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  • Writer's pictureDavid A. Schneider

Feeling Stuck in Career

Updated: Aug 30, 2020

Feel Stuck in your career?

Are you stuck in a job you hate?

Feeling trapped in the job?

You are not alone!

Do you jump out of bed every morning because you are so excited to go to work?

Have you got the impression that what you do at your job is worthwhile and fulfilling?

Are you already excited about the next years in the company your work for?

Is what you work on making use of your full potential and empowering you to become the best you can possibly be?

If your life would be over tomorrow, do you believe you spent your time the right way with that company or career of yours?

If you said yes to most of these questions, congratulations.

You really have a great company you work for and should continue to make your career there. But I assume that in most of the cases, such thoughts will not occur when you think about your job. In some cases, you might even feel really stuck.

Instead it could be thoughts or mental pictures like this:

Does your stomach already crunch when you think about going back to your office tomorrow?

Can you already feel the headache when you know you will have an appointment with your boss?

Would you sometimes rather pretend to be sick for not having to go to work?

Have you got a feeling of being capable for much more in life, but feel there is no way of expressing your talents and being recognized?

If your thoughts concerning your work are more like this, welcome to the daily life of more than 50% of the working people worldwide.

According to polls the majority of working people not only feel stuck in their career, but they hate their job.

Often these people feel undervalued, unappreciated, mistreated, or a combination of all of them.

And still, many decide to keep the job in order to be able to pay their bills and support their families.

Some also try to avoid change or are afraid to not find any new job at all if they would decide to quit, and would rather accept the misery.

The problem with this attitude, even though it is legitimate and understandable, is that one day your life will be over.

And then you will look back and regret you did not make more out of your life, as we spend most of our time awake in our jobs.

Or even worse: in bad economic times, the company that mistreated you anyway might then come to fire you in order to “cut costs”.

So the day that you wanted to avoid all the time by hanging on to an unbearable situation might eventually come and be out of your control anyway.

How you can prevent such scenarios to get stuck and the common reasons why people hate their job, is what you will find out in this post.

Reason 1: The company you work for is in a declining industry

feeling stuck in career

Maybe the board of directors does everything right, maybe the working environment is fine, you have good relationships with your colleagues and your boss.

The products are also great, customers seem to be happy but somehow… things seem to go in the wrong direction.

You feel the pressure rising every quarter.

Not only in your department, also other areas of the company are affected as well.

Those poor guys in the back office even had to take a paycut!

You see how benefits to employees get reduced more and more, and things that once were given just a year ago are now causing all kinds of worries.

If the company is facing an outside change of circumstances like new technologies, or other factors that threaten to make the business model obsolete, no matter how nice, hard working and sincere the people are at this business - it is in deep trouble.

And your carreer probably too.

Depending on how dramatic the change may be, the company can have a chance to adapt to new trends and look for new fields of profit to move into.

But in case that there is real disruptive technology in the market, like it happened to Kodak with digital cameras or to Nokia with smartphones, if the company cannot find new ground quickly, it will soon be over.

Please note that both examples were world-market leaders before the new technology arrived, and still they had to close the business eventually!

Often such changes get noticed only when it is too late to jump on that trend, and therefore many businesses have to declare bankruptcy because they missed their chance.

It happened also to Blockbuster video, when streaming services like Netflix became more and more popular and they relied on their old systems and technologies for too long enough.

But it does not always have to be technical:

If you worked in the 2010s for a fishing company located in the Gulf of Mexico, at that time BP just drilled a hole that flooded the ocean with oil, killing almost the entire sea life that existed in this area.

Estimates are that it will take at least 10 years before any new life will return to this place, any efforts to keep the business alive will be futile.

And there is no insurance policy for such cases, and no other form of prevention.

If fish was your resource of income in this area, it has just been wiped out.

Your carrer is not only stuck then, it is over.

Things change. The world changes. People change. Markets and businesses will change.

If you plan to make your career in an industry where there is no future, there will be no future for you.

Do not take it personally, as it is just not your fault at all, but you simply have been in the wrong place at the wrong time - and throughout history, this has always been a pretty bad place to be.

Think for a moment yourself, how high are the chances of cassette tapes coming back?

Or of horse carriages as mass transportation?

Or of you coming back together with your ex partner?

Some things are just not made to last.

As with everything in life that has changed the best way to deal with it is to accept it and look forward to the future you still have ahead.

The faster you can determine such a career position and realize the situation as such, the easier it will be for you to move on and find new, rewarding positions for you to really start your career and have a fulfilled life.

Reason 2: The company you work for is poorly managed

feeling stuck in career

Then the other case exists, where the business and the industry it is operating in is in great condition. Demand keeps rising, new customers keep coming in, what could possibly go wrong?

