If you ask human resources people how to get out of a rut, they may dutifully present you with a career ladder that demonstrates how -- at least in theory and in due time -- you'll be able to climb to the next rung in your company's petrified organizational structure. If you ask your friends, they're likely to tell you to jump to one of your employer's rivals, where, after a year or two, you may catch a bad case of deja vu all over again.
Isn't there a more effective way to shift your career from neutral to drive? Follow this advice to make real changes in your employment circumstances -- changes that can make your job feel like a brand new day:
Deemphasize the Negative
It's hard to improve your career's circumstances if you inhabit a toxic work environment. That's why some experts say it's important to disengage from dysfunctionality wherever practical.
“People who find themselves stuck in negative emotions start politicking with others," says Susan David, a Cambridge, Massachusetts-based research affiliate in the psychology department at Yale University. "Negativity can be self-sustaining within a group."
Of course, few can afford to ignore office politics entirely. But the more you can place your own emphasis on bankable achievements, the more marketable you'll be to a broad range of employers.
Change Sectors or Industries
Pursuing a change of subject matter, or your career's scenery, is another way to reenergize.
It won't be easy to convince a hiring manager that you can transfer your sales skills from life insurance to living-room furniture. But if you can creatively bridge the gap -- for example, by pointing out that in both scenarios, you're selling a long-term investment -- you'll have a shot at making the leap.
How can you improve your odds of success? Attend trade shows, read as much as you can and work your network -- all with your target industry in mind.
Bootstrap Your Career with Further Education
Dramatically improving your educational credentials -- not just picking up your umpteenth certification -- is another way to get yourself out of a career rut.
Finishing your bachelor's or going for an MBA, even if it means four years of night school, is an investment you'll likely get back many times over.
"An MBA is a great way to jump-start your career and move yourself to the next level," says Stacy Blackman, a Los Angeles consultant who helps students get admitted to MBA programs. "It's a very good chance to change disciplines, to completely change careers."
Relocate to a More Dynamic Job Market
Some say that if you can't achieve job satisfaction in your own backyard, you're just not trying hard enough. "To think you can't find one fitting opportunity where you are -- that's ridiculous," says Dan Miller, author of 48 Days to the Work You Love. "The grass is greenest where you water it."
But in some industries and occupations, talented folks may rise to the top of the local labor market relatively early in their careers. For an entertainment industry professional, expectations can only be so great anywhere outside Los Angeles; for finance gurus, Wall Street will always beat Walla Walla. So consider relocating to a venue with a higher career ceiling.
Create an Advisory Board for Your Career
Of course, major career moves are easier said than done, especially in the likely event that you're acting without the institutional support of your present employer. It's nearly impossible to create major changes for yourself without reaching out. So don't even try.
“Establish a personal board of advisors," says Lawler Kang, author of Passion at Work. "Your board could include an HR person, a mentor, a person from an industry you want to get into. Get their feedback on your plans -- their support is amazingly powerful."
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