How To Change Careers When You Feel Stuck In A Rut

people walking in the street stuck in their careers

It’s strange to think about how profoundly the context of a piece like this has changed in recent weeks. Written a month ago, the core concern of this post would largely have been a figurative limitation: the average reader would probably have been in the common position of having adequate job security but feeling fundamentally dissatisfied. 

As I write this intro, though, the world is in the midst of a pandemic that has cost so many jobs (whether temporarily or permanently) and seen so many others change markedly. Accordingly, you may be feeling stuck in a rut because circumstances have placed you in one: being out of work due to lockdown measures, or struggling to cope with a remote version of your usual role.

Regardless of your current situation and the exact nature of the rut you feel stuck in, you do have options, and you can find a new career — particularly in the tech world. In this post, we’re going to look at some tips for doing just that, so let’s get started.

Here are the 4-steps to helping you change careers when you feel stuck in a rut:

  1. See what’s reliably making money
  2. Think about what you’d find sustainable
  3. Pick out some relevant courses
  4. Be ready to work your way up

See what’s reliably making money

Even if you’re going to invest in a new career for a reason that has nothing to do with how much money you make (or want to make), you still need to ensure that your new field can offer financial stability. It won’t help you much if you go full-force towards a fresh avenue only to see it become non-viable and leave you in the lurch.

The pandemic has shown just how easily a stable business can be disrupted, and while there are very few fields that will always be important (like medicine, realistically), you can find something that’s fairly solid and stable. Web development is an obvious example, and not just because of this site: now, more than ever before, businesses need to be able to operate online, and that means that many companies are investing in their web operations.

Another example is ecommerce. With traditional retail technically flourishing but also suffering due to social distancing measures and tough conditions for employees, online retail is much safer for everyone. You won’t be running a pop-up shop in the near future, but if you’re interested in buying and selling, this is a great time to start working on the basics.

Think about what you’d find sustainable

Even if there’s money in a career path, it might not be something you could tolerate as a career. If you’re early in your working life, you most likely have decades of work ahead of you, and that means being certain about the direction you want to take. Changing your career trajectory is obviously possible (we’re talking about doing it here), but every additional change is harder and more complicated than the one before it.

If you knew what you were doing, could you write code all day? Imagine what that would actually be like. If you’re someone who hates being stuck at a desk, then think about whether that’s a good idea. It might make sense during quarantine times, but what about once the restrictions are eventually lifted?

Of course, you could pivot the role somehow: you could eventually take up a role as a coding tutor, for instance, visiting students to help them out in person. So don’t just think about the specific role you could have. Think about how the skills you’d develop (and the connections you’d build) would help you in the future.

Pick out some relevant courses

Whatever field you want to enter, there are ways to learn what you need to know without taking on massive student debt or committing years to the effort. With a little research, you can find some courses that might be right for you, though at this point you need to look for the option of learning remotely (some courses are being adapted, with the LEARN academy curriculum being the obvious point of reference after making the shift to remote tuition).

Look closely at testimonials to see how students rate their courses. More importantly, look at job placement rates. There are many courses that get high ratings but don’t really help their students get work, making them questionably useful to you. Doing something that interests you is great, but unless it’s going to get results, it’s better to find something practical.

Be ready to work your way up

Lastly, once you’ve figured out what career path you want to try and acquired the necessary skills to get started as a professional, you need to be ready to start from scratch. You might be a respected pro in your current career, but that might not count for much when you make the shift. It’s a mistake to think that you’ll preserve your current salary and array of benefits.

Imagine a world-class hockey player trying to become a basketball player. Would their hockey prowess suggest great athleticism, training habits, and strategic awareness? Absolutely — there’s some crossover. But the sports are very different, and it would take them years to become good enough for low-tier professional play, even if they had the necessary physical attributes (height and speed).

But here’s the thing: ruts are often relatively comfortable, which is why they’re tough to escape. It’s so easy to convince yourself that you’re better-off staying where you are and making do with what you have. If you really want a career change, you’ll need to work hard for it — and if you choose well, it’ll assuredly end up being worth it.