Feeling lost in your career? How to get unstuck and have the work life that you want

It’s a weird time right now. We’re all riding the corona coaster as best we can. While some have been on and off furlough, others have been keeping the organisation ticking over and many have been getting through home schooling and taking one day at a time. We’re all facing uncertainty. Many of us are facing restructure, redundancy or being asked by our employers, yet again, to do more with less.

I’m having a lot of conversations about career opportunities and how the situation is actually helping people get unstuck right now though. Restructure, redundancies and realising we can live differently, with less, has provided an opportunity for many people to rethink, regroup and reset. Many people who were feeling dissatisfied with their career before Covid-19 hit have taken the opportunity to think carefully about what they want their working life to look like in the future. They are now working on new strategies to get themselves unstuck and get the work life they want.

Over the years I’ve helped hundreds of people who’ve told me they feel stuck in their career to get unstuck. People have told me that something had to change for them to break free and be happy, but they lacked the confidence to take that step.

Covid-19 has forced rapid change. Work has changed and jobs have changed. And you don’t need to be stuck in your career. This is an opportunity to rethink what you really want from your work life and go and get it. Go on, get yourself unstuck.

Read on to find out how you can stop feeling stuck in your career, and have the confidence to break free, get unstuck and get the work life you want.

Here are my top ten tips for getting unstuck and getting the work life you want.

1. Make time for you

If you’re feeling stuck, frustrated, or unhappy with how your career is panning out, the first step is to work out why.

Maybe you’ve arrived in your current career by accident and haven’t ever made time to deliberately think or plan what you’d love to do and how you’d get there.

Prioritizing time to think is the first step you need to take to stop feeling stuck and start getting ahead. Book some time into your day where you can have an uninterrupted meeting with yourself. This is your thinking time.

Work out what makes you happy at work, what doesn’t, and where you might want to go. Decide on the steps you want to take to progress your career in the direction that you want it to take.

For example, are there training days, evening courses, or online learning that you can do? Have you considered getting a mentor to help you get ahead?

By booking in a meeting with yourself, it signals it’s important (to you and your colleagues) and also stops others spotting a gap in your day and filling it with a meeting.

2. Grow your network before you need it

Who you know is more important than what you know for career progression. Don’t wait until you’re feeling stuck in your career to start expanding your networks. Do it now.

Adam Grant, the author of Give and Take, says you’re 58% more likely to get a new job through your weak ties than through your strong ones. Your strong ties are those in your immediate circle whom you interact with often. Your weak ties are your friends of friends. They move in different circles to you, they know different people, make different connections, and are more likely to introduce you to new and different opportunities.

When I was thinking about setting up my current company, Lucidity, I turned up to every networking event. I drank a lot of coffees with a lot of different people to understand what they did. I asked for advice, unpicked what their problems were, and looked for opportunities for collaboration and connections.

It paid off. When I launched my business, I let my network know how I could help them, and soon I had my first clients.

Pay attention to building and nurturing your networks and focus on how you can add value to other. That’s where your next career opportunity is most likely to come from.

3. Surround yourself with people who inspire you

According to Tim Ferriss, ‘You are the average of the five people you most associate with’, and his associations with different people ebbs and flows depending on what he’s working on and trying to achieve.

For example, if you’re wanting to be fitter, it’s easier if you hang around with people who love doing exercise–they help you to up your game.

If you want that promotion, a career change, or to set up your own business, seek out people who are excelling at it already. They’ll have valuable things to teach you about breaking free and getting ahead.

4. Work on your personal brand

Jeff Bezos defines a personal brand as ‘what people say about you when you’re not in the room.’ People will talk about you when you are not in the room anyway, so you might as well be deliberate about what you’d like people to say!

Your personal brand isn’t about pretending to be something you’re not. That can actually keep you feeling stuck in your career. It’s really about being your best ‘real you.’ It’s about owning your strengths and being purposeful about how you want to be perceived by others.

What do you want to be known for? By being more deliberate about how you want to come across and what you’re looking for in your career, you’ll increase your chance of attracting the right opportunities.

Once you’ve given your personal brand some thought, make sure that you show up online. Is your LinkedIn profile up to date? And if you don’t have one, get one. Make sure it communicates what you want to be known for and that it’s consistent with your other social media profiles.

