Just thinking about making any sort of career move can be overwhelming and stressful.  And a major career change can feel just too daunting.  So we stay put, becoming a little more dissatisfied with each passing day, month and year.  We feel stuck, helpless, knowing something needs to change, but not sure what.  Things get worse until we “career off”, take the first job that comes along, perhaps jumping from the frying pan into the fire, and finding ourselves in a very similar situation, albeit in a new setting.

To avoid this, if you are feeling unhappy or unsettled at work, it is worth setting aside some time to analyse exactly what is the problem and what needs to change.  To start you off here are a few good questions and corresponding challenges:

Questions:  What specifically is making me unhappy or unsettled at work?  Is it the job, the organisation or the person? (Research data shows that people most often leave managers, not organisations).

  • Challenges:  To what extent am I contributing to this situation?  Is there anything I could do to change things?  What can I fix?

Questions: Where are the conflicts in my current situation?  What are my personal values and how aligned are they to my organisation’s values?  How does my current job fit with my preferred lifestyle?

  • Challenges:  What compromises am I making?  What will I refuse to tolerate in future?  What can I do to reduce these conflicts?

Questions: What causes me the most stress at work?  Long hours?  The behaviour of managers?  Am I overloaded or under-employed?

  • Challenges:  What can I do to reduce the stress?  How am I contributing to the stress through my own actions?

Questions:  Are my skills and talents fully utilised?  Are my efforts and achievements recognised?

  • Challenges:  What can I do to seek out more challenging work or make my achievements more visible?  Who can help me?

Questions:  Does my current role offer opportunities to learn new skills and to advance my career or have I reached a career plateau?

  • Challenge:  Am I making the most of any opportunities to learn, develop or progress?

Whether you decide to stay put or to move on, I recommend you take control by putting in place a career planning process.  This might involve asking yourself questions such as:

  • What do I expect to achieve over the next 12 months to make my job more satisfying?
  • What can I do to develop my skills and experience?
  • How can I add to my CV and increase my longer term employability?
  • How can I raise my profile and improve my visibility?

I encourage you to monitor your progress, review whether or not your job is living up to expectations and ensure you proactively undertake your Career “CAR maintenance”:

C – Check  – periodically check progress against your goals using a structured process and challenge yourself with some good questions

A – Action – constantly look for opportunities to move your career forward e.g. by networking with key contacts, regularly updating your skills or volunteering for activities which will build new skills or raise your profile

R – Review – every six or twelve months I suggest you take a few hours for a thorough stock take of your career to ensure you stay on track.


If you would like to spend a day exploring your future career path, my associate Ros Starkey and I have developed a one-day seminar “Take Control of Your Career” which will be available, initially via The Whitehall & Industry Group, from autumn 2013.  Contact me for more details.

Or if you would prefer one-to-one support to help reboot your career, whether staying in your current organisation, or planning to move on, I recommend working with a career coach.  A professional coach, trained to ask challenging and insightful questions and with a toolkit of practical techniques to draw on, will help you explore your values and career motivators, address any self-imposed barriers and work with you to accelerate your career progress.

For a free informal chat about coaching with Pathway mail me at [email protected] or complete the enquiry form on my website at www.pathwaycoaching.co.uk