Is it that you dislike your current job, but always feel as though you’ll never be able to get rid of it? Here’s my advice on how to deal with this situation.
Ibrahim, a Karachi based chemical engineer spent at-least eight years of his life in career paralysis. Instead of facing the pain, he always tried to run from it. He lived for Saturdays and Sundays and hanged out with friends to help him forget the dread of Mondays. But ultimately he realized that he was born an artist, and not an engineer. This was when he made a bold decision to switch his career from an assistant plant engineer working at a fertilizer company to a copywriter at a local advertising agency. “While there were plenty of practical barriers to change, it was the psychological and emotional barriers which really kept me stuck. It took me less than three years to become creative director. I’m really enjoying my job now and I look forward to my office every single day” says Ibrahim, an engineer-turned creative who now heads the creative department at an advertising agency in Karachi.
Just like Ibrahim, there are plenty of people out there who endlessly think about other options, only to end up staying right there where they are. This is known as Career Paralysis. The career experts also define it as the inability to make any career decision for the fear of a wrong/unhappy outcome.
According to Sarah Vermunt of Forbes, Twenty-somethings these days often find themselves paralyzed with indecision as they anxiously deliberate the creation of career, family, and future when on the doorstep of graduation.
Here are some steps to help if you feel similarly:
Recognizing that you are not a type
Careers advice often rests on the idea that you are a “type” of person who can be matched to the “ideal” job. But you are not; you’re a complex human being with multiple, often competing, priorities and values.
So, to make the right choice, you need to clarify things that you would want in an ideal career. This would include things that you need to earn, the skills you want to develop and the amount of risk you are willing to take.
Identifying and evaluating all your options
When picking a career path, it is important for you to review all the possible career options instead of considering the same old conventional ones. To make this happen, you should allow yourself some creative freedom. This can be done by listing down as many career options as possible and then seeing which of them interest you the most. Instead of asking yourself, which jobs you could do, evaluate your options using your own criteria. By scoring all of the career options against your criteria, you could find fascinating results.
Getting into action
In career paralysis, people tend to get “headstuck” – they are stuck inside their minds rather than stuck in reality. Psychologists have a phrase for this: cognitive fusion. Being “fused” with our thoughts means we mistake thinking for experience. To get yourself unstuck, you must get out of our mind and into your life. This means taking some considered risks, such as a radical sabbatical or crafting experiments. But the key is to start replacing thoughts about a change with the experience of change. It is action that changes thinking, not the other way around.
Your mind is not your enemy
But it is not your friend either. Even when you get into action, your mind will try to derail the process: “You haven’t thought this through, there must be a better option.”
It’s easy to fuse with these thoughts and defer action. But remember that your mind’s primary job is to keep you safe; it will not want to take risks.
It’s tempting to wait to feel certain about a new direction, but this can be a trap. Rather than trying to change your thoughts, or waiting to feel 100% motivated, see if you can focus on taking action even in the presence of doubts and uncertainty. That’s really the key to getting unstuck. If you can move towards your values while accepting your doubts and fears, not only will you escape career paralysis but you will never be headstuck again.