52% of young manages are dissatisfied in their current jobs. And even those who have switched jobs in search of better pastures don’t seem to fare better: 47% of them remain dissatisfied. Research by GlobalGyan Academy with young Indian managers showed that 80% of them did not get their “dream” jobs on campus and most of them have a feeling of being stuck in their jobs.
It is not that they are poorly qualified for their work or do not care about the employer’s business. It’s just they seem burdened with their current jobs, neither happy or unhappy with what they were doing, and unsure about what they would do in future. It is like they are comfortably numb with the situation they are in. They are stuck.
I see this situation as similar to when organisations or businesses get stuck. There is lack of clarity on whom they are targeting and what their value proposition is. And wrong allocation of resources, that are not sharply aligned to the value creation goals. The answer is known as strategy. Similarly, individuals need to build their professional strategy: to treat themselves as “products” that have to create a sustainable competitive advantage… to stand out in the crowded market for talented people.
Isn’t that too materialistic and potentially demeaning to the individual: should we treat humans as lifeless businesses, you may ask. Why not, I would counter. Just as businesses can compete in tough markets while demonstrating integrity and responsibility, individuals should take a structured approach to shaping their career and achieving success.
I would like to highlight three crucial steps in the process of getting unstuck.
- Understand the Market: Most professionals have very limited understanding of how their business or industry operates. This lack of the “big picture” view makes them disconnected with their work. While it is the responsibility of the organisation to help create this connect, the employee must also invest energy in developing this knowledge. More you understand about the customer-competition-technology dynamics of your business, and the basic drivers of profitability and value creation, better equipped you would be to plan your career in that market (or elsewhere, as the case may be).
- Sharpen your Value Proposition: Ask any professional what they are really good at and what they enjoy doing, and the chances are they would fumble with the answer. A strategic approach to one’s career means building clarity about the areas of personal excellence. What kind of work (role, function, etc.) would make you a winner? What would energise you to go the extra mile? This self-awareness requires a systematic process of journaling and reflection, in addition to soliciting feedback from all stakeholders. We can design our career paths just as one would build a product road-map. This is a dynamic process and must be done periodically; just going through the discovery process can be exhilarating.
- Invest in your Development: Most corporate employees have outsourced the responsibility of their capability development to the HR function. It is akin to an entrepreneur asking her customers to invest in the startup’s R&D or product development. Professionals must take charge of honing their skills to remain competitive in the career market. This requires an investment of time and money. In fact, your employer is often doing a favour by training you, and many companies are questioning if they should continue to do so. Also, the learning investment should be based on future career goals, to help make the transition.
One more thing, asking for help is essential to getting unstuck. Identify and engage with mentors who can help you get unstuck when you are faced with setbacks and uncertainties. Some might help you find your direction, others might help you make a connection, and still others could help you learn new skills.
If you are feeling stuck at work, the good news is that you are not alone and it is not a permanent place. Getting unstuck requires deliberate effort; with a systematic approach and the right support, you can discover the work that gets you in the flow.