There are common reasons careers hit a dead end. Here are 10 of them with escape plans.
1. It’s lonely (and boring) at the top: Create more exciting facets to your present position and delegate other responsibilities. Take on an outside consulting gig. Leave the company. Take a professional sabbatical for education, volunteer work, or other enrichment.
2. The ladder is full: View those on the rungs above not as competition but as opportunities for collaboration. Are there projects you can share? Can you relieve them of a duty they don’t enjoy? Perhaps they would trade for something you are less than fond of. Is there a position that can be created? Can you transfer to another department?
3. Your enthusiasm left town: Talk with your manager in your most positive, collaborative way regarding what you have to offer and what you want to do. If there is no hope of change within the company, it might be time to change companies.
4. It’s not your job: If you have advertised your dissatisfaction, you may not be welcome much longer. If you’ve done a good job despite your dislike, you may be able to land a promotion or transfer.
5. It’s not your job anymore: If you changed, and you don’t like the change, therapy can help. If the company or people changed, go through trusted company channels to define options. If there aren’t any, the door may be best.
6. The job is killing you: If the change is internal, you may be able to remedy whatever has made you more vulnerable to stress. Therapy can help, and sometimes the company will pay for it as part of your benefit package. If the pressure has changed, can you be reassigned to different duties or a different department? Let your manager know that you are doing your best to work within the system. If flexibility on their part isn’t possible, a job search may be the only way to preserve your health. That is your first priority. Your family will understand a financial sacrifice better than a heart attack.
7. You made the wrong move: Talk with your supervisor. Admit you made a bad choice. Ask for a second chance.
8. You gave all: Walk away for as long as it takes to regain your energy and perspective. Learn to pace yourself. (See “The job is killing you” above.)
9. You’re under attack: If you feel attacked, you are. Many will say it’s your imagination, you need thicker skin, a tougher attitude, or a stiff drink. They are wrong. Do NOT talk to HR. HR’s job is to protect the company, and you will be seen as the threat. About 75% of people who are bullied ultimately get another job. Most feel it was their only recourse. If you want to stand up for yourself, do NOT go it alone. Find allies, people who will stand with you against the bully. Bullying cycles last about two years. If you can’t wait that long or can’t find support in your colleagues, it is time to look for a job. You may need to take a break first because of the damage already done to your confidence. It sounds harsh, and it is.
10. You’re fired: You are likely not in a good place to look for a job right away. Unless you are going to be homeless or starving as a result, take a break to heal. If your company offers outplacement services, ask what the deadline is for taking advantage of them. Connect positively with family and friends. Take a vacation. Get your mind off the trauma. Find a therapist to help you through the shock. Don’t underestimate the impact of losing a job. Sometimes, marriages don’t survive, children suffer, homes are lost, and a lifetime of achievement disappears in what seems like a single moment. When you feel like yourself again, talk with a certified career coach who can guide your career decisions.