Careers Don't Always Go as Planned

Nancy Anderson
Posted by

A career plan rarely follows the cleanly defined path you imagined when you first entered the workforce. Even if you get the right degrees, stay focused and follow good networking advice, changes in your industry or personal life can create unexpected detours that leave you dissatisfied with your progress. Don't panic if your career is falling short of your expectations. Follow these tips to assess the problem and get back on track.

Lack of Personal Fulfillment

Getting stuck in an unfulfilling career is easy when you have financial pressures and family obligations or simply chose whatever job you could do well. Eventually, you can't ignore the fact that even rewards and promotions are unsatisfying, especially when people around you seem happy with their career plans. A career change requires courage and exploration, but you can gradually transition by trying new hobbies, talking to other professionals about their jobs or testing freelance methods of turning your passions into profit. Smart employers understand that strength-based employment yields higher engagement, so try making a lateral move at your current job whenever possible.

No Growth Opportunities

When employers lose money or move in a new direction, departments and roles that were once prominent may suffer downsizing. Stagnation is also common when short-sighted managers value your expertise so much that they're unwilling to let you graduate to higher roles. In either case, inform your network that you're looking for a change. Build beneficial relationships with people in target companies, and research other industries to find new applications for your skill set. You can also strategically create growth opportunities with your current employer. By anticipating business solutions your employer may need in the future, you can try carving out a new niche to recharge your career plan.

Obsolete Industry

Technology is rapidly transforming business solutions, making many jobs and skills defunct along the way. Instead of letting industry declines or change-resistant employers interrupt your career plan, focus on rebranding yourself by reframing your transferable skills to fit in-demand jobs. Perform a skills search on LinkedIn to find compatible job titles and employers, and customize your online profiles and portfolios to suit key roles. Researching jobs can also help you identify skills gaps and get additional training to boost your competitive advantage.

Lack of Promotions

If you're repeatedly left behind when colleagues get promoted, it may be your first instinct to blame favoritism. However, your co-workers may be demonstrating strengths and leadership potential you lack or taking the initiative to ask for more feedback and responsibility. Try to evaluate the situation objectively, and ask yourself whether you play well with others, seek self-improvement and show enthusiasm about your job. In most cases, discussing your career plans with managers and asking for mentoring and feedback is the best way to get promoted.

A career plan is meant to be an outline, not an instruction booklet. Every experience, accomplishment and failure helps you fill in the blanks to create a unique personal story. When your career seems to be approaching a dead end, think of it as the beginning of an exciting new chapter in your life.

Photo courtesy of iosphere at


Become a member to take advantage of more features, like commenting and voting.


    Hi Nancy advocate. You are serving the job seeker are great.thanks

  • Julia Rolon
    Julia Rolon

    Thanks Nancy for your advice, very much appreciated!!!

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    @Julia Rolon thanks for your comment. In today's world, having a masters degree is almost a requirement. It used to be that all companies required was a HS diploma. Then it was an associate's degree for many jobs. Today it seems that all jobs are requiring extensive years of experience as well as the masters. However, you have to weigh out the cost of the education with what you hope to achieve with the degree. As far as what degree to get, an MBA is the most widely known degree so you can't go wrong. But again, before you start plunking down the money for it, decide what you want to do with it. Also, decide if getting a masters fits in with your lifestyle. You will be spending many, many hours studying as well as working on group projects. You can pretty much figure that your life won't be your own until you complete your course of study. If you are willing to do this, then go for it and all the best.

  • Julia Rolon
    Julia Rolon

    Hi, I have a bachelor's degree in Business Administration and 4 year experience as a Transaction Processing Analyst on an Oil Company. I want to get an MBA but I don't know if that is the master I should get? Do you have any suggestions?

  • Veronique Manceau
    Veronique Manceau

    thank you for your message. I truly appreciate it

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    @Karen M thanks for your comment. Get your resume out there. Get on several job sites. Have your resume posted on LinkedIn. Ask around. Do a search such as Technical Recruiter, San Diego. I just did that and got a result of over 1 million. So try it and see. If you find one that looks promising, check them out on LinkedIn or Twitter, etc. Find out what others are saying about them. It takes some time to sort through the results and to make the contact but, once you do, they will help you out. All the best.

  • Karen M.
    Karen M.

    Dear Nancy: how do you find a recruiter in a specific field?

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    @Steve B thanks for the comment. Sure do hear the pain and frustration. So glad that you came out on the other side of the illness and are able to move forward. My suggestion to you is to go through a temp agency and try out different types of jobs. You didn't mention how long ago you finished college but you know that most colleges have career services offices that offer services to both students and alumni. You could check them out for assistance. I know I get a list of open positions from my local community college. I have helped many others find positions due to this so that's something else to consider. You might also want to consider using a recruiter in your chosen industry. They have a way of presenting you that makes you sound like you walk on water - all without discussing your age. Companies needs older workers. They need your expertise as well as your maturity. I hear this all the time and you know - I remember when. I remember when WE were the young people out there taking the jobs from the seniors. It's the way it's always been and will continue that way. The difference is that, now, technology allows us to record every thought - every movement and post it for thousands of folks to see. We couldn't do that back when. The issues and problems that we face today are the same ones our parents and grandparents faced and are the same ones that our children/grandchildren will face in the future. I hope this helps at least a little bit. So contact those agencies. Find a recruiter and get yourself moving in the right direction. All the best.

  • Steve B.
    Steve B.

    Or better still--- when life hits you square upside the head, and you're facing a life-threatening illness, which forces you out of the career you'd chosen, and were on the verge of that dream spot? I think this should be discussed. Or equally important. You recover from that life-altering course change, attend college, through the midst of all those life-altering course changes, come out on the other end, and then realize that you weren't expecting to make it that far, because of those life-threatening illnesses, and simply get stuck. No one to talk to, no one to bounce the ideas associated with the stuckness, off, and you wallow in the stuckness. About the same time, the economy tanks, and no matter how hard you try, you wake up one day, and realize 20 years have passed since that life-threatening illness struck, you're still here, living, learning to live beyond that brush with death, but now you're sufficiently old, that employers just aren't as interested as they were, even just 10-12 years ago. Why? Well.... that's the question now being faced. They deny that it's age-discrimination. but, in all honestly--- there are so many young people out there that experience no longer matters, because education has taken over, so who needs the "older" people anymore?

Jobs to Watch