Hidden Career Opportunities when you hit a pothole or career setback

If you are bored at work or struggling to find meaning in your career, then this article is for you. We only really think about our careers when we hit a pothole or a setback, or when we realise we’re really not very happy at work. 

“I just fell into this line of work.”

Perhaps your career all started when someone made a suggestion to you about a job and it sounded like a good idea. It was easy, you knew someone there or your old boss hired you into their new employer.

Whether you are a CxO, VP, Director, Manager, or Team Lead, you can wake up one morning and wonder…

“How did I get here?”

“Something’s missing.”

You don’t know what’s missing or why but you know that you’re bored, uncommitted, and disengaged. Perhaps you know you’re underperforming but hoping no-one will point it out.

3 Career Tracks Approach

Whatever your situation, you probably haven’t appreciated that, within and because of your current job, there are multiple opportunities hiding in plain view.

When I’m coaching clients on their next career moves, here are the three tracks I encourage them to think about:

  1. Your Current Job
  2. Your Relevant Experience
  3. Your Relevant Training

By the time clients come to me for career coaching, they can be impatient to leave their current employer. They are surprised (and relieved) when I ask them to slow down their expectation of making a career transition. Why? Because, more often than not, the opportunities with their current employer are hidden in plain view.

Here’s what I mean.

Track 1: Your Current Career

At a basic level, your current job is about financial viability – it keeps the money coming in. If you have family or financial commitments, then you have responsibilities you cannot step away from. Resigning with no job to go to is not an option.

From your career perspective, your current job also gives you the platform of a recognised authority or brand, which I bet you’re not anywhere near maximising.

Your employer is a hive of people networks and opportunities that can be tapped into for both the benefit of your employer and for your own career advantage. You don’t have to stick to your job description and you don’t need to wait for permission to get involved. Find a way to make yourself useful or your presence valuable either within your team or elsewhere in the company.

And as you’ll see in Track 2: Your Relevant Experience, the employer that you work for could well have leverage for you personally outside your company. By working for your current employer, you potentially have the ‘backing’ of a known entity to open doors and gain more experience where your current job may be limiting.

Track 2: Your Relevant Experience

By relevant experience, I mean additional business experience that you cannot get from your current job or employer but that you need to make a transition or get a promotion. For example, working (paid or voluntary) for a related industry association or committee gives you exposure and experience of working with senior executives or leading a high profile campaign.

If you have an important role within your industry or a senior title within your company, associations and committees will be delighted to welcome you on board.

If you are strategic about your involvement, you can share this experience back into your team, making sure your boss and other key influencers know about your work, and you then have a better shot at either a promotion or getting a new job. It’s this kind of experience, credibility, and attention that I help my clients gain.

Just because your current job doesn’t give you access to this experience doesn’t mean you can’t get it elsewhere and nor should you wait for an invitation.

Track 3: Your Relevant Training

Relevant training can be anything that formalises your experience gained at work (Track 1) or elsewhere (Track 2), or raises your game as a leader with some leadership development training. It could be an online course through to full accreditation relevant to your work and industry. Between MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) offered by Coursera, EdX and other platforms through to Masters and MBAs (online or in person) from traditional universities, there’s no excuse for not getting creative about what to study and when you can do it.

Think of all your public transport commute time, your time standing in line, waiting to pick-up the kids, and time watching rubbish or unsatisfying TV. Most of the online courses have pre-recorded material so you can work at your own pace. And how about audiobooks for the car commute?

Don’t forget to talk to your employer about supporting you in your training and even contributing to the costs. If you don’t ask and make the business case for being supported, you won’t get it.

If *you* are not demanding more from the hidden opportunities in your career, then who will?

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Slow Down Your Career Expectation

I mentioned it already. Slow down your expectation of a career transition. Sure you could apply for a new job but if you haven’t given these three tracks your full attention, you could soon find yourself stuck in your next job too. It makes more financial and career sense to invest this time now on designing a new game plan.

Also, consider that your full transition – from coming up with a career strategy to finally securing your ideal role – could take 1-3 years to achieve. When you start to dive deep into the 3 tracks outlined above, you’ll start to appreciate how much time you need to give yourself. 

What do you need to start doing now to make the future possible?

It’s a win for you because you’ll be more engaged and fulfilled. It’s also a win for your company because your renewed focus will make you more productive.

Flick the Switch

When you’re not in a good headspace, the idea of turning your attention back to the work or environment that you’re struggling with – your current employer – can feel like walking through thick, deep mud. But I can assure you, working with a coach is as if you flicked the switch.

Within the first 45 minutes of a coaching session, my clients experience for themselves a major shift in their own energy and enthusiasm for their current job.

They start to visualise the many opportunities that they hadn’t ever considered. Suddenly, the meeting or event that they were avoiding presents itself as essential to their own growth and career plan. In less than an hour, my clients develop a newfound purpose to their day job that only a short while ago they were desperate to leave.

Now that’s exciting.Career

My word of caution: Don’t take on more than you can manage between your existing job commitments and your family life and your endeavours to get more experience and training. You put yourself at risk if you start under-delivering at work and you put your family under stress by not being around enough.

It may be possible to sustain an additional workload for a short period of time but have the conversations early and often with those that matter, so that you and they can adjust and support as you and they need.

You are responsible for your career and all the actions you decide on taking, including the side effects both good and challenging.

Partnering with a coach means you can fast-track your way to workable, creative solutions to course-correct your career.