Stuck in a Career Rut? Here’s How to Get Out

Published: Feb 09, 2021

 Job Search       Networking       Workplace Issues       
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When you’re in a career rut, you feel dull and unproductive. You feel like you’re not growing or progressing. And a career rut can be very difficult to get out of. Fear, lack of confidence, and disbelief in yourself and in other opportunities can all contribute to the inability to move forward. However, there is a way out of a career rut. And here are five steps you can take to get out quickly.

Step 1: Identify if you’re in a career rut

The first step of getting out of a rut is identifying that you’re in a career rut. You know you’re in a career rut if one or more of the following statements are true:

  • You’re being underpaid for what you do
  • You’re not feeling passionate about what you’re doing
  • You’re not feeling challenged in your current role
  • There doesn’t seem to be any opportunities for growth in your organization
  • You’ve been promised a raise and promotion several times, but it never happens
  • You’ve been looking for a new job for over six months and actively interviewing but unable to get to the offer phase
  • You know you lack confidence and haven’t asked for what you think you deserve out of fear of being turned down
  • You feel like you’re in a “golden handcuffs” situation—you don’t believe you can earn the same salary you’re making now in your ideal role somewhere else

Step 2: List the obstacles preventing you from getting out

Even when you know you’re in a rut and want to make a change, your mind tends to offer up objections for why staying safe—in the rut—is the best thing to do. So, to fight against this way of thinking, create a list of all the reasons why you think you can't get out of the rut. List anything that might stop you, and anything you feel like might be an obstacle to getting out. For example, some common obstacles are:

  • I don’t have enough experience
  • I don’t have enough education or certifications
  • I don’t know how to sell myself very well in interviews
  • I’m not good at interviewing
  • I’m not good at networking
  • My resume needs too much work
  • I don’t know how to write a good cover letter
  • I didn’t go to the right school
  • I’m just not good, smart, or [fill in the blank] enough

After you make your list, go back through each obstacle and ask: Has someone in the world found their way to where I want to be despite this obstacle? For example, do you know someone who didn’t go to the “best” school who’s in a similar position you want to be in? Or do you know someone who isn’t the best interviewer who’s in a similar position you want to be in?  If the answer is “yes” to any of these questions or others like them, then you know that the obstacle is your own limiting belief—and that it’s entirely possible for you, too, to succeed despite the obstacle. In other words, there’s a way out of the rut.

Step 3: Use strategic questions to help you get out of the rut 

The next step is to ask yourself questions to get you into a positive mindset such as: 

  • What’s clear to me right now about what I can do to get out of this rut?
  • What do I understand about the next steps I can take to start moving out of this rut?
  • What do I know about how to change?
  • What experience and skills do I have?
  • What have I learned in my career that will help me get out of this rut?
  • Who do I know that I could connect with to help me?

After you answer questions like the above, you can begin to take the appropriate actions to start moving out of the rut.

Step 4: Connect with people in positions you want to be in

Start to find evidence of people who’ve done what you want to do and have roles that you want to be in. Use your friend, family, work, and alumni networks to create connections with people who are in similar roles you’d like to be in and ask them about their career trajectories. Set up informational interviews as often as you can. Make connections and enjoy the process of building out a network that will serve you for the rest of your career (not just now). Gather inspiration and information from people you speak to and be open to opportunities that might result from your conversations. 

Step 5: Commit to keeping yourself on track

When you begin to realize that you already have all the skills and experience you need to get out of the rut, and begin to speak with people who can help you, you’ll be well on your way to getting out of the rut. However, the ride out might not be smooth. Be prepared for your mind to potentially become negative whenever something doesn’t go as planned, like when someone doesn't respond right away to your request to connect, or if you don’t get a second interview. Preparing for these mind states ahead of time will minimize the likelihood you’ll get discouraged. So, commit to handling rejection like successful people do, treating anything that seems like a rejection not as a major roadblock but as a minor, temporary delay on your way to your destination.

Natalie Fisher is best known for helping professionals land their ideal roles and achieve explosive salary growth (even with little experience). If you want to dive deeper on the topic of your career mindset and become a person who knows exactly how to land their dream job offer, listen to her on the podcast Get a Six Figure Job You Love.