Feeling stuck at work? A change expert reveals how to 'unstick' your career

It’s normal for your work to have ups and downs.

But when you get into a space where you just feel stuck – bored, burnt out, but not sure what to do about it – it can be seriously draining.

How do you get unstuck and start moving again?

How do you rediscover your motivation and stop dreading the start of another week?

Carmel McConnell MBE is a change maker and author of Change Activist: Make Big Things Happen Fast – so she knows all about shaking things up. Thus, we trust her advice on how to unstick your career.

Ahead, she shares her step-by-step process to dealing with feeling stuck at work.

Think like a ‘change activist’

Get comfortable with the idea of doing things differently, even if it feels a bit uncomfortable at first.

Carmel tells Metro.co.uk: ‘What is a change activist? Someone who takes action, in line with their values, even if that means going outside their comfort zone.

‘If you feel stuck, low in energy, low in options, a change activist mindset will help you look through a lens of solutions, hope and positive action. Change is possible!’

Take action

It’s tempting to spend a lot of time mulling stuff over and pondering your options, but Carmel says that it’s doing that helps unstick us.

What you do is up to you, but don’t delay or overthink – action is what’s going to sort out this feeling.

‘We expand our comfort zones through action, especially action based on our values, on who we really are,’ Carmel tells us.

‘Taking action is looking after yourself. There are bound to be hiccups, the stuck times.

‘But you will find a way, just take that first baby step. This is your success story in progress.’

Work out your passion and purpose

What do you care about? Why do you do what you do?

Carmel says: ‘Your passion is what you care about most, this is who you are. It could be your family. It could be the planet. It could be making sure the customers who buy from your firm are well treated. 

‘Purpose is the sense of direction you get when you know what you are passionate about. 

‘If you are in a setting far away from your passion and purpose, it’s really hard to stay motivated. Even a small tweak will help.

‘For example, if you care deeply about diversity and inclusion, but no one else seems to care. Be the one who cares – show why being a fairer employer will attract the best talent, mirror the markets you serve.’

‘Your passion and your purpose are valuable fuel for the next part.’

Make your own plan

Get strategic – what actions do you need to take to make your work enjoyable again?

Give yourself permission to think unconventionally, to not stick to a plan that you made years ago or that other people told you you should.

Start from scratch. Think about how you want your work to look, then go backwards from there.

Get some perspective

When you’re feeling stuck, you likely feel out of control, like things are just happening to you.

Remind yourself what you have the power to change.

‘You have more control than you think,’ Carmel says.

‘Ok, so you’re not in charge of the interest rates or the weather, but you are (mostly) the one to decide if you stay or go.

‘If your inner voice says “I can’t change anything” gently reframe to say “Maybe I can’t just now, but I’m making a plan for when I can”.’

Write out the specifics

Carmel suggests: ‘What is going on at work that makes you feel stuck? Get it out of your head onto paper.’

Suss out what fuels you

This ties in with the passion and purpose stuff we mentioned above.

It’s vital to work out what drives you to work. Is it external or internal?

With internal fuel – your values, what you care about, the big ‘why’ – ‘you’ll keep going’, says Carmel.

‘You might not feel as recognised; you may not have the acclaim, but you will feel more able to steer.’

Reconnect with who you are

Carmel encourages asking: ‘Are you free to be your true self at work, or is there a commute between who you really are and the person you have to pretend to be?

‘This is the most exhausting journey, and you don’t have to make it.

‘We often feel stuck when we’ve become unrecognisable to ourselves, trying to fit in and be like everyone else. 

‘It’s ok to be you! You have unique, valuable skills, great ideas, a whole array of experience.

‘You don’t have to put up with having to pretend. Maybe some of that is your fear, rather than what’s in the job induction pack.’

Trust yourself to be able to sort this out

Don’t allow yourself to sink into doom and despair.

You have the power to get unstuck. You don’t have to stay in this place forever.

‘Trust yourself to find a way,’ Carmel advises. ‘You always have, right?’

Carmel McConnell MBE is a change maker and author of Change Activist: Make Big Things Happen Fast, published by Pearson, out now, priced £9.99

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