5. Get unstuck and be accountable

Achieve your career goals faster, and grow and learn by making yourself accountable. Tell other people your goals and a timeline, and have them to hold you accountable.

For example, you might want to get a promotion by the end of the year, have decided the sector you want to move to by the end of the month, or have got your new business idea before the next pay day. Whatever your ambitions are, you can tell a friend or a colleague, or share this with a mentor or a mastermind group.

When we tell other people our goals and intentions, they hold us accountable, and we are more likely to make progress faster.

6. Make sure your values are aligned with your organisation’s

All the professional development, goal setting, and networks in the world won’t make you happy if you’re working for a company that ultimately has opposing values to yours.

Figure out what’s important to you in a job. For example, does your company’s product help people live a better life? Do you feel strongly about your company’s ethics and social responsibility? Does the company culture allow employees to be themselves and shine? Or maybe flexible working and more holidays for employees with families is where your heart is?

Some companies put their employees well-being at the core of their business; others put profits first. If you feel that your values don’t match the core values of your employer, it could be a reason why you’re feeling stuck in your career and unhappy.

It’s important to work through this and identify whether it’s the job that is not right for you, or if it’s a great job but the organization or sector is wrong for you.

7. Get out of your comfort zone

Your comfort zone is your safe place. For any change to happen, you have to step out of your comfort zone. Many of us have been forced out of our comfort zones right now, perhaps we’ve been on and off furlough, been through restructure or redundancy.

It’s actually much easier not to change anything and to keep grumbling on about how you’re stuck and unhappy than to step outside of your comfort zone to address the fearful unknowns associated with change. It’s part of human nature that we’d put up with the devil we know rather than risk the devil we don’t.

This is true even if the devil we know is a boring, unfulfilling job because we’re wired to think that making a change to find a better option might actually leave us worse off.

If you feel stuck, it might be that your confidence has got the better of you.

To get ahead at work, start taking small steps outside of your comfort zone. Consider what you’re scared of that is stopping you from making a change. Then, tackle that in small steps.

For example, if you know that to move into the job you want, you’ll have to do more public speaking, but public speaking terrifies you so much it’s stopping you from going for the job, then start small to build your confidence. You can speak up more in team meetings, then slowly build from there.

You might also choose to set up or be part of a specific group. One of my clients, who found that confidence was holding her team back in achieving work goals, set up a ‘get out of your comfort zone club.’ Here they challenge and support each other to build their confidence by regularly leaving their comfort zones.

8. Learn to embrace failure

Failure is part of life. A New York University study found that children learning to walk averaged 2,368 steps and fell 17 times an hour. Failure is simply the natural path to success.

The truth is that we don’t get everything right the first time. We fail, we learn, we pick ourselves up, and we try again.

In my experience, it’s common that whilst the theory of learning from failure is supported, the reality of being open about failures to enable personal learning is much harder to achieve.

We don’t like to admit that we’ve failed. We have a fight or flight response to failure. It’s a normal gut reaction to ask ourselves: ‘Will I get away with it if I don’t tell anyone?’ We are fearful of criticism, of losing face in front of others, or even being fired for failure.

However, if you’re going to stop feeling stuck in your career, you must be open to learning from failure.

Reframe failure by viewing everything as an experiment. You can’t have a failed experiment, you just learn whether something works or not. Think of Edison inventing the lightbulb, when he said:

‘I’ve not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.’

9. Build your resilience

Resilience is the ability to tackle difficulties and setbacks, to bounce back, regroup, and to keep going.

Getting unstuck in your career, taking a different path, and achieving the results you want will take resilience. Having resilience is also the capacity to choose how you respond to the unexpected things that life throws your way and adapt and thrive in times of complex change.

Given that the world we live in is in constant flux, and the only thing that is certain is uncertainty, the ability to adapt and bounce back is an important life skill, as well as a career skill.

In her book Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, Angela Duckworth’s research shows that when measuring success, the ability to persevere beats talent every time.

10. Get unstuck – ask for help

It can be hard to ask for help, as it can make us feel vulnerable.

No one person can be expected to have all the answers. That’s why we need a group of people that we can go to for help to get unstuck, people who can pick us up when we have setbacks and also help us to celebrate success.

