Whether you’ve experienced job loss recently — like so many Americans have — or you feel stuck in your current job, you might not know how to overcome the “work wall” you are facing. If you are employed, you might feel like you’re unable to climb the corporate ladder due to lack of opportunity or being overlooked. Or you might be working in an industry that is evolving in a new way that no longer fulfills you.
Although you might feel trapped in your current career situation, there are things you can do to climb over this metaphorical wall. Here’s what career experts say to do in order to break through.
Last updated: March 17, 2021
Don’t Ignore the Issue You Are Having
If you’re feeling stuck, don’t just ignore this feeling in the hopes that it will go away on its own.
“When one hits a wall in his or her career, it is ideal to acknowledge first that it is happening,” said William Taylor, career development manager at VelvetJobs. “Being in denial of this individual crisis will only make it harder for you to change your perspective.”
But Avoid Doing Anything Rash
Your first instinct might be to make a major change immediately, but it’s important to take the time to think things through before taking action.
“If you find your career has hit a wall, my advice is to avoid doing anything drastic like quitting your job,” said Dana Case, director of operations at MyCorporation.com. “Take a moment to conduct a professional self-evaluation, where you ask yourself a series of questions as they relate to your career. Once you have an idea of where your strengths and weaknesses are, you may better position yourself to set goals that allow you to stop hitting a professional wall. These goals may be set for your current job, like learning a new skill set, or they may extend outside of it, such as seeking new career opportunities and employment elsewhere.”
Know That You’re Not Alone in Feeling This Way
Hitting a “work wall” is an extremely common occurrence, so take comfort in knowing that this is just par for the course of your working life.
“According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average number of jobs a U.S. worker holds in a lifetime is 12, so if you’re worried about making a career change, you’re definitely not alone,” said Ashley Stahl, career expert at SoFi.
Take Time To Focus on Yourself and What Makes You Happy
Dedicate some time to self-care. Not only can this make you feel better, but it can also provide you with some much-needed clarity.
“Make space to connect to your heart and do things that bring you back into your true essence, be it through art classes online, catching up with a friend you love or anything in general that makes you feel more yourself,” Stahl said. “When you participate in creative activities, such as painting or drawing, you actually increase the blood flow to your brain, allowing you to make more informed decisions and to see more possibilities and options for your current moment and future. The more you do things to feel alive and yourself, the easier it becomes to connect and align with what is true for you.”
Talk To Your Manager or HR Team
Once you have clarity about what exactly is making you unhappy, figure out whether these issues can be resolved without having to leave your current job (if you are currently employed).
“Often that ‘stuck’ feeling comes from not being challenged,” said Laura Handrick, contributing HR professional at Choosing Therapy. “If your employer values you, you may be able to share your career-wall concerns in a way that opens a door toward a new project or initiative.”
Whether you want to stay at your current company or decide it’s best for you to start fresh someplace else, networking can be invaluable. If you do want to stay with your current employer, set up meetings with people within the organization whose roles appeal to you to find out how they got there. If you plan to move on, cast a wide net and begin speaking with people about your desire to pursue new opportunities.
“Begin connecting with others in order to get some insights into your desired field, learn about new opportunities and obtain referrals,” said speaker and career coach Michelle Enjoli. “You can use your current network or digital platforms like LinkedIn to get new introductions. The goal is to be fearless in putting yourself out there consistently.”
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Come Up With a Game Plan
Maybe your goal is to get promoted — what skills and achievements do you need to show to get there? Or maybe you want to find a new job entirely — how do you make inroads into a new field? Whatever you need to do to break through your work wall, now is the time to develop a plan to do it.
“If you know the role you want but can’t get it, create a plan to get there,” said Mark A. Herschberg, author of “The Career Toolkit.” “Look up job descriptions and talk to people in the role. Then evaluate how well you qualify. You may need outside help to evaluate yourself effectively. See where you’re not as strong as you could be and create a plan to bolster those skills and experiences to make you a better candidate. This can take months to years depending on the skills gap.”
Remind Yourself That Your Self-Worth Is Not Tied to Your Job
This transition time is a good opportunity to do some self-reflection on who you are and what you want to be doing. Use this time to define yourself outside of your job — after all, it is just one small part of the person you are as a whole.
“When you hit a wall in your career, it’s an opportunity to break through,” said leadership and life coach Stephanie Thoma. “This is a time to redefine yourself on your own terms in a way that is self-ascribed. Learn what you value in and outside of work. If you have presented yourself one way at work and another in your personal life, take steps to bridge that gap so that no matter what your job or title is, you have an unshakable sense of self that is rooted in what you stand for not just at work, but in your life.”
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