Get your career out of the ditch!

Getting stuck in a ditch creates a strong visual picture, especially for those of us who have actually been stuck in a ditch at one point of our lives.  It can be extremely frustrating to be in a ditch for many reasons.  I know that when I have been in a ditch I rarely can get out of that ditch on my own and I also reflect back upon what got me to that point.  This reflection usually involves rethinking what I did just prior to getting into that ditch and vowing to never do those things again.

Being in a ditch during your career is much the same.  None of us ever plans to get into the ditch, but we all realize that it is not where we want to be and that we wish we had done things differently prior to the episode.

I’ll take a few moments today to suggest some actions you might take when you get “stuck in the ditch” in your career.  I’ll also add a few suggestions that might keep you from getting into the ditch at some future point.  Getting out of the ditch can be costly and time consuming and avoiding the ditch through proactive measures can make life a lot more pleasant.

What does being in the ditch look like from a career perspective?

  • Being part of a  layoff or restructuring that you had no clue was going to happen
  • Staying with a job or career choice that has limited upward or future opportunity
  • Making a series of bad choices that add up to challenges when you try to get back into the market
  • Living in self-denial about what you really can and/or should be doing with your career

Here are a few suggestions for that time when you get mired in the ditch:

  • Take a moment and reflect upon the series of events that got you to the place you are in; what roles you have been in, the progression or lack of progression you have had in your career, and also what tools and methods you have used to get your most recent roles
  • Ask for the advice and counsel of others you know and trust and listen to their feedback, even if you don’t fully agree with what they have to say-we all have blind spots in our lives and that hard feedback might be painful, but it can also help with making a break from a series of bad choices or roles you have held in the past
  • Gain a clear understanding of the following:
    • What do you like to do?
    • What don’t you like to do?
    • What are your best skills?
    • Where do you need some skill enhancement?

Getting out of the ditch can often result from doing the same things repeatedly, even if they are the wrong things.  Getting out of your comfort zone is essential when you get in the ditch.  If your car is in the ditch, you might have to wade into the mud to push the vehicle out of this spot.  You may have “mud” to deal with in your career past also that needs to be dealt with and confronted.

How might you avoid the ditches in your career journey?  Here are just a few suggestions?

  • Sit down and review what you have done the past 5-10 years to see if you are advancing, declining or just drifting.  Often we are so busy in the journey that we lose sight of our destination and I dare say that many of us don’t even know what our destination might or should be
  • Have a trusted group of peers, some that you work with and some that you don’t, who will give you clear and honest feedback-you do not have to agree with all that they say, but you need to gain a more complete perspective on who you are, where they see you going and how you are impacting others
  • Be courageous!  Making changes in your tactics, your destination and your life is not easy and there will be pain involved.  If you are not willing to deal with the pain of change, you will never get to the best destinations.

Getting into the ditch is a pain, but avoiding the ditch can be accomplished if you are willing to make some adjustments and changes along the way.  Even if you do everything right you may still end up in the ditch, but I suspect your odds of staying on the right path will be greatly improved if you reflect, listen and adjust along the way.