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How you keep yourself stuck – the unhelpful ways of thinking that hold you back from career change

Updated: Jan 10

Over the years I’ve coached 100's of women through career change – women wanting to find new roles, industries, gain promotions, change direction or start businesses. And often there’s a story or way of thinking (cognitive distortion) that they are holding onto which is keeping them feeling stuck and feeling unable to move forward.

These stories we tell ourselves are often rooted in some truth and reflect past experiences – and they represent real barriers and obstacles. However, these stories also contribute to keeping you feeling stuck, demotivated, frustrated and lacking in options.

Part of the coaching work we do together, in every case, was to open up different ways of thinking to allow space for alternatives, potential options and new paths.

1. “My skills are so niche, this is all I’ve done for the last 10, 15 or 20 years – no-one will get me like my current organisation does”

By repeating this story, you are keeping yourself held into a role or organisation because you feel that there are no other alternatives. You are discounting the broader value, experience and skills you bring to the table.

You’re stuck in this pattern of thinking which is influencing the story you are telling yourself. The likely bigger picture is that you have built up a wide professional network and internal credibility and you have a broader range of skills than you are acknowledging. You understand how to navigate the same organisation over a long period – building and sustaining key stakeholder relationships. You understand how to manage through changing strategies and new reporting lines.

Your skills and experience are transferable and valuable to other organisations. How would you describe your strengths? What unique value do you bring? How could you better leverage this value?

2. “I’ll have to start at the bottom if I change careers now”

This is a classic example of all or nothing thinking – it’s not binary or a certain outcome that if you want to change direction then it means starting again. Perhaps there are adjacent careers or paths that you could take that act as a stepping stone towards your new career that will help you bridge the skills and knowledge gap.

Without exploring your values, connecting with your innate strengths and assessing options from a position of self-awareness and structured research, it’s impossible to know whether any new road means going back to the start. You might need to pivot or bolster your skills but by assuming that change means starting again (without a deeper exploration) is giving you an excuse not to make the change.

Perhaps fear of failure or the unknown is holding you back – that’s understandable. But don’t give yourself the excuse of not wanting to explore change because you’d have to start again. Rather than focusing on going back to the start, think about the bigger picture and why you do what you do. Are you clear on your overall North Star? What are you doing this for?

Being clear on this will help you make decisions and take opportunities that align and are less focused on the next step on the ladder and being afraid to pivot.

3. “What’s the point in moving organisations – the culture is the same in all these companies – I’d still be working crazy hours”

This type of thinking keeps you stuck feeling justified that you shouldn’t act as there are no better options out there. This type of thinking is disempowering as it fools you into thinking that there is very little you can do to change your situation. However, there are steps you can take to feel more in control.

I often split my coaching programmes into two themes:

  • The first part is to make “now” feel better which often involves conversations about workload, delegation, boundaries and making your week work better for you.

  • The second part is then the bigger thinking/change focused to empower my clients to see alternatives and options from a place of positivity, resilience and hope.

4. “I can’t afford to change roles now – I think I need to keep going in this role until I’m 50 and then I can do something I enjoy”

This story is full of “must, should and have to” – keeping you stuck and firmly away from deciding to change. There’s a way to find greater joy and belonging at work whilst earning a salary that maintains your lifestyle – you need to focus on what work energises you and start to shift away from the activities and people that deplete you.

It might be unrealistic to say that you need to love your work, but I do believe that there are actions and strategies you can take that can bring you into greater alignment with the role you have.

5. “I just can’t do this anymore … maybe I could just quit and open my own [coffee shop, bookshop …]

Of course, a little bookshop selling amazing coffee and fem-lit (just me?) sounds glorious but will launching into entrepreneurship really improve your work life balance or align with your overall values. Without deep exploration it’s difficult to know whether you are moving towards something that will bring you greater joy or just trying to move away from a difficult situation.

Any change is better to be rooted in a positive pull than a negative push.

If a bookshop/coffee shop is your calling, then you’ll likely feel more aligned and purposeful but thinking it’s an easier option to corporate life is a distortion. Getting your drivers and values clear is key to unsure that any move takes you closer to your version of success.

If any of these ways of thinking have resonated with you, please do reach out for a discovery call where we can explore how coaching might help you move past this way of thinking.


At Elevate Her, we offer career coaching, executive & entrepreneur coaching & resilience coaching. Find out more by booking a discovery call by clicking the button above.

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