What to Do When You’re Feeling Stuck In Your Career Path

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It happens to everyone: you got into your dream school or landed an awesome job, but after a while, you start losing motivation and interest. You start counting down the minutes till the end of your shift. Feeling unfulfilled, you wonder if you’ll be stuck in this rut until you retire.

This type of doomsday thinking will get you nowhere. Fortunately, there are many things you can try to find a new direction or to make the most out of your current situation.

Take Some Tests

You might be feeling stuck because you don’t actually enjoy your career path. Maybe you chose your job to fulfil a goal you had when you were younger, or because it sounded good to other people or looked good on paper. Now you’re left with a job that leaves you feeling bored, frustrated or worn out.

While you don’t have to be passionate every moment you’re at your job, you shouldn’t have to dread going into work or discussing your job with others. Ideally, your job should be two things: 1) in a field that interests and excites you, and 2) enhances your strengths.

The jobs that will energize you depend on your personality. Taking a personality test is a good place to start, especially if you’re interested in multiple areas. The Myers-Briggs personality test gives you a four-letter summary of your personality and also provides suggestions for your career. The Big Five personality test breaks down your personality into 5 areas (introversion, openness, conscientiousness, agreeableness, neuroticism) that you can use when thinking about the right job for you. For instance, a very extroverted person would be miserable in a job that involves working alone all day in a lab.

Go Window Shopping

A lifelong career might not be the norm anymore. Most people change their career path multiple times throughout their working life. If you believe you’re in the wrong career, it might be time to change.

A career change might not be feasible right away—location, salary, and scheduling are important to consider—but it never hurts to look. TalentEgg, Charity Village and Bmeaningful are good places to start. Your university hiring page can be filled with hidden gems as well. And you never know when one of your favourite organizations could be hiring.

If you see a job that excites you more than your current job, give the job description a thorough read. You could even contact the hiring manager, or professionals within that organization for an informational interview to see if this role or industry would be a better fit for you! Consider if it lends well to your personality, lifestyle, and future goals. Are you qualified? If the answer is yes, apply! If you need some additional credentials, you at least have a clearer path of what you need to accomplish to apply to something like this in the future.

But if you can’t find a new job that fits in with the demands of your life, staying where you are for now could be the wisest choice. Try adjusting your mindset and making the most of your current circumstances.

Develop your Skills

Becoming more qualified and well-rounded will make you feel less stuck, whether you decide to stay in your current career path or make a drastic change.

You can develop your skills in your current role. Make your own professional development plan and research ways you can amplify your skills. Many jobs offer skill-building workshops that you can take during lunch or work hours. Or, you can have a chat with your supervisor about how you want to change your career path. It’s likely that your boss has felt the same way before, and you’ll be able to negotiate trying out different tasks to build your skill set in the direction you want. Or even put you into contact with different departments within your organization if you’re looking for a change.

Outside of work, you can develop your skills and interests by taking classes or obtaining certificates. The point here is to do what makes you feel fulfilled and happy, even if it’s not practical. Even if your hobby isn’t directly related to your career goals, you can pick up a variety of soft skills. Plus, you never know when you’ll have the chance to talk about your interest in art or sports during an interview or networking event.

Volunteer

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Volunteering is one of the best ways to develop your skills outside of work. Not only will you add experience to your resume, but you’ll be able to try out different activities and help your community. Do you have an interest in horticulture? Try volunteering at a local park or community garden. Do you need experience working in groups or teams? You can help out at a homeless shelter, youth centre or retirement home. The possibilities for personal growth are endless.

Take Some Time Off

After thinking about your career for some time, you might find that your career is a great fit for your personality, skills and lifestyle. Yet, you still dread going to work in the morning. What gives?

You might be confusing your unhappiness in your career with good, old-fashioned burnout. When was the last time you took time to purely relax? It might be time to take a proper break, where you allow yourself to experience joy and pleasure without being tied down by your responsibilities.

One of the smartest people ever, Albert Einstein, once said that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Find the strength to change your circumstances or your mindset and you will find happiness.

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About the author

Marika Li is a writer and class of 2018 student at the University of Guelph. While studying environmental science, Marika survived several co-op job searches and student positions. Marika hopes to share the knowledge she gained throughout her undergraduate studies to help fellow students and new graduates with their careers. When she isn't writing for Talent Egg, Marika enjoys gardening, cooking, reading and spending time with her friends.