Answer: A lot.

The working environment sucks, there might even be psychological warfare going on between the employees, departments work against each other instead of together.

Bad people get highly compensated in high management, while the good hardworking people only receive minimum wages in the lower departments.

Things that should work do not work, others things that do not work are obligatory.

Ladies and Gentleman, in such instances we have another classic example of:

A company with bad management.

Unfortunately even the best and brightest businesses can fail, if they are governed by someone with the intelligence level of a pancake.

If you have not noticed it already, the top management positions are usually not taken by the person most suited for the job, but rather by the person who is the most likeable by the owner like a good friend, someone from politics who the owner still owns a favor, or a cousin of one of the directors who had never worked in that business before.

They sometimes are even smart people, but that does not make them capable of managing a company with hundreds of employees and millions in revenue.

And even if the business is large and there are dozens of departments separating you from the big boss, ultimately his or her bad ideas and bad implementation of things will arrive at your desk.

The main problem is that the director of the board, or whoever sits on top of the tops, does choose all the candidates for the leading positions surrounding him or her.

And those selected by the director again chose the candidates for the middle management positions. This principle goes on through all the ranks of the companiy.

So the circle of bad people favoring each other goes on until ultimately it will reach your position, even if it might be a low one in the hierarchy.

Often these people are not mean, but they did not get their position like we mentioned already because they are smart or suited for the job but because their uncle owns the company, or similar.

All managers have to produce results, it is expected from them. And now what should you do if you have no legitimate idea about a business, but don’t want to lose a 2 million salary per year?

They try their best, and in many cases their best is a bunch of bad decisions, actually hurting the business. But fuelled by their high authority and the pressure to perform, they believe it is a great idea and after all they are in charge.

Thus the entire staff is forced to do whatever these managers tell them to do, even if it contradicts other common business rules or makes no sense at all, or is just a stupid idea.

If you look around, very often managers in public companies with small or medium market cap size do not last too long in their position.

They in fact get changed very often.

When I worked for an insurance company, the average director stayed within the company for around 1-2 years.

And after they left our company they were hired by some other insurance company - after all hey, they must know the business because they were the director for another insurance company, right?

Answer: Wrong.

Such incapable managers often arrive, mess up the whole place, earn an incredible high salary for their lousy work, and when everybody else also realizes that their ideas do not help the business but rather stifle it, they get replaced.

And then the next manager arrives, who in most cases - you probably already guessed it - makes an even bigger mess with his new “brilliant ideas”.

Not only does such a large turnover of managers hurt the business, particularly for the long-term perspectives, but it also makes it almost impossible for you to rise with your own career if you happen to work for such people.

Both the company as a whole will take significant damage, as well as your career as an individual employee will be stifled. They will make you stuck no matter how hard you work.

The eventual problems for our career can take on many courses:

How do you want to make a lasting impression if the main guys in charge drop out every 1 or 2 years?

Sure there are ways to do it, but it will become much harder, you will need some luck and there will be no reward for these harder circumstances.

If you encounter yourself in such a situation, this is not the end of the world.

If you do average work you will keep the average job no problem with the average salary, if this is what you just want to do in life.

But don’t expect the company you work for to be extraordinarily rewarding or innovative. In case what you look for is just a steady paycheck for 8 hours of your time daily, again there is also no big problem with it.

But I guess that is not what you are up to is you are reading this blog.

To prevent such scenarios, try to find out about the head of the business as soon as you apply for a job.

Look at competitors, is there an edge for them or the others?

How long are the directors already in charge, what did they do before?

Often you can see already from the distance who governs the business poorly and who is thriving and growing.

And never trust corporate responsibility brochures!

If the guy on top is just a jerk, you can be certain that your job as an employee will be affected by it sooner or later. In some companies I worked for I have seen people leaving the business after 25+ years, only because the new “top manager” created policies that were just insane and impossible to fulfill.

Reason 3: Failing to create a constructive working environment.

feeling stuck in career

Sometimes it does not need a purposefully sabotage from a vicious boss or a declining industry to be stuck in a field of destructive behaviour and bad attitude at work.

Especially larger companies with a lot of employees are dependent on procedures and working processes to keep the business running and to coordinate the dozens of tasks and people working toward a common goal.

However, such systems are not always efficient. Some of them work good and some of them work bad, again this is actually the responsibility of the board but when systems fail to operate in the lower departements they are not even aware of it in most cases.

Usually this is a result from lack of responsibility or mismanagement thereof.

For example, if you are supposed to work on Task A, but for you to effectively fulfill Taks A there has to be taken care of Task C first, but nobody seems to care or be responsible for Task C and so you end up doing both Task C and A only to fulfill one.

