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From stuck in the middle, to your next career chapter

Five strategies to extract yourself from the waiting place
Blog 102 stuck in the middle

Something we see in coaching quite a lot is people who have a strong start to their careers – flying up the ranks, being nominated for talent programs, invested in by their organisations, allocated internal mentors… You name it, they’ve got it going on.

But then something happens. They get to that ‘middle bit’ of their career, the result of being smart, working hard and having good brand. But now the opportunities for promotion are smaller, there’s fierce competition for the transfers, and a serious dearth of programs and sexy projects to work on. Somehow, through no fault of their own, they’ve become stuck in the waiting place.

No one wants to languish in that go-nowhere zone for long. So if you’re finding yourself stuck in that dreaded middle chapter of your career, try these five strategies to get yourself moving again.

  1. Raise your ambition. Yes, you can still be humble and in learning mode while being ambitious. And yes, you can be ambitious without leaving bodies on the side of the road. Be bold. Know what you are good at. Back yourself in.
  2. Cultivate, nurture and get strategic about your network. So often, scoring the big roles comes down to who you know – a notion supported by research, with one survey from LinkedIn showing that 70 per cent of respondents are hired at companies where they have an existing connection. We aren’t necessarily talking about icky networking here; we are talking about building meaningful connections with people who are interested in your success.
  3. Showcase your talents. Spend time getting even better at what you’re great at. None of us ever reach a point where we know everything. Ongoing professional development is essential to our careers, not only to ensure our skills and knowledge remain relevant, but to keep on top of changing trends. And any kind of learning, be it professional or personal, has countless benefits. Research shows that curious people are typically happier, more empathetic and have better relationships than those who aren’t committed to a life of learning.
  4. Tell your story. You need to make it easy for people to advocate for you. Tell them what they need to know about who you are, where you are heading and what you want.
  5. Broaden your thinking. Sometimes people get stuck in the middle chapter because they’ve been very attached to what the ideal ‘big job’ is. There’s great benefit in stretching and refining what that role looks like. Consider an industry change. Talk to people in the roles you’re interested in and ask them where they are going next. Brainstorm ideas with a trusted adviser or coach on what else you could do.

For more tips on moving forward, check out this TED Talk from change-management specialist Dr Lani Nelson-Zlupko, who uses the phrase ‘turn, learn and move forward’ to teach people how to become unstuck from their problems. There are also some great books on the topic. In Maximize Your Potential: Grow Your Expertise, Take Bold Risks & Build an Incredible Career, for example, 21 creative experts offer their tips for generating new opportunities, building valuable relationships and taking risks. Meanwhile, Moving the Needle: Get Clear, Get Free, and Get Going in Your Career, Business, and Life provides a game plan for people who feel stuck and are craving change. If that sounds like you, get reading!

- The Coach Place Global.

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