What to Do When You’re in a Career Rut

in a rut

I have my Master's in Public Health and (what I used to feel was) an impressive resume of international experience. We moved to Tampa because of my husband’s work, but I am not seeing the professional opportunities I had imagined.

I see my husband progressing as a teacher and entering into a leadership position. However, the nonprofit I work for is very small and cannot offer much in the way of raises or promotions. Do I go back to school and get a second Master's in Business Administration? Should I become a nurse? I've applied for other jobs but I barely get interviews. I'm in a rut and don't know what to do next. —Katie

In a two-career relationship, when one career is the determining factor in where the couple lives — and it’s not a major metropolitan city — the other career can suffer.

That being said, with your graduate degree in public health and living in a state with a high senior population (necessitating many specialty doctors, clinics, and medical facilities), additional geriatric studies could make your resume more marketable.

Are you networking within the health care community? Ultimately, that presents your greatest opportunity for getting early leads on job openings and making personal connections with people who can open doors for you.

Depending on your specific goals, acquiring an MBA may also make you more attractive to potential employers. It is certainly something to consider if you have the time and financial resources. But all of this seems to be stabbing around at various ideas rather than looking at your future career in a more strategic way.

The fact you’re working for a nonprofit at the moment suggests that money is not your chief concern. If you’re lucky enough to be in that position, don’t consider only things you feel you’ve been “trained” to do — consider what you really want to do. Where does your passion lie? What do you have the drive and determination to achieve?

If you’re willing to go back to school, should it be to further your studies in something related to health care or to study something entirely new? If you’re going to start over completely, is it nursing that would challenge and fulfill you — or a different career altogether? If you can afford to work for a nonprofit, is there one that would align more closely with whatever legacy you want to leave behind?

In other words, start from the end and move backward. What would a successful, rewarding career look like when it’s finished? Then work back in increments of five years and plan the steps you would need to take to reach that destination. You could work at five jobs for five years each, learning and contributing enormously to each one

Most people make the mistake of trying to make the next step the one that determines their success. But success is built over a career. Plan yours and you’ll be amazed by how rewarding it becomes at every step.

Christine Tardio is a trusted advisor and business coach to a dynamic range of women business leaders. She can be reached at thelookinglass.com.

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