My advice is to be deliberate about creating your group. You can do that with a tool called a ‘Me Map’:

  • Write down all the things that you might need support with, like help with career progression, interview practice, making new connections, talking through business plans, learning from failure, etc.
  • Next to each thing, write the names of the people you go to when you need that particular thing.
  • Make sure you get in touch and regularly connect with them.

Do you feel stuck in your career?
Have you been in the same role for ages?
Do you know that you could be happier and feel more fulfilled with your professional life
… and yet you feel stuck?

You can stop feeling stuck in your career. Break free, get unstuck and get the work life you want by applying the tips in this article.

Since I am having so many discussions with people in my network about career changes, I’ve decided to dedicate a full hour helping you to work through ways to get unstuck and also leave you with concrete action steps to move you forward.

Join me on Tuesday 6 October at 12.30pm (UK time) from my free webinar Getting unstuck in your career.

You’ll be in good hands because my passion is helping people get unstuck, unlock their creativity and get the important work done. At the end of the session you’ll have thought about why you’re stuck, worked through some ways to get unstuck and have some actions to move you forward.
Free webinar  getting unstuck

Remember, no matter how stuck you feel, it’s never too late to make a change, get unstuck and land the career that you truly want. Come and join me on this free webinar. I can help you make the change, get unstuck and have the work life that you truly want and deserve. Join us here.

7 tips to gain confidence and boost your self esteem

Have you ever been making great progress only to get stuck and find your confidence disappears? Or perhaps you’ve achieved a big success that’s been quickly followed by a crash of confidence? Or maybe your confidence just evaporates away slowly over time?

Regardless of how robust we might appear on the outside, we are all vulnerable. We can be especially vulnerable when there is uncertainty.

Our confidence can easily be knocked by a passing comment from a friend or colleague. Or when we’re working hard to deliver a project quickly or make a change happen and are faced with blockers and negativity. I’ve also known confidence to disappear for no apparent reason. That’s why knowing practical tips for how to gain confidence is a crucial skill.

Then there’s the critical voice in your head that tells you ‘you’re not good enough’ or ‘you’re going to get found out’. The little voice nags away, becomes louder, more insistent and more toxic until you just want to stick firmly with what you know, and stop pushing forward and getting things done fast because it feels safer to stand still. Only when you stand still does the nagging voice stop chipping away at your confidence and self-esteem.

It turns out that the little nagging voice is a thing. It’s called Imposter Syndrome. It’s a term first coined in 1978 by psychologists, Pauline Clance, and Suzanne Imes. It describes the psychological phenomenon which is characterized by intense feelings of not being good enough, negativity, being a fraud and that you are going to get found out – even though all the evidence suggests otherwise.

Gaining your confidence back once the little nagging voice takes hold is hard. I see it like this;

Every day, you have a bucket of confidence. Every time you get push back from someone, every time you get a negative comment, or even a disparaging look from the right person, a little bit of your confidence leaks away.

To gain your confidence and increase your self-esteem, you have to put habits in place to keep your confidence bucket full. Every day. I don’t believe that some people have confidence and others don’t. It’s simply that successful people are more accomplished at managing their feelings of self-doubt and silencing that little internal voice before it has a chance to jeopardise them.

‘If you hear a voice within you say ‘you cannot paint,’ then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced.’ Vincent Van Gogh

Gaining confidence is about keeping your bucket topped up on a daily basis. Here are 7 tips to gain confidence and really boost your self-esteem:

  1. Log your achievements

Get yourself a physical notebook or create an online file and log your achievements. Log them all, especially the small ones because they add up.

Keep the good feedback you receive from other people; a thank you from a friend, the well done – good job email from a manager, or the time your colleagues went the extra mile for you.

Write them down. Writing them down helps you to acknowledge them, which makes you feel good.

In addition, seeing your achievements written down, helps you realise how far you’ve come, the positive impact you have every day and how much you’ve achieved overall. Instead of your ‘to do’ list – it’s your ‘I did it!’ or ‘ta da!’ list.

  1. Call out your Imposter Syndrome

It’s actually rather common. 70% of people have had feelings of being inadequate and getting found out at one time or another.

When that little nagging voice telling you that you’re not good enough and anything good that happens to you is luck – call it out. For example, acknowledge that it’s happening and disconnect that annoying voice from the real you and tell it to shut up.

