Updated: Mar 12, 2021
Life changed for all of us with the emergence of Covid-19. One of the biggest changes
was how and even where we work. Across the spectrum (from working at home to
being furloughed) we’ve all had the opportunity to step back and reassess.
You may have found that during this period of reassessment you’ve experienced
frustration, lack of enthusiasm--maybe you’ve even considered a change of career
altogether! The good news is, you’re not alone. What you’re experiencing is called a
career bottleneck, and I’m going to tell you what to do about it.
So, what can you do?
A career bottleneck, also known as a career plateau, can affect anyone at any time. An
article in the Journal of Vocational Behaviour which reviewed 40 years of research into
the subject, found that although external factors play a role in creating a career
bottleneck, “individuals who adopt adaptive coping strategies (e.g., taking other
assignments) have higher satisfaction, commitment, and performance compared with
those who adopt maladaptive strategies”. Simply put, you have the power to take back
control of your career using positive strategies. Here are 3 solutions to the problem of a
1. Set yourself a goal
A study of Harvard Business graduates found that only 3% had clear, written goals.
When the interviewers revisited the same group 10-years later, those in the 3% were
earning over ten times as much as the other 97% in the study.
What’s evident is that to be successful in your career, you need to have definite goals.
Think about where you want to be in your career. Do you want more responsibility? Do
you want to retrain? Do you even want a change of employer? Write down clear,
achievable goals and a realistic timeframe and stick to it!
2. Eliminate negativity
Establishing the ‘adaptive coping strategies’ mentioned above is extremely important
during a career bottleneck. Adaptive coping strategies are a way of tackling your
problems head on, realistically and positively.
It may be true that your employer isn’t recognising your true potential or that the
promotion you’re waiting for is years away but dwelling on those facts won’t change
them. Instead, look at things that you can do today to make positive steps. You could
talk to a trusted colleague or friend and ask for advice or enrol in a course to expand
your career opportunities. The important thing is to make positive steps towards career
3. Improve your Work-Life balance
It may seem counter-intuitive, but sometimes the best way to deal with work problems
is to not work. The opposite of adaptive coping strategies is mal-adaptive coping
strategies. These are negative actions, like blaming others or suddenly quitting your job.
Try taking a break and focussing on yourself instead.
Feeling stuck in your career and not focussing on your wellbeing is a perfect recipe for
stress and anxiety. Try doing more of the things you enjoy - spend time with family and
friends, get out into nature and leave the office behind. Finding the right balance
between work and the rest of your life is the key to a clear mind.
Implement these solutions today, and you’ll be on your way to career satisfaction and a