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Finding Traction: Get Unstuck and Back to High Growth

Feeling Stuck in your IT Career?

Remember the Three Truths About Being Stuck:

It happens, and it’s ok, and it’s not permanent

These three truths are not a prescription. They’re a mindset: a way of framing the issue and think of being stuck as just another phase in a cycle of growth.

Recall the chart outlining the general IT career path:

If you’re stuck, you’re likely in the stagnant phase – so what are some tactics to help you get back into the high growth periods where things feel exciting and fresh again?

Here are a few tactics to get you started:

Find Another Job

A lot of people jump right into this one when they feel stuck. I’ve certainly done it – convinced myself that there were no options for me at this job and that I had to move on if I was going to grow anymore. Looking back on most of those times, I wasn’t out of options – I just wanted a change, so desperately I convinced myself that this was the only option. But this is a pretty drastic change, and you can find yourself in a worse situation than your current state if you’re not deliberate and selective about your new opportunity.

Most people start this work by checking to see what kind of jobs are available in their area. I think a better approach is for you to take the time to describe your ideal situation and then search for your perfect opportunity. Once you know what you want and what you’re targeting, it will be much easier to weed out the jobs that aren’t a good fit for you.

Seek Out New Opportunities Within

You may have read that previous section and thought, “But I don’t want to look for another job!” If that’s your reaction, then a great strategy is to seek out new challenges within the context of your current job. Ask yourself, “What other things around here are being neglected?” or “What could I do to help make this department run better?” The answers to those questions will present new options for you (some of them exciting and others not so much). Thinking like an outsider will uncover potential opportunities. But what if there isn’t a position available for you to move? That leads directly to the next tactic.

Dive Into Another Tech Discipline

There are two ways to approach this: dive into an area you know on the surface and gain expertise or delve into a new area that you don’t know at all. For example, if you’re a jack-of-all-trades system administrator, you might have some networking skills, but you’re likely very LAN oriented. You could dive into WAN skills (BGP, OSPF, etc.) or take on something like Software Defined Networking. Secondly, don’t be afraid of disciplines you know nothing about; they might be a great source of insight and inspiration for you.

Get Out of the Tech Rut and Learn Some Non-Tech Skills

The pace of technology fools us into thinking we always have to be learning the latest tech to stay relevant. I’ve found that when I jumped outside of the tech industry and done some learning outside my primary discipline is where I saw a lot of growth. I was already well into my IT career before I had completed my bachelor’s degree, so I changed my major to something I knew I needed more than new IT skills: business training. So I dove into business administration and learned a lot about how business operates and naturally my mind filled in the blanks with great ideas about how IT can best serve the organization once I learned how it ran. You can learn communication skills, project management, or even take a photography or painting course. Exercising your non-tech brain muscles can provide a much-needed boost of motivation.

I’ve seen these three tactics work for many people, including myself. Give yourself permission to give one or more of these a try and get yourself unstuck!

As always, I’d love to hear from you. Have these tactics worked for you? Are you contemplating making a change?