In such cases you will not only seem to lack performance at work, even though you actually are overloaded with more tasks than you are supposed to have because.

Such inefficiencies are annoying for the staff, but the staff hardly has to decide about or the power to change anything. And the board, who should be in charge and can change the procedures often do not take the time to look at the problems and solve it, after all “the staff should just do their work”.

If there is one case like this, it will probably be just some extra work and not a big deal. The problem is if there are many such cases, all adding up.

It can cause lots of stress for the people involved, and the reasons are usually a mixture of the problems already mentioned: mismanagement or careless management.

Thereby it will not really be possible to change the circumstance as you are not in the position to make such decisions.

An inefficient work environment can make even the smartest and brightest person look stupid in terms of the outcome, which will make a shining career almost impossible.

A glimpse on “Human Resources”

There are thousands of companies to work for - and even thousands of more jobs you can work at. Trust me, you will find your sweet spot in between this flood of offerings.

All it takes is time, think of it like finding the right partner.

You probably did not end up marrying and staying until your death with the first person you fell in love, right?

In the corporate world you will also have to first turn a few rocks until you find a place that is comforting you and fits your needs and desires.

So don’t be discouraged if the first few jobs that you land on suck or you even might get fired - it does not determine what you are capable of.

If you are hungry for life and want to achieve more, maybe even start your own business one day, chances are high you don’t like taking orders or have your own best practices of how to handle things.

And that is great and very valuable in life!

But of course in a corporate environment such behaviour is hardly seen as good.

Especially in large corporations they are not looking for people who can think on their own terms - they want soldiers, executing orders as they are given without any questioning or looking for reasons to do things.

Most of the leading employees in the Human Resources departments are therefore small thinkers.

They have every day interviews with all kinds of people with different hopes and ambitions for life and what they want their job to look like. As a good HR manager you have to destroy their plans for life and make them look at only what the company has to offer, and then those who get the job are supposed to be happy about that!

“You should be happy with what you have” or “ This is a safe job, you should be happy to have it” are the kind of thoughts that great HR managers are able to place inside your head, taking your mind hostage to work as a corporate slave for a company that pays you 40k a year while they end up making millions in profit.

To me personally, Human Resources is a disgusting expression. Do you know what they do with resources?

Oil is a resource. It gets transformed into gas, burned in your car, and then you have to get some more oil.

Metal is a resource. You can form materials from it, which are then used to build something and then you have to get some more metal.

Water is a resource. You drink it and then you have to get some more.

Are humans a resource?

Does that mean you squeeze all the energy and productivity out of your staff until they are 50, have burn out or suffer from a disease, and then throw them out and get new ones?

This is condemnable to me.

People have a right to earn fair compensation for their work, they have hopes and dreams that can and should be fulfilled. Seeing human beings as a resource is not only cruel, it also will destroy the long-term relationship between a company and its employees

What To Look For In A Workplace

feeling stuck in career

Does that mean all is bad and the world is over?

Of course not.

There are great jobs out there.

There are great businesses with great products and great management out there.

Some of them pay good salaries, if that is what motivates you.

Others offer a lot of flexible working hours, making it possible to unite the needs of your family with those of your job.

And there are those jobs, whereby you just do not have to work a lot… you sit around most of the day waiting for something to happen - which gives you a lot of time to work on your own projects in the meantime.

Get paid a steady check, but take the same time to work on your business and your dreams. Have the best of both worlds. I did just that many years, and KYDA got started exactly this way.

It clearly always will depend on you and what you would like to do. Do you want to start a business anyway and just look for a place to bridge the gap until your side hustle finally starts making money?

Or do you want to make a career as an employee? Maybe you also are just looking for a place to pay your bills and spend as much time with your family as possible.

Depending on what fits your situation, the job to look for will be different, not to mention that you should also match it according to your education and background if appropriate.

If your goal is to start a business anyway, my suggestion is to look for a job like I did where you have to do the minimum effort and have the maximum freedom to do whatever you want during the day. Sales was perfect because I was good at selling and so I could make sure to reach my goals in the first week of the month - giving me 3 full and paid weeks of time to work on my business a month!

Of course I never was the employee of the month, and never was the best in my office or in the teams that I worked with.

But that was not my intention, I wanted to start my own business, and that was where my energy and focus went.

This tactic sounds too good to be true, right?

Well, in fact I got fired 3 times for doing it (at the time of writing this, for example). Sometimes I really underperformed at the job, sometimes I did not show up at the office for weeks, pretending to be “busy with making sales”, when in reality I was at home writing on my books and articles like this one.

