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Kick-Starting a Stagnating Career

By: Lisa Koning - Updated: 14 Jul 2011 | comments*Discuss
Career Job Stagnating Career Dead-end

If you believe that your career is stagnating, it is up to you to give it a kick-start. Most career opportunities do not announce themselves loudly, and you need to be ready to grab hold of them! If we are going to wait for others to hand us opportunities on a platter, we could be waiting a long time!

But it’s easy to say your career is in your hands; that can seem far from reality if you feel that you’re tied to a job that you don’t enjoy and with no opportunities. Unfortunately, few of us are in a position to risk our job security and income, and changing jobs can sometimes be high risk. Particularly if we've spent many years in one field only to now desire something completely different. So what can you do if you have a stagnating career?

Your Current Situation

Take a step back and look at your career progression. Consider the decisions that you’ve made over the past years that have influenced your current situation. There may be situations where you had no or little control over the outcome, such as Redundancy. Perhaps there were potential opportunities that you missed through lack of experience, or skills or drive. Why did you choose your current career? Was it an active choice or did it somehow choose you?

What has changed over the years? Something made you head down a career path in the first place. Were things different than you'd expected? How long do you think your career has been stagnating? Perhaps you are happy in your job and enjoy the work; is it really a problem if you're career isn't flying at a rapid speed like others around you? Remember it's about your aspirations and not the expectations of others.

You Play An Active Role

It’s easy to blame others for our current situation. My boss overlook me, or it's always others that get the lucky breaks. It’s important to look inside ourselves and realistically consider why we were not right for the role. Talk to others and ask them for their honest opinion; brace yourself. Honesty is important and while it can be initially upsetting to hear potentially negative comments, these are very helpful pointers.

Once you know what changes are needed you can get into action. Perhaps you need to Learn New Skills or gain experience. Perhaps you need to work on some softer skills like influencing or negotiation. Whatever it is that you need there are many options to improve yourself – look for courses, find a book, discuss it with your manager.

Be Creative

Career opportunities come in all shapes and sizes. They do not always announced themselves as opportunities; in fact, some come disguised as anything but an opportunity. Every activity has the potential to be an opportunity for you – it’s what you decide to make of it! Look outside the box, it may mean looking outside your function, your company, it may mean looking somewhere you’d never thought of – like charity work.

Be Ready

All of these ideas are about thinking about where you want to get to, and what you need to do to get yourself ready. If you didn’t try for an opportunity in the past because you didn’t think you were ready; perhaps you didn’t have enough experience or skills, then you want to avoid that happening again in the future. You can start today.

Be Positive

Blaming others or situations will not change anything. It may very well be the case that you have a dreadful manager who does not give you any opportunities. If this is the case, you need to consider what you can do to change the situation. There are few situations where the individual is helpless and can do absolutely nothing.

A positive attitude means that you try to find ways and solutions, focusing on what is possible in a difficult situation. Even the smallest changes can make big differences and what’s important is that you have a positive attitude to make things different.

Small Steps

It can be very de-motivating and disheartening to feel that you are in a dead-end job going nowhere. Your first step is to get your attitude right and remember that your career is always in your hands. Small steps, like improving your skills and abilities, are positive ways to prepare for opportunities. Remember that you need to look for opportunity and it can come disguised. What’s important is that you are taking action and you’ve made the decision that you’ve no longer going to float in the stagnating pond.


Not sure if your career needs a kick-start or not? Try our questionnaire Is My Career Stagnating? to help give you a clearer idea of how well you are matched to you career.

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