Is your career all dried up? Do you feel as if you are wandering in a professional desert? If this describes you and your career, then this article was written for you. You are a desert traveler. There are seven reasons your career has dried up, and there are seven solutions.
Reason #1: There is one specific area, which stands out more than others, in which you have allowed your career to get off track. You must identify this area where your career is all dried up. I know, for some of you, it feels as if your entire career is going nowhere, but there is a root cause. Try to take a 10,000-foot overview of your career and find the one area that is in the most need of repair and start there. If you are having trouble identifying this area ask others whom you know and trust. Believe me, they have noticed that you are wandering in a desert and they will have opinions as to why.
Reason #2: In addition to the specific area that has you feeling dried up, there is a specific difficulty. You need to identify and resolve your specific difficulty. There are four difficulties and four solutions that are common to people who are wandering in a professional desert. Those difficulties are doubt, disinterest, discouragement and dissatisfaction.
Reason #3 is doubt. Doubt is insidious and can grow quicker than you think. It takes on two forms; one being self-doubt and the other is external doubt. Self-doubt may begin with a slight hesitation when you start a task you have previously completed without a problem, but then you hear a little voice that whispers “what if.” What if you mess this up? What if your skills aren’t as sharp as they were in the past? What if your strategy worked before, but now it is outdated? Once you start listening to the voice that is saying “what if,” you have entered the desert and are on your way to being all dried up.
External doubt is self-doubt projected onto your circumstances. Maybe your little voice is saying that your career is all dried up because your boss doesn’t recognize your potential. Maybe you think your boss recognizes your potential, but your boss hasn’t made the connection as to how your potential will benefit the company. Or, maybe you have convinced yourself that your career has stalled because your particular market or profession is slow. Circumstances and challenges exist for the sole purpose of being overcome. You can choose to blame your current circumstance on external factors or you can choose to overcome whatever you face.
If doubt is your difficulty, then your solution is belief. Sounds simple enough — because the solution is simple. You need to choose to believe in yourself more than you believe in your doubt. You’ve been successful before, and you can be successful again. You still have the skills you had when you started your career; choose to believe in your ability. When you tell yourself that you can do something, you are washing away your self-doubt and quenching your thirst with a drink of cool water from a fresh stream.
If you have succeeded in externalizing your doubt, i.e., blaming it on others, then you need to step up and take control. If someone isn’t recognizing your potential or your benefit to the company, you need to point it out to that person. If your market is slow, then you need to be innovative and find ways to overcome this challenge. You can take the power and you can overcome your doubt.
Reason #4 is disinterest. If your difficulty is disinterest then the root cause probably lies in one of two areas. Either your motivation to succeed is based on selfish pursuits or you are simply bored. Selfish pursuits are great motivators to start a career. After all, having a designer wardrobe, or simply having plenty of cash to support your lifestyle are great motivators and keep everyone interested in moving forward — at first. However, interests that only benefit you and are superficial only last for a short time. After awhile everyone needs a greater purpose in life. If you are finding that doing your job is not as fulfilling as it once was, then maybe you are doing your job for the wrong reasons.
It’s pretty easy to determine if you are bored. If you just aren’t that excited about your career and you can find more reasons for staying home than going to work, chances are you are bored. Maybe you aren’t challenged, maybe you have mastered your job or maybe you have simply been doing the same thing for way too long. If any of these sound familiar then it is safe to say you are in the desert and you are bored.
Did you discover that you are more disinterested in your career than doubtful? If this is your reason for your career being all dried up, then you need to reconnect and commit yourself to a higher cause. Or, finally find a cause that you can rally around — one you believe in and can start contributing either monetarily or with your time. It is when we are committed to something greater than just ourselves that we get re-energized. The energy you will generate can carry you out of your desert and bring new life to your career.
Reason #5 is discouragement. Discouragement is a real difficulty for many desert travelers. It begins when you are feeling a little bit down, but the two main symptoms of discouragement are envy of others and a focus on how things were in the past.
If you have found yourself looking negatively at your peers or others who have already been promoted, moved forward, or have surpassed you in some way, then you are envious. You may be finding one thousand and one reasons why they are better or one thousand reasons why they had an advantage, but if you are convincing yourself that others have something you don’t, then it’s envy.
Maybe your discouragement is rooted in external factors. Are you convinced that the leads used to be better, there were more opportunities in the past, or the competition knows something that you don’t? If you have convinced yourself of any of these, then you are discouraged and on your way to being all dried up in the desert. But it can be cured. Go back to basics.
What is it you were doing before you began wandering in the desert? Make a list of the basic skills you leveraged to get your career started, then go back and start applying them all over again. Next, make a list of what it takes to move beyond where you are in your career. One by one start applying those skills until you have moved from simply wandering around to a point where you can see your promised land straight ahead.
Reason #6 is dissatisfaction. Finally, dissatisfaction is often at the root of a career that is off track in the desert. Dissatisfaction is all about impatience and a feeling of just not being happy with your circumstances. If you find yourself spending less time doing your best, more time finding short cuts and just doing enough to get by, then you are dissatisfied. Dissatisfaction simply takes away our motivation to try harder and do better.
If dissatisfaction is the culprit that made you lose your way you can get back on track. First, acknowledge that you aren’t pleased with where you are right now. Know that it could take a while to get to your goal, but you can begin the journey right away. Switch your focus from feeling dissatisfied to instead focusing on “this is what I can do to be satisfied.” Make a plan and stick with it until you get to where you are going. Focus on what works and make it happen.
Reason #7 is your reality. Now that you know your desert and have identified your specific difficulty, along with its solution, you can determine your reality. Make a decision to reject the reality of your past and substitute it with a new reality starting today. Your desert will get bigger and wider not if you focus on the lack of the past, but if you choose to focus on new possibilities and an abundant future. You will begin to feel like a freshly watered garden whose waters never fail.
Remember, deserts are necessary, because without them we become complacent. When we are complacent we do not grow. Make the decision to bloom, instead of being all dried up.
Suzanne Freiberg is and executive coach and founder of SmartWork Career Coaching, which empowers women in management and leadership; www.smartworkcareercoaching.com.