Feeling Stuck in Your Career? Tips to Get Moving

We've all been there. Here's how to find that career inertia you know you need.

By + More

Curt Rosengren
Stuck. We’ve all been there. Maybe you have big dreams but can’t seem to find your way past the demands of your present mundane situation. Maybe you don’t even have the big dreams and are mired in the muck of a career you don’t love without any vision of where you would like to go instead. Perhaps you know what you want, but are at a loss for what the next step is to take you there.

Whatever the source of getting stuck, it can be a frustrating and demoralizing feeling.

Here are eight ideas to help your career get moving again:

[See 14 Secrets to Career Change Success.]

Assess what’s missing

What are you missing that you need in order to move forward? Do you need more information? Do you need to understand the steps from here to there better? Do you need more insights from people who have been there and done that? Do you need more confidence in your own ability to pull it off?

The better you understand the missing puzzle pieces, the more potential you have to find them.

Get specific

Generalizations feed feeling stuck. Don’t let obstacles turn into one big glob of things in your way. Pick them apart and ask, “What specifically is getting in my way?” If it’s a career change you’re aiming for, don’t just leave it at a broad, “I can’t afford to change careers.” Break it down into details. So, “I can’t afford that because I have this, this, and this obligation.”

Breaking it down gives you more opportunity to find solutions. In this example, you might find that while some of the expenses you have are unchangeable, you might be able to reduce or even eliminate others. Or you might see opportunities to reduce spending in one area and save that money to create a career change nest egg to use at a later date.

[See The Most Effective Ways to Look for a Job.]

Expand the time frame

Often, “I can’t do it” really means, “I can’t do it NOW.” What is impossible immediately is often possible when you add time to the equation. So you can’t do it right now. Could you do it within a year if you start taking steps immediately? With three years? Five years? Giving up the need for immediate gratification opens doors. If you don’t, you might still be sitting and waiting for immediate gratification five years from now.

Treat obstacles as the starting point, not the end

Too often, people look at the obstacles in their way and treat them like the end of the road. In reality, obstacles are going to be a part of any path. Change the way you see them. Expect them and, when you see them, say, “Oh, there’s one of those obstacles I knew would be coming. Now how do I navigate past it?” Treat obstacles as the starting point for the steps you need to take to move past them.


The need to come up with a perfect solution or a perfect set of steps to reach your goal is often the kiss of death to forward motion. Instead, take an experimental approach. “Here’s this goal? How could I reach it? What would happen if I tried this?” Take the steps, see what happens, learn from the experiment, and build that insight into future steps.

You can’t fail in an experiment. Whatever happens, you will gain insight you can incorporate as you move forward.

[For more career advice, visit U.S. News Careers, or find us on Facebook or Twitter.]

Take the pressure off

On a note related to experimenting, take the pressure off yourself to do everything perfectly. Give yourself permission to take imperfect steps. Ten imperfect steps that give you seven steps worth of progress are infinitely superior to taking no steps at all.

Reach out

A great way to feed feeling stuck is to let it ricochet around in your head while you try to do it all yourself. Reach out and ask for help. That might be emotional support from friends or insights from the experts. It might be getting feedback on an idea from your peers or advice from someone who has been there done that. Whatever you do, don’t try to do it alone.

Take a tiny step

If you’re stuck, you’re up against a monster case of inertia. To overcome that, find a tiny step to take, then take it. It’s the same principle as getting past procrastination by saying, “OK, I’m going to work on this for five minutes, then I can stop if I want to.” Often all it takes to keep going is to get started.

After years as a professional malcontent, Curt Rosengren discovered the power of passion. As speaker, author, and coach, Rosengren helps people create careers that energize and inspire them. His book, 101 Ways to Get Wild About, and his E-book, The Occupational Adventure Guide, offer people tools for turning dreams into reality. Rosengren's blog, The M.A.P. Maker, explores how to craft a life of meaning, abundance, and passion.