Your task is to find your own way to change the negative story that your inner critic is telling you. Look for evidence to prove what your inner critic is saying is wrong. For example, if you think that you’re a failure, ask yourself, ‘What evidence is there to support the thought that I’m a failure?’ and ‘What evidence is there that doesn’t support the thought that I’m a failure?’

  1. Become a mentor

Being a mentor isn’t just for very senior and experienced people, there’s always someone that you can help.

Helping someone else can be a very rewarding experience. You’ll learn a lot and you’ll also realise how much value you can bring to others which in turn can help you to gain confidence.

Many industries have some form of mentor programme or scheme. If yours doesn’t, why not just go for it and put yourself out there? For example, you could post on your intranet or on LinkedIn that you are looking to mentor someone.

  1. Accept compliments

If someone says to you, ‘great job,’ or ‘you look wonderful’ or ‘well done excellent event,’ do you say ‘thank you’ and feel good or do you shy away and give someone else credit?

If you shy away from compliments, then stop. Own it and feel good about it. Next time someone pays you a compliment, smile, say thank you and own the good feeling that goes with that acceptance. (And note it in your achievements log!)

  1. Look after yourself

Looking after yourself helps you gain confidence. It’s fundamental to success. Make sure you get more than enough sleep, do regular exercise and eat healthy food. Make it a habit.

If you feel good, you gain confidence, which inspires you to look after yourself and you create a positive cycle.

  1. Be kind and generous

Being kind and generous to others makes us feel good; and feeling good helps us to gain confidence.

Linked to this, focus on being grateful for what you have and what has gone well that day. I’d suggest that you start by writing down the things you are grateful for every day and make a deliberate effort to be kind and generous to others at every opportunity. And again, over time this becomes a habit.

  1. Be prepared

The more you practice, the more successful you get. Funny isn’t it?

Gaining confidence is borne out of practice. Be prepared, practice the presentation, read the meeting minutes, research the person you are meeting.

In his book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell talks about the practice required to be the master of your skill being 10,000 hours. So start putting the hours in and you will gain confidence.

‘Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.’ Dale Carnegie

And finally, conquer the knowing-doing gap. You’ve now got a stack of practical tactics to gain confidence and boost your self-esteem. Every action you take will add up but it starts with you.

If you want to gain success, take action today.

If your confidence could do with a boost – check out my training webinar and workbook that gives you more tips and tools for you to work on your own confidence. For more information and buy the training go here. 

How to get your confidence back after a knock back

Have you ever had a confidence knock back? Have you gone in for a handshake only to be met with an awkward high-five and ended up casually styling it out and cringing inside? Or had that uneasy anxiety creep over you in a meeting that everyone is looking at you – but you’re not sure why? Have you ever made a badly thought through comment that was met with silence and had no option but to wait for the socially awkward moment to pass?

Did you feel your confidence take a nosedive? You’re not alone.

I help people to be creative and think differently to get the results they want. A lot of my work involves helping people make change happen, overcoming dips in confidence and brushing off the knock backs and keeping going.

In fact, I’ve helped so many people get through a confidence knock back, that I’d like to share some proven tips on how to manage your confidence.

If you’ve ever been afraid to speak up in a meeting or kept quiet when you knew the answer, or if you’ve let your inner critic jeopardize you by telling you that you’re no good and you’re going to get found out, read on and learn my 7 tips to get over the knock back and shine at work.

7 confidence boosting tips

  1. Shift your mindset

Stop labelling yourself as ‘not confident’ or ‘not good enough’. It might be your view on how you feel, but it probably isn’t how other people see you.

Nothing is going to send you into an unconfident spiral faster than berating yourself for the way other people may or may not see you.

So stop telling yourself that you are not good enough and start telling yourself that you’re an excellent confident person.

  1. Ask yourself ‘Why?’

Why are you having these feeling of low confidence in the first place? Are you comparing yourself to others?

An excellent piece of advice that I heard recently was:

‘Don’t compare your inside to someone else’s outside – you will always lose.’

Consider the situations where your confidence dips. For example, do you feel awkward at networking events? Why? Because you’re worried about what other people think? Why? Because people don’t understand what you do and lose interest?

