8 months ago
What to do When You Feel Stuck in Your Career
I am often asked for career advice and it’s been a while since I’ve talked about my career. After last year’s maternity leave, extended medical leave, and then stepping down from my position at The Everygirl last month, I haven’t exactly been in career mode. But cofounded a successful media group and Anecdote, and continued to (mostly) keep up my personal blog during that time, too. When I asked how I could help some of you and what you’re struggling with, career kept coming up, I thought I’d share some helpful advice.
This is something I have a lot of experience with – I spent most of my 20s feeling lost/stuck and my 30s growing personally and professionally. It’s so easy to feel “stuck” and to know that something has to change, but what? We often lack the confidence, knowing what to do next, and how to accomplish it. Here are some things to consider if you’re feeling stuck in your career.
Figure out why you feel stuck
Before launching The Everygirl and The Everymom, I fell into running a graphic design business that I wasn’t exactly passionate about. My rates were capped given my skillset (I knew blogger and not wordpress) and I found myself at a crossroads. Learn WordPress and study graphic design so I can raise my rates or change my career path. I could have made it work, but ultimately, the thought of designing blogs week-after-week didn’t excite me. I didn’t know what I did want to do, but I did know that my current career path wasn’t right for me.
The only way to feel “unstuck” is to figure out why you feel stuck in the first place. Are you interested in what you’re doing but struggle with company culture, boss, or coworkers? Do you want to change career paths? Having the answers to these questions will help you figure out your next steps.
Figure out what you do (and don’t) want
Take a little time each day or time-block a few times a week to write out and think about what you do and don’t enjoy, both in work and in life. What makes you happy at work? What do you strongly dislike? What are some of the day-to-day things that you enjoy that might carry over into your role at work? What could you make a living doing? Is there a way to expand on what you love in your role, or is there a way your position might shift within your current company?
When I made the decision to step down from The Everygirl, I needed a plan, so I thought about the things I want to do and what’s important to me. More time with the girls, doing something I enjoy, design, my blog – all things I love. I’m excited to spend more time growing Anecdote, to be able to put some time (when I have it) into my blog, and I have some other ideas on the back-burner since right now, it’s all about my girls.
Last year, TEG launched a Landing Your Dream Job course. I reviewed the entire course and wish it had been around when I was trying to figure things out in my 20s. It will help you identify your passions and strengths, and includes worksheets, resource lists, and resume, cover letter, and email templates.
Identify your passion
This is something I thought I knew, but it’s changed a lot for me the last year. Helping people has always been really important to me, and I was lucky enough to be behind a website that inspired women from 2012-2020. My life changed significantly in every possible way last year, and I still want to inspire women, but now, feel a strong need to help families going through cancer treatment.
Our careers might not always be our passion, but volunteering or taking on a new hobby might change the way you feel about work. I do believe we can’t always look for one thing to fulfill us – as much as I loved what I did the last eight years, that one job wasn’t enough to leave me feeling fulfilled.
If I’ve learned anything through all this, it’s that you might have a few passions. Mine are my family, design/interiors/creating, and helping people. Think of the things you enjoy most in your life. Is there a way to translate those into what you do at work?
Talk to your boss
I’ve had bosses that wouldn’t have given me the time of day so if that’s the case for you, I wouldn’t recommend quitting your day job just yet, but I would start looking for a position elsewhere. If you have a boss that will sit down with you and think some changes in your current role might make your job a better fit for you and offer something for your company, put something together and ask to meet.
A former TEG editorial assistant wanted to try her hand at graphics and before she knew it, was our senior graphic designer and course director, all because she asked to try something new. You can read her story here.
Grow your network (organically)
This is a big one. Don’t wait until you feel stuck to grow your network. Start now.
Networking is tricky, especially for introverts. I am actually really good at connecting with people but terrible at making small talk at events. Offer something of value or service vs asking for an opportunity to learn from them. Reaching out and saying “I love what you do, can I help you with anything to get my foot in the door” vs “Can we meet for coffee so I can learn everything about what you do” is wildly different.
A blogger I know and love recently reached out and let me know she was a resource if I ever need help with my blog. I already know her (from instagram). Conor was telling me this story about Todd Snyder (he’s a designer), who moved to NY and offered to work at Ralph Lauren for free. That would be illegal, but it showed how passionate he was, and he got the job.
I would not recommend reaching out to someone you’ve never met asking them to meet for coffee so you can “pick their brain” or learn more about their story. Everyone’s busy and asking someone you don’t know to take time from their work day is a big ask. I barely have time to take a real lunch break most days and weekends are family time, so I can’t really take time away from a work day to get to a coffee shop and answer the Qs of someone I don’t know. If someone reaches out with a nice note to say hi, I’m personally a lot more inclined to want to start a conversation and will likely eventually ask if I can help somehow.
Let’s say I met someone organically, not at an event since I hate those (ha), but online or through a friend. I would be excited to help that person.
Learn a new skill / Take a class
Would learning a new skill help you get ahead in your current career or prepare you for a career shift? Is there something you’ve always meant to add to your skillset (like Photoshop, email marketing, or an accounting class) but just haven’t made the time? Do you dream of starting a blog but don’t know where to start? Find an online course and learn a new skill.
The hardest part with any big change is taking the first step. Sitting down to do any of the above is a great first step toward feeling unstick. Whether your’e in your 20s or 40s and however stuck you might feel, it’s never too late for a change.