It is possible that at some point in your career you are going to feel blocked, stalled, or going nowhere. When that occurs you can use it as a time to reflect and redirect your focus, or you can become frustrated and do nothing to change the conditions. Any time you believe you are not getting the results you hoped for, whether or not you have tried to change your approach, you can use it as a warning sign. This is a wake-up call that indicates some aspect of your career plan needs to be adapted or altered in some way. It could be an internalized belief or expectation that needs adjustment, or it may mean your career plans are due for a reevaluation. When you experience a feeling of being held back, it is time to create a strategy for your professional self-improvement.
One of the first areas to review are the goals you aspire to complete during your career. These future aspirations need to be broken down into short-term and long-term goals so that you are pro-actively working on them. When I have coached individuals I found that a sense of being stuck or held back is an indicator that career goals had been forgotten about, the goals were no longer relevant, the goals developed were not specific, or there were no goals that the individual could even remember.
When you set out to determine what it is you aspire to do, you can evaluate where you are at in relationship to where you want to be. This doesn’t mean you need to have all of the answers or a complete and clear picture of the future. However, it does establish a baseline that you can work from. For example, if you aspire to become the manager of a department and you believe you are not making progress towards meeting that goal, you can evaluate the steps you have taken and determine what you need to do in order to make the goal a reality.
Here are questions you can ask to begin a self-analysis:
#1. Are my aspirations clearly translated into career goals? If you are focused on something you want to do or become in the future, develop steps or goals to create a path that will enable your progress.
#2. Are my career goals realistic? Perhaps you will find that what is holding you back are goals that you will not be able to attain for any number of reasons. If so, determine if you need additional training or education to make it a realistic possibility, or consider if it should be discarded.
#3. Do I believe in my own potential? One of the most damaging things you can do to your career development is to accept any form of negative self-talk or self-doubt. That can minimize a belief in your capacity to learn and grow. In order to make progress in your career, belief in your potential to reach your goals.
#4. Do I accept that I am in control? When it comes to your career you always have a choice as to what you can do or should do, which means you are in control. Any feeling of helplessness you may have can cause a setback in your career development and progress.
#5. What are my strengths and weaknesses? Now is the time to write out the strengths you have to build from and the areas of development that need your attention. This is how you can begin to plan your professional development and the most effective method is building from your strengths as this helps to create a positive mindset.
Are You Going Forward?
As you consider the questions posed you can regain a clearer picture of your career – from your present job to your present capabilities, to your desired job and areas of improvement. As you view your career in this manner you are better able to determine if being held back is a valid concern, an indicator of a time for change, or a warning sign that you have had a setback that needs to be addressed. Perhaps you will find that you are not making progress in your quest for job advancement or that your present duties are not aligned with your desired career goals. What you want to discover is that you are making career progress. However, you may determine after completion of this analysis that the only way you can move forward is to make a change in your job duties, move to a different department, or find another job altogether. No matter what you decide after your self-analysis, you need to develop a plan.
Time for a Definitive Plan
What you can do to ensure that you know when you are being held back is to have a definitive plan and monitor your progress on a periodic basis. Here are some steps you can follow to create your own path to career development.
Begin with Your Aspirations – Your career goals must be personal to you as it involves your future that is being determined. This will invest your mind and heart into your plan, and create the motivation necessary to follow it.
Establish a Timeline – Consider when you want your aspirations to be fully realized. Then you can create goals as stepping stones and map out specific checkpoints for personal check-ins.
Be Aware of Capacity Not Limitations – You are capable of doing more and learning more at any time. How much more depends upon your self-belief and ability to work with and minimize any limitations.
Be Adaptive, Flexible, and Willing to Grow – as you learn to self-correct, develop from trial and error, and adapt your plan as needed, this will prompt growth and realization of your plan.
Take Inspired Action
For some people there is a need to do something to feel in control, while others wait for perfect conditions – or intolerable conditions – to begin working on their career planning goals. Taking action in this manner can create a feeling of desperation, frustration, anger, or hopelessness – if the action is not producing the desired results. On the other hand, if you are afraid to act out of some form of fear that can also intentionally hold you back from the progress you want to make. The challenge for many then becomes knowing when to act.
You are likely to find that when you have a well-defined career plan you will also possess a strong sense of self. This allows you to see before you the steps needed to reach your short-term and long-term goals, and you view action from the perspective of enabling professional development. You know where you want to be so you can look for ways to support your progress through purposeful steps forward. And if you are subject to job conditions beyond your control, you will know when it is time to redirect your efforts in a different job path. If you maintain this steady focus you will help make certain your actions are inspired and never a reason for being held back.