What to do when you have paid your dues and your career plan don’t pan out.

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What to do when you have paid your dues and your career plan don’t pan out.

Even for professionals with the best laid out career plans, things don’t always work out as planned. Less than 20% of college graduates work in the area they studied.

We don’t realize it, but for many of us career planning started early. As juniors in HS we angst about a college selection, as sophomores and juniors in college we angst about a major, finally we make our selection, complete our coursework, and often take on an internship and we are on our way on our chosen career path.

After getting 5-7 years of experience under our belt the career path starts to take shape. We see the path that lies ahead whether that be into a cross functional role, a senior role, a management role or as a principle or partner. We work hard and long hours, take on extra projects, and align ourselves with inside influencer. Many trade offs are made during this time, all in the name of building a career.

But even the best laid plans can become derailed by changes within an industry, the company, or leadership. The world of work is as dynamic as ever and change is constant. Nothing is a guarantee anymore and more and more professionals find that their careers have hit a dead end and the once clear path has been washed away by the wave of change. These times can make people feel paralyzed, deflated and confused.

Ways to move forward……..

1. Acknowledge the situation – when professionals feel stuck it is because things have changed around them and they no longer know how they fit. They feel restless and sometimes even trapped. A good first step is to step back and assess your role as it fits with the goals and direction of the company

2. Let go of the original plan – this is difficult for people because they spend years grooming this path, it is often comfortable and familiar. This often is a significant mental and emotional adjustment for people, because their original career path my have been part of a dream job. However holding on to an old plan prevents people from seeing future opportunities which could be equally fulfilling.

3. There are always options – this is a time of opportunity. It is about being able to think broadly and even creatively about what’s next. It is about brainstorming and exploring. It is about being open to possibilities, even those that are very different from your original path. Tap into people close to you, as they can be a good resource for ideas. This can be an exciting time because there are new career paths evolving all the time.

4. Create a new plan – good ideas become reality through the development and implementation of a good plan. This is a road map that will lay out the steps leading to that new career, whether it’s a version of the old plan or something completely new.

People change jobs every 3-5 years, resist being the fall out of change or hitting a dead end. Take charge of your destiny and create a plan of action that will lay out a new career path.


About the Author:

Cultivating Careers was founded by Karen Kodzik, a Career Consultant who has worked with individuals in transition for over 13 years. Karen meets professionals at various points on their career path and works with them to gain a clearer sense of where they want to take their careers. Karen Kodzik holds a Masters Degree in Counseling with an emphasis in Career Development. Karen couples seasoned counseling skills with a solid business acumen. She has coached and consulted various levels of professionals across industries to successfully reaching that next point in their career.