What To Do When You’re Stuck in a Career Rut

What To Do When You’re Stuck in a Career Rut

While it’s normal to feel stuck in your career from time to time, the experience can be demoralizing and cause significant stress and anxiety.

What do you do if you find yourself in a career rut, and are there steps you can take to get unstuck? 

Spoiler alert: Yes, you can get unstuck and find a job you love, even if it feels impossible right now. Continue reading to learn what to do when in a career rut.

What To Do When You Get Stuck in a Career Rut

1. Ground yourself.

Because feeling stuck in your career can be incredibly unnerving, it can be helpful to begin by grounding yourself and focusing on the present moment. In other words, you want to engage in mindfulness, which research proves can reduce stress and improve your well-being. While there are a lot of ways to practice mindfulness when you’re feeling untethered, I’ll share two of my favorites:

  • Deep Breathing: Take 3 deep breaths, with a focus on your breathing.
  • The 5-4-3-2-1 Technique: Acknowledge 5 things you can see around you, 4 you can feel, 3 you can hear, 2 you can smell, and 1 you can taste.


2. Separate feelings from facts.

Next, try to separate your facts from your feelings, which I recognize can be challenging when you’re stuck. Getting an objective, unobstructed view of your current career situation can help you gain a sense of your options moving forward. Here are a few examples of facts versus feelings when it comes to being in a career rut:

  • Feeling: “I feel uncertain about my future and like the best years of my life are over.”
  • Fact: “I have 15+ years of experience in product management and have worked for several Fortune 500 tech companies.”
  • Feeling: “I feel like I’ll never find a career I love.”
  • Fact: “I’ve repeatedly landed new jobs, even when other people are experiencing unemployment.”


3. Focus on your why.

When you’re feeling stuck, you might be tempted to focus on the how — the actionable steps you’ll take to reach your goals. However, consider also taking a step back and focusing on the why, as this will shift your energy toward your purpose and motivation and tap into your intuition to get you into a flow state. The following are some sample questions to guide you in tapping into your why:

  • What activities bring you energy?
  • What gets you out of bed in the morning, and what keeps you up at night?
  • If you could place a one-sentence message on a billboard, what would it be, and why?


4. Reflect on your value.

Since experiencing a career rut can also deflate your ego and perpetuate imposter syndrome, you may need to rebuild your confidence. Identifying your career accomplishments and the value you’ve delivered to your employers is one of the best ways to boost your ego. One of my favorite questions for uncovering clients’ career wins is, “If there was a reduction in force (RIF) taking place at your company, how would you convince the CEO to keep you?”

If you don’t want to start from scratch, you can also turn to your former job evaluations, letters of recommendation, and LinkedIn testimonials for inspiration. Importantly, you should practice internalizing these accomplishments, as this is a critical step to overcoming imposter syndrome, so you might consider reviewing them at the beginning or end of each day.

5. Step away from work.

If you’re not already familiar, I’m a major proponent of putting your mental health first, always. This includes practicing self-care, setting effective boundaries, and learning to leave work at work.

When in a career rut, it can be particularly helpful to step more formally away from work and take a vacation, even if it’s a mini one, to prevent and manage burnout. The time away can then help you approach your job search with a new perspective and more energy.

6. Ask for help in getting unstuck.

Finally, a career rut can be difficult to fix by yourself, so don’t be afraid to request help from someone you trust.

An often-underutilized resource is university career centers. You can also turn to a trusted mentor, if you have one, or a certified career coach. The coaching industry is unregulated and full of scammers trying to make a quick buck, so be sure to conduct your due diligence before investing in someone.

Final Thoughts on What To Do When Stuck in a Career Rut

If your self-reflection ultimately leads you to consider a career change, here are some additional resources you’ll want to read:


Again, please remember getting stuck in a career is normal, and it’ll pass. You’ve got this!

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  • September 18, 2023