7 Reasons Why You Feel Stuck in Your Search for Work

This post was originally published on The Huffington Post on Sept. 7, 2016.

If you’re looking for work, but are feeling stuck and paralyzed then you’re not alone.

Many clients come to me wanting help with an aspect of career development related to strategic things like personal branding, networking or negotiating, but nine times out of 10, they are stuck because they don’t know what their career goals are.

Setting your career goals is like punching an address into Google maps ― if you don’t know where you’re going, it’s really difficult to map out the directions.

If you don’t know what your career goals are, then chances are you’re stuck for one of these reasons:

1. You’ve had trauma in the workplace and need to forgive and grieve.

Have you experienced something traumatic in your work? Perhaps you were fired, laid off, or had a workplace conflict with a team member or boss? Perhaps you felt consistently unappreciated, underutilized, undervalued? Or worse, maybe you experienced harassment, discrimination or inappropriate behaviors at work?

Whatever it was for you, it’s imperative and crucial that you do the work to forgive the ones who wrong you so that you can be freed from the grip of anger, resentment and pain. It’s also important that you do the work to forgive yourself.

Finally, you might just need to grieve and let the emotions move through you. Bottling it up and shoving it down with a dose of shame, guilt or blame will not help and you will remain stuck until you let this grief move through you. Hire a coach, a therapist or lean on a friend or family member to help you through this time.

2. You’re not excited about the kind of work you’re seeking.

If you’re not excited about the work you’re seeking and your heart is guiding you in a different direction, stop ignoring it and give it the attention it’s requesting.

How can you become more curious about your inclination to do something different? What steps can you do right now to learn more about the work you’re feeling guided towards? How can you talk to? What books can you read? Make a list of ways to explore your heart’s desire.

3. You lack the skills, expertise and experience for the work you really want to do.

Perhaps you’re just not at the point in your career to have the job you want. Maybe you need more experience? Maybe you need more education? Maybe you need to just give it more time?

Either way, don’t get ahead of yourself and expect more than you’re qualified for right now at this stage in your career. Sometimes we just have to be patient.

And sometimes we have to go back to school, get certified or take on a volunteer position that allows us to grow our skills, expertise and experience.

4. You don’t know what you want to do because you forgot what it’s like to dream.

Have you been focused for so long on someone else’s needs that you forgot what it’s like to dream? Maybe you’re a mom or caretaking for aging parents and have set your needs aside for so long that you lost touch with them altogether?

In this case, take small steps in letting yourself dream. Do a vision board. Journal. See a coach who can help you to envision and fantasize about big, wild, scary dreams. Notice what comes up as you dream that is causing resistance or fear and work with that piece to get movement towards in your dreams.

5. You have many passions, interests, skills and talents and you don’t know where to focus your efforts.

Take a StrengthsFinder assessment to find out what your top five strengths are, because if you’re using your greatest strengths and natural talents in your work, you’re happier and more fulfilled.

Focusing your search on something specific helps you target industries, sectors, employers and job titles in your search and in your conversations with people who can help. The more specific you are, the easier it is for people to help you.

6. You don’t have time.

Believe me I get it, time is scarce and it’s overwhelming to think of doing all of this while also managing your current job, family, wellness and sanity. If you don’t have time right now, then you’re not motivated enough to make a change. Seriously.

When the suffering becomes big enough, you’ll make the time and you’ll find the time to do the work to find better work for yourself.

Until then, you’ve made a choice to stay stuck and that’s okay as long as you take responsibility for your choice and do not become a victim to it.

7. You’re scared.

Doing the self-development work to take ownership over your professional life can be super scary. It might mean that you have to get intimate with some parts of yourself you’d rather ignore. You might have to do the work to heal old wounds that are holding you hostage and that can be super scary.

This is why working with a professional who can support you during this time can be very important.

Until you work through whatever’s got you stuck, you can’t get super specific about your personal brand and you’ll feel less confident about networking, which will leave you with few job offers and little opportunity to negotiate.

There’s no time like the present to get unstuck and to release yourself from that thing that has a hold on you.

How can I help? What’s got you stuck? Share in the comments below and I’ll do my best to advise you.