10 ways to get out of a career cul-de-sac

Sometimes in our careers we end up in a place in which we never planned to be, a bit like driving up a cul-de-sac and having to do a U-turn to get out of it. How on earth did we get here?

It’s quite possible that this question is pointless. The main thing is that this is not what you want to be doing, so here are 10 tips to help you get out of there.

1.    Recognise What Needs to Be Done

You need to understand how to appreciate your own assets as a professional. The most challenging thing for us is to bring the past into the present. There are tools and processes for helping us do this and we really owe it to ourselves to trawl through our life to be clear about where our talents and our skills and our experience are so that we can use the best of them.

2.    Find Help

You’re going to need to get help and you need to identify where you’re going to get that help from. An obvious source of help is your mentors. These are people who know you and are experienced, people who will give you good, objective advice. There are also your friends, some of whom will give you objective advice and others who will not because they may just be too close to you to give an objective perspective. You may need the help of a professional career guide.

3.    Open Up

Having gotten really useful data on yourself, you need to be open to new ideas. It is always a pleasant surprise when we completely open up ourselves to the possibilities of what we could do.

4.    Narrow Down Your Options

After period of opening yourself up and exploring different possibilities, you need to close down your choices so that you’re focused on just one. Clarity is critical for career transition. When U-turning out of a cul-de-sac, it’s much better to target just one path to drive down than to blindly drive around in a circle.

5.    Position Yourself

Once you’re clear on what you’re targeting, you have to rebuild yourself in terms of your profile and your positioning in the market. There’s much to do in this area and many platforms, including social media platforms, to choose from.

6.    Devise an Action Plan

Simply knowing what you want will not ensure that you get it.  You need to be clear about your plan of action and about how you’re going to carry out the tasks ahead of you.  Plot out the clear, achievable steps you’re going to take towards your goal. Reward yourself and be proud of yourself as you get through each stage of your plan.

7.    Communicate with Your Network

Take a look at a list of people you’re connected to who you believe can be helpful to you. Contact them and be clear with them about what it is you’re planning to do and what help you feel they can offer. Then you are helping yourself by allowing them to help you.

8.    Get Out Into the Market
Start to identify organisations you want to work for and people you want to introduce yourself to and begin making tracks towards them in the most appropriate way.

9.    Leave Well

At some point you’re going to want to communicate with your current employer that you’re planning to leave the company. It is absolutely possible that although it’s obvious to you that you want to change track, your boss is unaware of your intentions. The important thing is that you leave the organisation well and that you agree an appropriate and relevant notice period, hand-over strategy etc.

10.    Tell Your Loved Ones

You also need to let your family and close friends know what you’re planning. Timing is really important here. If there has been significant expectation on you to progress in your current career then there may well be disappointment in you leaving that path behind. You’re going to have to manage this appropriately.

It is your decision whether you tell them early on about your intention or whether you leave it until the die is cast before you inform them of what you’ve done. Whatever it is you do, you’re going to have to be professional about it even though you’re talking to personal connections in this instance.

Simon North is the Founder of Position Ignition, one of the UK’s leading career consultancy companies which created the Career Ignition Club, a leading-edge online careers support and learning platform. Follow him @PosIgnition