I also had to apply for many jobs until I found one whereby I had the freedom to work as I wanted to.

At one sales job I worked at, the boss was in the same office as I was sitting, with a view on my PC all the time. I hardly showed up in that office, and left the job after 5 weeks because I could not build my business like that - and that was important to me, not to be their slave and selling products that nobody wants to buy anyway with my name attached to it.

I never intended to be good at my job - except for the customers I worked with, as I met some really great people along the way.

But I personally never cared about making a rich company richer, while I earned 23k a year. What I cared about was my future, and the future of my family to be.

And from that point of view I reached the goal, so it didn’t matter to me if I was fired or screamed at sometimes by a boss who was a lot dumber than me and had no idea I achieved in a week what others did in a month.

You can do the same to - look for jobs where your activities throughout the day are unsupervised.

And there are tons of such jobs, not only in sales. I have many friends who read entire books at work or watched Netflix, or took a 2 hour break sitting on the toilet until their feet fell asleep and they couldn’t sit any longer and so on.

They could all have started a business in the meantime while at their job, if they intended to.

Or the other option is you don’t want to have a business, you want to make a real corporate career and be paid a good salary.

In this case my best suggestion would be to look for a small company or a startup.

The important factor is that the business is in need for your know-how and that you can contribute an important part.

If you join a fortune 500 firm, they not only have armies of other people willing to work for them, you will also probably not be the only one in your position but there will be a whole department of people doing the same thing you do.

They can replace you often within days, and this makes you susceptible to blackmail.

Either you do what they want and how they want it, or you’re fired.

That is the unfortunate case for most people, and once you are loaded with liabilities like a “grown-up” with a mortgage and car payments - you are trapped and their slave because then you can’t afford to be fired anymore.

They basically own you from there. Remember what we said about Human Resources?

I always hear people say that the job at a big company is “safe” and has great benefits.

Trust me, the downsie you will pay long-term as a corporate slave is much greater than the reward.

Many only get to understand this when they are in their 50s, have an accident that causes them to be unable to work for a few months or get sick, and the company they worked for the last 20 years fires them without giving it even much consideration.

They basically own you and there’s nothing you could do to prevent that, which is why I personally started my own business to escape such a system since I realized this.

Instead the “unsafe” route of working for a small company is often the better one for many people. In a small company, if you are in the marketing department, you will be probably the only one or have 1 or 2 others working with you.

In such an environment you are much harder to replace for the company. The environment in the office at a startup is also often different - there are hardly and 60 or 70 years old directors longing for only more power who have to boost their ego by forcing stupid policies and rules at the company that the staff has to follow.

Instead the founders are often young and ambitious people who are working toward an aspiring goal, which gives also more the feeling of contribution to something important in comparison to being employee nr. 8762 at a Fortune 500.

The decision making process is therefore much faster, very often you will be in the same building or even office as the founders themselves, so the results of any bad decisions or tasks will be directly visible, and if you put in extra efforts, it will almost certainly get noticed.

In big corporations, the problems start when there is a decision made at the board and it gets then dragged down through 20 departments until it finally reaches the place where it should be in use: the customer.

If then the result is not as desired, not favorable or even stifling, it takes months or years until there are new decisions being made and orders given, it is just working far too slow and can get frustrating for even the smartest employees easily.

At a young company, your paycheck will not be as big as with a large corporation, there is no doubt about that. But therefore you often can get other forms of compensation like stock ownership or other forms of participating at the business. This can result in a lot more than an average paycheck, although still including the risk that the company might be out of business one day.

So even though there are also downsides, you might try for yourself both sides of the medallion to see where you will feel good and what suits you and your personal life.

Conclusion - The Ideal Working Environment

Ideally, the relationship with your boss is a good one at whatever company you work for. The person who gives you the direct orders will determine a lot in how good the job will be for you.

A job will never make you rich, but a fair compensation of your efforts can and should be expected. Good companies invest in their employees, you will see things like training programs, special events, or some form of benefit handed out to employees.

And last but not least a good job should and has to allow for a good work-life balance.

It will not be helpful if you make 300k a year, but never get to see your family because you travel the world 6 days a week, and if you finally get home you are exhausted and have jetlags.

To end this post - the decisions will be all yours!

There are all kinds of opportunities out there, use them. Don’t be afraid of quitting or being fired as there are hundreds of other companies willing to hire you. It just won’t happen overnight, and like all good things in life will require a lot of work and effort.

As with everything in life you will have some hard times and a lot of work ahead of you, but if you are persistent you will eventually make it.

Did you have similar experiences in your own career? Has there been a job you hated? Or do you disagree and have another opinion?

Share your thoughts with us in the comments!


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