Stuck in a job rut? How to expand your career path

Smart organizations want to encourage employee engagement and thus reap the benefits of better performance, higher morale and greater productivity. But employees often do not want to do the same job for decades and are looking for the type of career transition that will enhance their prospects for better pay, possible promotions and new opportunities.

Even if the business where you work does not seem interested in expanding your career path, you can make it happen on your own initiative. The first step is to think about your career goals. Take your time with this and be as honest with yourself as possible. Can you imagine doing this same job for the rest of your work life? If not, then what? Where do you want your career path to go? Set immediate, mid-term and long-term timeframes for obtaining your goals so that you have some benchmarks for determining your progress.

Education opens doors

The next step is to assess your prospects in your current position. Will it help you along your way? If not, how can you make it something more than just marking time and collecting a paycheck? Maybe the initial answer is something as simple as learning a new skill, such as using Photoshop. Then you employ that new skill to make company presentations more visually appealing or enhance the newsletter. You show your added value to the company and do something that you may even prefer to your usual tasks.

Continuing education is critical in today’s employment environment. It’s one proven way to expand your career path. You may want to return to school while holding down a job in order to obtain a post-graduate degree, a professional certification or to brush up on technical skills like a new software program.

All manner of resources are available – such as community colleges, libraries and even online training and certificate courses. Google, for example, recently offered an online course in using search engines that was graded and came with a certificate of completion.

Learn a new language

If working abroad is one of your career goals, then learn a foreign language. Research shows U.S. workers can earn up to 20 percent more by mastering a foreign language. Because fewer than 10 percent of North Americans are bilingual (the figure in Europe is much higher), high demand exists among U.S. multinational companies for workers who speak more than one language proficiently. The healthcare, social service and public service industries are keen to hire bilingual workers.

The best way to learn another language is through full immersion, going where that language is spoken and living among those people. Some companies will pay for their employees to work abroad for a year or two, especially if they want to set up a strategic presence in that other country. Otherwise, international schools are always looking for qualified native English speakers to teach its students. A year abroad may offer you the experience of a lifetime, and you will return with a new perspective and some valuable new skills.

Consider a lateral move

You may want to combine further education with a lateral move, usually within your current place of employment. A lateral move is a change to a different but equivalent role with a similar salary and a job title at the same level. Your job responsibilities, however, are different, giving you new opportunities for growth and keeping you from becoming bored by a too familiar routine. A lateral move increases your visibility within your organization, which invariably opens up additional opportunities.

It never hurts to ask your manager what other openings exist within the company. The company may not want to lose you and would be willing to find another place where you could flourish.

Try something completely different

It’s a difficult option to consider. But if you aren’t satisfied with your current job or the options available to you, you may need to take the chance on something brand new. Sometimes people end up in jobs they never expected they would love, and other times their “dream job” is an absolute nightmare. You wouldn’t be the first or last person to trying something brand new. Agatha Christie was a nurse before she became a novelist. Warren Buffet worked at a grocery store before he discovered the stock market. And Colin Powell worked at a baby furniture store before pursuing a life in the military.

Fortune favors the bold. And if you are able to try something new, you might surprise yourself.

Starting your own business on the side

A lot of people now split their work life between two jobs — the job that pays the bills and the one that feeds their creative side. People are making jewelry and knitting scarfs for Etsy. They’re brewing beer, beekeeping, growing produce for farmer’s markets and baking desserts for local restaurants. Entrepreneurs are boarding horses, teaching music lessons and organizing chess clubs in the spare time, earning a few dollars here and there in the process. Sometimes, with hard work and a little bit of luck, those side businesses become profitable enough to replace their day job. You might want to consider setting aside a few hours each week for a new endeavor. You never know where it might lead.

In a perfect world, you would know exactly what you wanted to do with your life the moment you left school. You would have all the knowledge and preparation necessary. And you would be so satisfied with your job that you’d never grow restless about your choices. However, in the real world, people sometimes get stuck in a rut. The only option is to expand your path. You might just find that you weren’t heading in the wrong direction; your path only had a few more twists than you expected.

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