn’t work and you feel stuck, then you feel like there’s something wrong with you. But that’s really not the case at all. It’s that you’re trying to fit yourself, like putty like your playdoh, trying to make yourself mold into who you think you should be. And that’s really the core of why you don’t know what you want. And why this is such a hard thing to work through. And so the solution really is getting in touch with who you really are. Now, if you don’t know what to do, let’s say you know what you want and you just feel that you’ve tried everything first. When you think you’ve tried everything it just reinforces you feeling stuck in like crap. Because think about it, when we think that we’ve tried everything, we stopped problem solving and we could really realistically never have tried everything. You just tried what you think is available to you. So seek, mentors, a coach, some outside influences, spend some time brainstorming to get perspective.
Not for them to tell you what to do, not for them to say this is what your solution is. You still have to have that answer. So as a coach I have a process but the process helps you define what you want. It’s not me telling you what you should do. So I know I said you have to know what you want without outside influences and then I said get some outside influences but that’s for perspective, it’s not to help you know what you want, it’s to help you see ideas or ways of getting past this solving a problem that maybe you can’t see when you think you’ve tried everything. So it’s very specific to that context and example that I just shared because think about like what you would tell a friend and try to remove the personal part of the problem and make it objective to see what you can come up with. Because when we’re really stressed and we think that we’re stuck and we think we’ve tried everything and we’re not getting where we want to be, we can get really wrapped up in that negativity and start to lose objectivity and that’s where getting some other perspectives can be really helpful to help you get back into problemsolving mode.
Now in some cases it is best to leave the company that you’re with and I think I’m going to do a separate podcast on this episode just how to know when you should leave the company. Sometimes that is the best thing for you to do when you’ve exhausted all options really objectively. I have a client who’s been promised a promotion for over a year. They even went so far her company did as to have her do the work for the promotion ahead of time with the promise that was coming including leading other people and taking on a team. But the title and pay never came through. So first we had a direct conversation with her management on the plan for the promotion and we filled some gaps where it was kind of like she thought she had done everything but we needed to have a more direct and strategic approach. So we did that first and when that came with the same outcome and they couldn’t commit, then we moved into creating some boundaries for her to essentially have her stop doing two jobs when she wasn’t going to be compensated for it, and to focus on what she can do moving into another company.
So we’re identifying what she wants next, and she’s going to seek that move because she isn’t getting the growth that she earned and that she wants for her career. So her company took advantage of her being a high performer and that she trusted them to follow through, but in this situation, it’s just not panning out. So in determining what she really wants, the promotion is really more important to her than, say, keeping things status quo and being comfortable in her role because she does actually like her job, then she will move on so that she can get that promotion. Now, if you group the other reasons you feel stuck, they all come down to understanding your brain. So the ones that I haven’t talked about yet, they’re all around managing your brain and up leveling it. And I call this process of understanding your brain, managing it and up leveling it as mental agility. So when you think that you don’t deserve more, you feel guilty. You have a hard time believing in what is possible. This is coming from doubt and a lack of confidence. It’s a lack of trust in yourself and belief in your value.
The good news is that this is 100% solvable in good faith. I can’t provide you with the cure on this episode because it involves looking at your unique situation. The thoughts that you’re having on a regular basis that you might not even realize you’re having. What is driving your actions and thoughts. And shifting the perspective. Showing you what is true and what’s perhaps a story from your childhood. A trauma you’ve been reliving or recreating. Or a learned behavior. It comes from somewhere past or present, and we need to identify it now. In coaching, I’m not a therapist. I have a psychology background, but I’m not a licensed therapist. But I do use elements of psychology when appropriate to help you understand your thoughts and feelings, process anything that’s holding you back. Self sabotage cure you from that doubt and help you build your confidence. If you experience depression and deep wounds or trauma, therapy may be a better fit for you to help you process. In coaching, we build awareness and take action to heal and manage and then create new beliefs and thought patterns that better align with the results that you want. In all honesty, some of my clients work with me and a therapist at the same time.
Some prefer coaching over therapy because it’s action oriented and not just talking things out. But for some, therapy is a better fit. So if this is something that you think you struggle with and I suggest that you explore your options, I can tell you when I meet with potential clients on a consultation call, that is one thing that I assess for our fit to work together is am I best qualified and suited for what you want to work on? And ethically, I refer you if not, so it’s always worth a conversation just to get some clarity. So we covered a lot so far to wrap things up. If you’re feeling stuck. Now that one, know that it is 100% solvable, two, it is in your control to solve, and three, it starts with you. You can try some of the questions and prompts I provided in this episode. You can also seek help working with me. For example, we tackle knowing what you really want, positioning yourself to get it by building your personal and professional skills, creating a career strategy, and we address any mindset issues that are holding you back so that you can build the confidence to always pursue what you want in your career.
Scheduling consultation call is easy. Just go to my website it’s www.melissamlawrence.com and choose a time that works for you. And honestly, if you’re feeling stuck, this consultation call is the best thing that you can do for yourself. I give you an hour to focus on you, your issues and what you want. I give you my insight into your problem and a path forward so you won’t be stuck anymore. No matter what, you will know what you can do and stop wondering or waiting it out. So I would definitely take advantage because I may not offer these calls forever. All right, that’s all for this week’s episode. Have an amazing week.
Coaching with me is the best way to guarantee you get happy at work and achieve your career and life goals. Getting started is easy. Head over to www,melissamlawrence.Com to learn more and apply. It is the first steps to get you from feeling stuck to knowing exactly what you want and have the tools.
To make it a reality.
I will be by your side the entire way.