I don’t know about you, but just hearing the term “career rut” puts me in a serious funk. It sounds never-ending, hopeless, and above all, not particularly aspirational. Nothing about it makes you want to get up and move, right?
A friend and I spoke about this several months ago when I jokingly said, “It’s not a career rut—it’s a pivot period!”
Yeah, a “pivot period” sounds really motivational speaker-y. And at the time, I laughed at my own idea. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized I actually liked the term. Where “career rut” sounds terminal, “pivot period” sounds transformational.
Real talk: There’s nothing wrong with you if you’re feeling a little stuck. A lot of clarity can come from taking time to acknowledge this and reaching the conclusion that your career’s heading in a direction you don’t really like. The entire concept of changing fields wouldn’t exist if you were the only person who ever felt this way.
So, instead of looking at the situation as something horrible happening to you, view it as an opportunity for you to take control and find a solution. Thus, you’re not sitting in a bottomless pit; you’re merely trying to pivot and find your next move.
Does this still sound like a bunch of aspirational buzzword mumbo jumbo? Trust me, I’m not usually one to go along with this. But, here’s why I am this time: You can use this to reframe so many “stuck” moments in your professional life.
- When your job applications are going nowhere: “How I’m presenting myself isn’t working, so let me pivot how I say X, Y, and Z on my resume and cover letter.”
- When you’re not landing that promotion: “My current attempts at proving myself aren’t working, so let me pivot my efforts and try this instead.”
- When everything at your job is going horribly wrong: “I can’t change what my co-workers and boss are doing, but I can pivot how I respond by doing A, B, and C.”
One of the most intimidating things about career ruts is the feeling that you need to make big, bold moves to get out of them. Yes, that does work for some. But, in reality, making little “pivots” can be just as effective, while taking less time and energy. Now, rather than going after that drastic change, you’re allowing yourself to take smaller steps, seeing how each one affects you, and adjusting accordingly as you go.