Then you can think about how to describe what you do in a way that does spike peoples’ attention.

For example, when I told people I was a fundraiser for a charity, people would back away from me at networking events anxious that I was going to ask them for a donation.

So I changed what I said. I started talking about the impact of my work ‘protecting children from harm’ rather than my job title ‘fundraiser’ which felt much better and opened up conversations rather than closed them down.

Keep asking yourself why to get to the root cause of your anxiety. It might help to talk it through with a trusted friend or colleague. Or join the Lucidity Network to get some help and support. Then you can start to find solutions to shine.

  1. Focus on the other person

We can often get stressed out about what people think about us. Stop thinking about you – focus on them.

Be present. Put your phone away and give them your whole attention. Ask them lots of questions. By doing this you don’t have space to think about what they think of you because you’re too busy thinking about them.

  1. Practice every day

The best way to tackle anything that can feel big and overwhelming is to do something small every day that builds your confidence.

Like eating an elephant – how would you do it? In small chunks. (Well of course, I’m not really suggesting that you should eat an elephant.)

For example, if you feel awkward in social situations, start with small steps to build your confidence; say hello to the person at the bus stop, talk to the barista at the coffee shop, say hello and smile at the person on reception.

Build up every day with small steps and you’ll find you’re confidence for social situations will grow.

  1. Put your inner critic back in its box

That little voice that tells you you’re going to get found out and you should never have got the job, the pay rise or be at a work event where you have to interact with people – call it out!

Find evidence to prove the voice wrong. Tell that voice to shut up, tell it about all the reasons you did get the job, deserve the pay rise and the times when you enjoyed a conversation at a networking event or felt comfortable in a social situation.

  1. Fake it until you make it

An oldie but a goodie and one that’s stuck around for so long because there’s a lot of truth to it!

How you look and behave and how you feel are closely linked. Dress like you mean success. If you turn up to the office or a meeting looking smart (and smart will mean different things in different contexts) you’re perceived differently than if you turn up looking ready for a casual Sunday afternoon.

  1. Notice your body language

A research published on the Harvard Business School Working Paper shows that your body language has an effect on your confidence.[1]

So before you go into the meeting room, stand tall, shoulders back and breathe slowly to get yourself into a confident frame of mind and body.

Are you keen to be more deliberate about building and maintaining your confidence?

I’ve created a 55-minute training webinar and workbook to keep your confidence at work. It includes simple and practical tips you can action straight away to keep your confidence topped up even if you’ve experienced a knock back.

You’ll finish this training  and be able to over come a knock back and keep your confidence high at work

Get the full 55-minute training webinar and accompanying workbook for only £5.

3 tips to keep your confidence at workFind out more about this training here

This training contains:
– A 55-minute webinar, packed with practical actions to take immediately to build and maintain your confidence.
– A practical workbook with the key action points for success as well as a place to write down your notes and goals.
– Bonus guide on how to be brilliant at stepping out of your comfort zone.

Sign up now for only £5

 

[1]^Harvard Business School: The Benefit of Power Posing Before a High-Stakes Social Evaluation

Do dips in confidence affect you and your team?

3 tips to keep your confidence in difficult times

Over the last 8 years I’ve worked with individuals, teams and organisations to help them to think creatively and develop their ideas to get better results. I’ve learned that regardless of role, seniority or sector, there are two things that stop people achieving the results they want. They are are lack of time to think and lack of confidence.

When we’re pushing to make change happen, tackling anything new or different, or when we’re faced with a difficult situation, like, for example, a global pandemic, we can feel vulnerable. When we’re out of our comfort zone it’s really easy for our confidence level to drop.

I don’t believe that people are born confident or not confident. I’ve seen how confident people actively develop habits to keep their confidence topped up.

We’re currently navigating unknown territory, so it’s perfectly normal if you’ve experienced anxiety, felt vulnerable or that your confidence has taken a knock.

Right now, in a period of massive change and uncertainty. We must support our colleagues, friends and family. Looking after ourselves and maintaining our confidence has never been more important.

Working on confidence can feel intangible but focusing on it is part of looking after ourselves, along with eating well, getting enough sleep and exercising regularly. When we’re taking time to look after ourselves it helps us keep our confidence in check. When we feel good we feel more self-assured and more confident to tackle whatever situation working life throws at us.

