When I was a management consultant, my team used to get hired by clients with a particular kind of problem.
These clients hired us not because they needed extra pairs of hands. Most of these companies were on the Fortune 100 list. They had budgets and people to pour into their plans. So, resources were not the issue.
It’s also not because they didn’t know what to do or why they should do it. These clients had mission statements and business plans and strategies in impressive binders lining up the shelves. What to do and why they need to do it were not the problem either.
It’s all about the how.
You know what they were stuck with? It’s that they didn’t know how to get it done. How best to channel their resources to achieve their business goal. How to get from where they were to their intended destination.
In fact, the value that my team provided was the methodology or the approach that best fit these clients’ needs, timing, budget, and overall objectives.
When we don’t know how to start or how to continue, we get stuck.
I’ve been working for a few years now with individuals looking to make a change in how their jobs or careers are progressing. And I’ve noticed a similar pattern in many of their situations.
It’s not that these folks didn’t understand what they wanted to do or where to take their careers. The problem was they didn’t know how to start—and then continue—to work on their career goals.
This problem or challenge is understandable, for two reasons.
First, working on a specific career goal—say, changing jobs or moving to a new field of work—is a unique project in and of itself.
It’s not the kind of thing that we do every day. So, chances are you’re not an expert in it. (Well, unless you’re a serial job/career changer, so maybe you’ve become a guru!)
You don’t have all the steps and processes down pat. You don’t know how.
Second, working on our career goals isn’t the only thing vying for our attention. We have full-time jobs that already take up a lot of our time. Plus… you know… a life.
Working on our career goals require us to perform a set of tasks. When these to-dos are separate and distinct from our day-to-day activities—even if these to-dos would lead us to where we want to be in the immediate future—well, it’s a pain.
This brings me to the second reason we get stuck in jobs we no longer like or careers that no longer work for us.
It’s what I call the Know-How Gap—a gap in our knowledge of how we can best get going with our career goals.
Reason #1: Lack of Doable Options
Reason #3: Absent Support
Reason #4: Unclear Destination
Diagnosing the Know-How Gap
The Know-How Gap is the easiest of the “I’m-stuck-because” reasons. For real! The hard part is diagnosing that it is in fact, the challenge you’re facing.
Often the simpler the root cause, the harder it is to diagnose because the dang thing is hiding behind some other more exciting problem to solve! Well, I like saying, “Don’t solve a problem you don’t have!”
Here are some questions you can ask to Sherlock-your-way into a problem.
Think of the career goal—or any project for that matter—where you feel you’re stuck. Then, ask yourself:
- Do I know what my end goal really is? Do I know what I want to achieve?
- Do I have competing priorities?
- Do I (and be honest here) often have difficulty starting or finishing a project—any project—on my own?
If you answered “yes” to these questions, the know-how gap is likely to be the culprit as to why you’re stuck. And the way to fix it is rather simple.
Solving the Know-How Gap
You need to come up with a plan and stick to it.
I know, I know. I can see you rolling your eyes. Coming up with a plan is a no-brainer. It’s not the sexiest advice to hear. But as much as it is a no-brainer, not very many people come up with a plan.
Someone once told me he wanted to get to the C-suite in a couple of years time. I asked him how he planned to approach it. Nada. Zilch. No plan. Catching a unicorn crossing the room was the plan.
So come up with a plan. Then, come up with your method for sticking to it.
Let’s do some reality-check here.
There are people who can set a goal, come up with a plan, and stick to it—all on their own. The burning fire in their belly is sufficient enough to push them continuously.
Sadly, not a lot of people fall in that bucket. <sigh> Most of us need some kind of incentive or external push to keep on going.
That’s when accountability partners help.
Join a group who have similar goals or objectives. Participate in a mastermind group. Work with a coach who not only helps you with the approach but also serves as an accountability partner. Heck, recruit a friend to be your accountability partner!
Anything to make sure that you do what you said you wanted to do.
That’s how you get unstuck. You come up with a plan. Then, you put mechanisms in place to make sure you’re working the plan.
I told you it’s the easiest one to solve 😃
With most things in life (baking a soufflé one notable exception), we can start without a detailed recipe or step-by-step guide to every required action from here to there.
But when it comes to making a change to improve our lot—such as the case for a job or career change—we’ll have a better chance at starting if we have (even a rough outline of) a plan.
A plan addresses the know-how gap, one of 4 main reasons we get stuck in unwanted job situations. Without a plan, there’s a higher likelihood that we won’t do anything about it—no matter how unhappy we may be—and end up stuck where we are.