Being stuck isn’t fun. Immobile. Fastened. Motionless. Unable to move. Staying in one place without progress.We get to those points in our lives and careers where we feel stuck. It’s normal. It happens. I’ve lived it.
A couple of years ago, I started honestly evaluating where I was in my career. I liked what I did (although not as much as I once did), and I liked the people I was working with. But, I wasn’t genuinely happy. I wasn’t sure I wanted to keep doing this for the next 5, 10, 20 years. I had a great title, salary, and position, but I came to realize I was stuck.
Thinking about change wouldn’t make it happen. Failure to take action would result in more of the same, whether I stayed at the company or looked elsewhere. I needed forces from both inside and outside to make things happen.
As a coach working with professionals in similar situations, I use the metaphor of seeing yourself happily climbing a mountain, eyeing the top of the next ridge, and then realizing you’ve stepped into a bog and you can’t move. You’re stuck. You need two things to get out. The first is the internal motivation to know you want to get to that ridge because there are all sorts of opportunities on the other side. The second is the help you need from someone else. You can’t will yourself out of the bog. You need that person who gives you a branch –or a hand– to help pull you out and continue on to where you know you want to be.
To get out of my bog, I actively sought out colleagues, family and friends, who I asked to honestly assess what, in their opinion, I “brought to the table.” So often we can’t see it in ourselves. I had read books on how people rediscover passion. I worked with a coach to help me look back, as well as forward, to uncover my strengths and values and prepare a confident plan to move forward. I invested time and money for the training to prepare me for a new career.
At the same time, I had to overcome the internal fears and obstacles (real, but mostly imagined), which were telling me “I can’t” or “I shouldn’t” make a change. I had to figure out what it would be like to not have an office, title, or a predictable income. I had to figure out how to communicate with my wife about my fears, while also remaining confident. I had to figure out how to deal with waking at 4am and thinking “what the #@&% am I doing?!”
It wasn’t about reinventing myself. It was about being honest about my passions, gifts and strengths and using that clarity and confidence to take those next steps.
Going through this process doesn’t necessarily lead to a radical career shift. It might be realigning your current role or situation to be better aligned with your core values.
Being stuck isn’t forever, and wherever you are in your career, getting unstuck requires intentional efforts from the inside and out. And it’s worth it. You owe it to yourself and everyone around you.
Tim Ressmeyer is a certified life coach from Chicago. His diverse career has included significant time in the social services, academia, and corporate America. With a Masters from Stony Brook, as well as a PhD in Political Science, Tim has always had a passion for the social sciences and understanding human behavior. He spent 20 years in executive marketing and analytics roles, most recently as Senior Vice President, Group Director at Starcom Worldwide, a global advertising and digital media agency. Tim’s interests extended beyond corporate, and he now runs his own Life and Executive Coaching business: Ressmeyer Partners. Tim enjoys helping employees and colleagues identify and utilize their gifts, introducing “good people to good people” to further individual careers, and using his education and interests to help people live lives more fully.
Timothy J. Ressmeyer, Ph.D., CPC
Stony Brook, M.A., ‘83
Ressmeyer Partners – Professional Life and Leadership Coaching
Making educated career decisions can be difficult at any stage of career development. The ASK (Alumni Sharing Knowledge) Blog is intended for Stony Brook University students and alumni to learn career knowledge and get advice from experienced alumni, working in various career fields, about lessons learned from their career experiences.