Does this sound like you?...
You’ve been in the same job for years. A nagging sense of dissatisfaction is growing inside you because can’t see any room for growth in your current role (although you suspect there might be options you haven't considered yet). You feel stuck. You don’t want to embark on a major career change at this time, but the status quo isn’t working either.
Does this sound like you? If so, then you’re clearly questioning your job situation. This can be a lonely experience - suffering in silence, blaming yourself for being stuck, and feeling pessimistic about it all. That’s really hard.
Fortunately, there is a way to get unstuck that doesn’t require you to change careers or even leave your field of expertise. It involves finding advancement opportunities that aren’t visible to you at the moment.
But how can you find these opportunities? I have five suggestions, each of which take some work on your part, but are well worth the effort:
1. Ask productive questions
Questions are powerful tools for opening up possibilities in your mind and breaking out of habitual thinking. If you feel stuck in your job, get curious about it! Ask yourself, what specifically am I missing in my current role that is making me feel dissatisfied? What needs to change? Is it possible to combine my current skill set with my other interests in ways I haven’t thought of before? What if I remained in my profession but changed my specialization? What might that look like?
To illustrate, suppose you want to advance further in the field of Mechanical Drafting, but you aren’t sure how. Start by asking: what if I changed my specialization from electrical enclosure design to the design of roads, watermains, or other utilities? What about working in the commercial, healthcare, residential or industrial sector? These questions will help you think outside the box and get curious about new opportunities.
2. Talk to your manager
If you have a good working relationship with you manager, consider asking if the company offers skill development opportunities for employees like you. Inquire about how the company would value or fund any upgrades in your qualifications. It never hurts to ask. Just make sure you broach the topic tactfully. Reassure your manager that your want to grow more as an employee, not that want to leave your job.
3. Strengthen your networks
If your networks have dwindled, it’s time to strengthen them again. To do this, I’d recommend getting more active on networking platforms like LinkedIn. Start off by updating your LinkedIn profile and connecting with professionals who have job histories similar to yours. Then check their profiles to see what additional trainings or certifications they have completed. Those trainings are clues to what you could do to improve your situation.
A great way to strengthen your network is to set up informational meetings with other professionals in your industry, for the purpose of getting career advice. There is a certain etiquette for setting up these meetings, but once you learn how to do them properly, they can be incredibly helpful. By connecting with the right people, you can get advice on training, educational pathways and advancement opportunities that you likely hadn’t considered before!
4. Conduct online research
Online research can be an excellent source of information for how you can grow professionally. These are just a few strategies you can try:
Search Google for keywords like "professional development opportunities for (your occupation)" and then see what comes up
Subscribe to a YouTube channels, podcasts or blogs that showcase experts in your industry who have taken unconventional career paths
Study the latest occupational trends in your field by reading online magazines and field-related newsletters
Check occupational databases like Career Cruising to identify sample career paths you hadn’t considered before
5. Run low-risk experiments
Once you’ve uncovered some opportunities that interest you, be sure to test them first before you jump in with both feet. The best way to test them is to conduct low-risk experiments beforehand. You might do this by:
Auditing a free course to see if the material excites you, before you fully commit to a new program of study
Setting up a job shadow or informational meeting with someone who is doing the work you are curious about
Volunteering your time in a related role to see how it fits
By conducting small experiments in these ways, you are testing the suitability of each advancement idea; and with well-tested ideas in hand, you can feel all the more confident that your next steps will lead to actual improvements in your job satisfaction.