Are you keen to be more deliberate about building and maintaining your confidence? I’ve created a 55-minute webinar and workbook to give you a quick confidence kick start. It includes simple and practical tips you can action straight away to keep your confidence topped up.

You’ll finish this training  and feel prepared, informed, and confident at work..

Get the full 55-minute webinar and accompanying workbook for only £5.

3 tips to keep your confidence at workFind out more about this training here

This training contains:
– A 55-minute webinar, packed with practical actions to take immediately to build and maintain your confidence.
– A practical workbook with the key action points for success as well as a place to write down your notes and goals.
– Bonus guide on how to be brilliant at stepping out of your comfort zone.

Sign up now for only £5

8 tips for boosting your confidence with creativity

Creative thinking

We often think that creativity is about whether or not you can draw. It’s not. Creative thinking can apply to anything. You can be a spreadsheet superstar, a marketing maverick or a clever content creator.

If you reframe creativity as ‘problem-solving’ it will help you feel more comfortable and makes creativity feel like less of a dark art. Creativity is about solving strategic problems, spotting opportunities, making connections and making good ideas happen to deliver the best learning and development for your employees and volunteers.

All human beings are creative. Research shows that creativity is more about a state of mind. And when we are in a relaxed or playful state our subconscious keeps working away, making connections and solving problems. That’s why when I ask people where they have their best ideas it’s very unusual that people say, ‘sat at my desk.’They usually have their best ideas when they are not at work: in the shower, driving, walking the dog, asleep, talking with their children or even on the toilet.

It can be difficult to work in an environment when we are expected to deliver more for less, inspire audiences with different needs to want to learn and ensure that employees have opportunities for professional development.

Yet so many organisations put their employees under pressure to simply ‘be creative’ or offer up massively unhelpful phrases like ‘think outside the box’ but without providing any guidance about how to do that.

So here are some simple tips to develop your already excellent creative thinking skills:

Know yourself: You are already creative. Step away from your desk. Think about where you have your best ideas and make time to go there. If this means spending more time on the toilet then so be it!

Get more curious: According to Steven Johnson in his book Where Good Ideas Come From, creativity is making new connections by putting old ideas together in new ways. Therefore you need to expand your portfolio of knowledge so you have more old ideas that you can put together when needed. So get more curious about the world. Read more books, go on a course, listen to a webinar and attend that talk.

Break patterns: As we get older we repeat the same patterns. You’ll have experienced this when you feel like you’ve been on ‘autopilot’, for example, got to work and not really noticed how you got there. This inhibits our creativity because we simply repeat these ingrained patterns. To help break them, change your habits. Start with the things you do on autopilot. Change your route to work, listen to a different radio station, watch something different on TV, go to a different place for lunch. All these small changes will help to create new patterns, new neural pathways and help your brain to be more flexible at making new connections.

Ask why: When we’ve worked in an organisation for a while we accept the status quo, we accept ‘how things are done round here.’ Wear a different lens, pretend you’re new and start asking ‘why?’ When a new employee starts, ask them what they’d change.

Make it so: It’s actually much easier to say we can’t do something. That means that nothing changes. However, confident creative thinkers have a restlessness to solve problems and make things better. They are constantly seeking to ‘make it so’. The process of making the seemingly impossible possible also helps to flex your creative thinking muscles.

Ban idea killer phrases: You know them. Those phrases like ‘we tried that before and it didn’t work’ ‘we don’t do it like that here’ ‘we don’t have the budget’ ‘the board will never sign it off’. Stop using them. They may be true. However, the world changes fast and something that historically wasn’t the right solution might be now.

Say ‘yes and’: Encourage confidence in creativity by making a small change to your language. Rather than using an idea-killer phrase (even ‘yes but…’ is negative) change your language to ‘yes and’. ‘Yes and’ encourages people to keep thinking creatively, solve problems and keep making those new connections and creates an environment where creativity can flourish.

Practice: Like any skill the more you practice the better you get. The small changes you make every day will add up to powerful confidence in your own creativity.

If you liked these tips you might also like the Lucidity Network – a place for people pushing to make change happen, a place to learn, a place to share and a place to connect. Check it out and join us here.

A version of this blog originally appeared on the Charity Learning Consortium.