Escaping a career rut – a case study

“I was stuck in a career rut having been in the same job for almost 20 years, desperate to find a new work path but at a complete loss as to how to go about it. My sessions with Alisa were so enlightening, she really put me at ease and I felt able to open my mind to possibilities I had hitherto buried through self doubt. Over a series of sessions she helped me to identify what it was that was holding me back from making decisions about my future and to believe in myself, remember the skills and qualities that I have but had buried from years of lack of confidence. Following a set of sessions with Alisa I created an action plan, I set time aside for me (something I’d neglected to do for years) and got the empowerment I needed to take that leap and make some big changes in my life. I now have a new job that I feel I can call a career finally. I can’t thank her enough.”

Many of my clients come to me with the feeling that they are stuck in the job they have been doing for a number of years. No amount of training or personal development can help them overcome that feeling of ‘stuckness’ in their current roles. They are unfulfilled and they have no idea how to escape their rut. I tell all of my clients that they are influencing their own ‘stuckness’. Using a series of tools and techniques, I help them recognise that it is within their power to land their dream job or find a new career.

Seeking professional fulfilment

When S. came to see me, she had been in the same job for almost 20 years. In our first conversation, she told me that she ‘needed something that makes me feel alive’. In other words, she felt professionally dead.

She described herself as ‘desperate to find a new work path’ but felt that she didn’t have the capability or the resourcefulness to bring about the change she desired. She had lost sight of her professional skills and strongly believed that she didn’t have any. In fact, when asked whether she was, for example, a good communicator, a problem solver, a team player, S’s recollection of her skills base was buried. To unearth the competencies she had built up over 20 years, which had kept her employed, she needed to be reminded.

Together, we did a values elicitation exercise. S. discovered that her top value was adventure, with accomplishment a clear second. We reflected on how these 2 primary values were not being fulfilled and in fact were in opposition to her current situation, resulting in a daily feeling of compromise and dissatisfaction. By examining her core beliefs and reminding herself of her values, which she had stepped away from, S. was prompted to recall that she had many and varied skills which could be put to use in a new role.

Future visioning

In a follow-up session, I asked S. to participate in a future visioning exercise. She projected ahead to the time when she is in a new role, having left her current position. We physically walked along a timeline which took S. to a year ahead.

During this exercise, S. radiated positivity and hopefulness as she visualised a set of clear milestones along the timeline, including, applying for a job she felt perfectly matched to, sitting through the interview a few weeks later, being offered the job and accepting it, writing her letter of resignation and telling her current manager that she was leaving her role after almost 20 years.

She also imagined attending her department leaving party and starting the new role. At the end of the future visioning activity, S. was visibly elated as she imagined herself being successful at the challenge she struggles most with. I reflected on this with S. and she agreed how gratified she felt after completing the activity. She acknowledged that the tangible set of goals she had mapped out during the exercise felt realistic and achievable within the year’s timeframe she had identified.

Stepping stone

The next step was to invoke S’s rediscovered values and skills to create a CV. This was a satisfying exercise which highlighted the skills S. had buried. However, before her job search could get under way, S. needed to overcome an additional obstacle: While she was keen to leave her current job, she was unsure what she wanted to do. She knew she wanted to embark on a journey but wasn’t sure of the destination.

In this case, it made most sense for S. to strive for a job that could serve as a stepping stone to take her away from her current job and start her on a new path. At first, this concept of a ‘stepping stone’ was repellent to S. as it represented safety when she had wanted to become more adventurous in alignment with her values. It also highlighted her tendency to stay in her comfort zone when she had been so excited to leave it.

Fear of interviews

Having warmed to the idea of an interim role which would lead her along a new path, S. started to apply for jobs. During this time, another obstacle appeared: S. had a ‘pathological’ fear of being interviewed. We agreed to engage in a role play in which I interviewed her for one of the jobs she had applied for. Prior to our role play, S. made sure that she was well prepared. She familiarized herself with her CV; reminded herself of her skills, which she so often forgot; she practised projecting confidence and competence; and watched some motivational videos such as Amy Cuddy’s Ted Talk, ‘Your Body Language May Shape Who You Are’. She came across very well in the fake interview and I reinforced to her that she was a very strong candidate.

Finding confidence

It wasn’t long before S. found the perfect ‘stepping stone’ role. It was a senior leadership position within her current organization which represented the career progression and professional responsibility she had been searching for. She applied for the job, exuded confidence in the interview, smashed it, and got the job.

S. is the perfect example of how a coaching conversation can change the direction of your life.

Alisa Salamon

Alisa is a certified career transition coach based in the UK who helps people carve out a new career or take their existing career to new heights. Email to find out more.

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