Feeling trapped in your career? Tips to move forward

Feeling trapped in your career? Tips to move forward 1

Why do we stay in unhappy relationships with partners we’ve clearly fallen out of love with? Why do we stick with careers and jobs that no longer satisfy us? Just as with a long-term relationship, people stay with their job – even though they’re not happy – because they’re afraid of the alternative. They worry that they’ll regret straying from the familiar.

When it comes to your career, taking a leap of faith can be even harder – because you almost certainly depend on your 9 to 5 financially. On the other hand, not making a change, or at least seeking a new perspective, means you might remain ‘stuck’ indefinitely. So what do you do about it?  

Get to the bottom of the problem 


There are countless reasons for job dissatisfaction, and every person’s situation will be unique. Usually, it’s a combination of some of the following issues:

  • Boredom – the role is no longer challenging, interesting or rewarding 
  • Frustration – with your boss, colleagues, or working environment 
  • The role no longer aligns with your values – whether that’s not having enough free time to spend with your family, or ethical concerns about the industry you’re serving
  • No more room for development or career progression 
  • Money – you’re tired of scraping to get by each month
  • Lack of recognition – you feel your hard work is going unnoticed 


It might even be all of the above! In order to see the way forward, you’ve got to do a little soul searching. Ask yourself some key questions, and scribble down the answers:


What aspects of your job frustrate you the most?

This will give you insight into whether it’s the job itself, or other factors which are dragging you down. If your biggest frustration is the people you work with, for example, then simply seeking a similar position at a company with a different culture might be the answer. If it’s the work itself, you might need to consider a full-on career change. Relax – many highly successful people have done it!  


Looking back over your career, what projects or aspects are you most proud of?

When were you having the most fun at work? What clients or projects have you found it most fulfilling to work on? What kind of function were you performing at the time – analytical, creative, or collaborative? 

Is work really the key stressor in your life, or is there more at play?

Sometimes it’s easier to blame your unhappiness on a boss you hate than it is to get real with yourself about a bigger issue. Make sure you’re being honest with yourself. 

Put down on paper, even in the form of very rough notes, the answers to these questions can extremely helpful. You might suddenly find that patterns jump out at you – all the projects you enjoyed working on required you to flex your creative muscles, or all the things about your job which frustrate you actually revolve around feeling micromanaged.  

Research some alternatives 

With the problem now clearer in your mind, you can start to look for real solutions. These might include looking at furthering your studies to qualify for a promotion, or having a frank chat with your boss about the possibility of working from home or transferring to a different department. 

Start your own business or side hustle 

Practically everyone has toyed with the idea of starting their own company – but if you’re sincerely looking for a change, then maybe now is the time to get serious about it.

  • Start doing a little casual market research around ideas which interest you.
  • Brainstorm ways you could turn a passion or a hobby into a business.
  • Think about the parts of your job that you do enjoy.
  • Run your ideas past people you trust to give you their honest opinion.
  • Finally, think about how you could put your own unique spin on the service you’d like to offer – what would make you different? 


If you have a passion for fitness, perhaps investigate the possibilities of starting your own small boutique gym – maybe getting together with local personal trainers to discuss their clients’ needs. Now take it a step further. If you’re located in Cape Town, actually do some research around the prices of gym equipment South Africa, and who your nearest competition might be. With every new piece of information you collect, the more tangible the dream becomes!


Remember also that you don’t have to quit your day job completely. In the beginning, many business ideas will work as a side hustle. If you don’t have any previous experience running a company, working on your business idea over the weekend can be a great way to get your feet wet without the financial stress of giving up your job entirely. You’ll also learn pretty quickly whether your idea has potential or not!

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