For the majority of our academic careers, we feel like we’re constantly evolving. We choose new classes each semester, and with that comes new coursework, teachers and classmates. We learn new things, ace exams and actually feel ourselves getting closer to our ultimate goal: graduation.
But once the diplomas are handed out, that pattern of change comes to a screeching halt.
We start our first job and sit at the same desk every day. We work with the same people day in and day out, and suddenly, a year or two has flown by and nothing has changed. Not our titles. Not our salaries.
I’m going to let you in on a little secret: Feeling stuck is in your 20s (and even into your 30s) is pretty common. The statistics speak for themselves: 40% of job seekers are millennials, and only 18% of employed millennials expect to stick with their current role for more than a year.
Yes. You read that right… 18%.
I contacted success coach Michael Neill for his insight on how to overcome the feeling of being “stuck,” and he provided me with some insight on the matter: ” The only thing that can truly get stuck is your thinking. Life is continually changing and flowing, and our businesses and careers change and flow with it. But from time to time we get stuck in a certain mindset or idea of how things should be (as opposed to how they are), and if we start to take it too much to heart, it can bring us out of the creative flow and make it look like we need to make a major life change to get things moving again.”
But here’s the tricky part: we might feel like we need to make a big, drastic change to get past this ‘stuck’ feeling, while what we actually need to do is make a few small changes that help us shift the way we view our current situation.
“When a stick gets stuck in a river, it doesn’t need to change careers, jobs or even hairstyles,” Michael says. “It just needs a gentle nudge back into the flow. You can get that nudge by bumping yourself up against someone who thinks differently than you, whether it’s a mentor, coach, or just someone who’s in a different field or significantly more or less experienced than you.
If you’re feeling stuck, building a professional support system is one of the best things you can do to help pull yourself out of it. So, how do you go about finding one?
1. Know the difference between a mentor and a sponsor.
While mentors serve as a huge inspiration and support system for your career, it’s a sponsor who will take direct action that translates into tangible career results. A sponsor is an influencer who shows up and gives you the technical advice and corporate pull you need to get ahead in your company. How do you know when you’ve found “the one”? As Jeff Weiner, CEO of LinkedIn, puts it, “Like all valuable relationships in our lives, you know it’s a right fit when you meet them.”But, what if you don’t see eye-to-eye with a mentor? There’s still a lesson to be learned. “Even if you wind up fundamentally disagreeing with their advice or point of view, it’s usually enough to get your own thinking moving again,” Neill says, “and that will bring you all the fresh perspective and ideas you need to move forward!”
2. Connect with people who professionally inspire you.
Who inspires you? In my coaching practice, this question is a powerful one for clients who are looking to get more aligned with their purpose. What is it about their qualities and their career that you wish you had in your own? Evaluate why they inspire you, and what their career tells you about your own wants and dreams.
3. Create opportunity through cold networking.
Networking is a way of life, and it’s crucial for you to make time for it. Learning and growing from conversations with new people in worlds outside of your own is one of the best ways to catalyze your career. While most people network with their immediate family and friends, this should only be a starting point.It’s usually the people who are “out there” — not the people you know — who can change the course of your career. These are the people in the hiring roles for your dream job, or the people who are running in circles that can change your life. You don’t have to sacrifice your authenticity for it, either. The more you network, the more opportunity you’re creating to love the people you meet and pursue connections that are authentic.Side note: The worst time network is when you need something, so start now.
If you’re certain that what you need to get out of your rut is a career change, make it your business to find a coach who can help get you where you need to be. Of course, choosing a coach can also be a delicate process, so make sure you shop around before committing, and take advantage of any free trainings that are offered by potential coaches to get a feel for their vibe.
Next time you’re feeling stuck, remember: the only thing that’s stuck is your thinking. The good news? You have complete control over that.
This article first appeared on Forbes.