Sometimes people get caught in the wrong industry, company, job, or make career decisions that turn out to be the wrong direction. How did you get there in the first place and what do you do when you find yourself trapped?
“As the twig is bent, so the tree inclines”, translated to the 21st century means when a professional accepts a job that is handy but wrong for them, their trajectory moves them away from what they should be doing. If you stay in it too long, you’re locked out of your dream.
I asked one of my students why she wanted an MBA? She said: “My journalism degree led me to writing obituaries for three years”. Asked for her goals after graduation she said, “Something will turn up after I get my MBA”. Wrong assumption based on no research!
So how do people get caught in a career cul-de-sac?
- Lack of research: Do your research or be surprised. It’s been projected that more than 50% of today’s jobs will be eliminated or changed in ten years due to technology, culture or economic forces. Where should you be focused and how do you fit in?
- Lack of planning: Assess where you are now, what your career path should be and what you have to do in order to be successful. A random road is counterproductive. You need contingency strategies for the “what if” questions.
- Unrealistic expectations: Don’t delude yourself with assumptions that are untrue. Assess the career path of role models and then assess what you have to do to achieve success. Be realistic about your chances.
What should you do about a career trap? There are multiple strategies. Here are three:
- Shift over and down a half step: Move to a new job at a slightly lesser level in your current company or a new one. Your experiences need to “catch up” with your new role. With new capabilities and high performance you’ll move up in a short period of time. Once you prove yourself your career with accelerate.
- Get more education, certification or training: Get an advanced degree, a specialized certification like a PMP, Six Sigma Green Belt or a certificate of completion in a technology. These are all positive steps. You have to be up for the task, have the expertise they require and be able to contribute to results in your responsibilities. Show initiative.
- Get experiences paralleling your career objective: Join associations and professional societies in the function or industry you want to move into. Volunteer on local boards, non-profit organizations or governments in functions that parallel your career objective. Write articles for professional magazines or business journals about ideas or new applications.
Get help to either avoid or get out of a career trap. The more time you’re outside of your area of expertise, the greater the gap and difficulty to make the transition.
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