Feeling trapped in your career? Author Timothy Butler believes that your dead ends are your biggest opportunities. Here, Louise FitzBaxter shares her reflections on his theories, and why they're not all you'll need to make a successful shift.
Is work making you miserable? Have you reached a career dead end?
Timothy Butler believes that we all feel stuck like this – more than once – and each time we suffer as a result.
He's not trying to make you feel worse. He believes these career dead ends are an amazing opportunity to change things for the better.
In every situation of 'stuck' is a "cycle of impasse" that involves six phases:
- The crisis arrives;
- Your past experience and inner critic make it worse;
- You realise your old approach isn't working and start to look at things differently;
- You open up to new possibilities and dig deeper;
- You begin to understand your patterns and what's meaningful for you;
- You take action.
The three parts of the book – Impasse, Vision, Getting Unstuck – aim to equip you with the knowledge and tools to move forward through the phases.
Butler's 30 years’ experience as a psychologist and career counsellor have helped him develop the theory, and in the book he combines challenging exercises with the inspiring career change stories of his clients.
He stresses: "This book is practical. It's meant to be used."
And there are a huge number of ideas and activities to get through. It will take time.
But will all that effort then actually help you do something concrete about your career dead end?
As I read Getting Unstuck, I felt that using a book to reconnect with your intuition is more likely to just leave you stuck inside your own head.
The reality of career change is not as ordered as Butler's theory.
Yes, delving into your personality is an important part of a career shift. And if you love to dabble in human psychology and personality typing you'll love this book.
But if you're sick of being stuck and desperate to move on, it'll take more than theory and thinking to get you out of your current life and creating a different one. How you use the insights to get curious, experiment, have fun and move forward in the real world is key – and the answers to those questions are not to be found in Getting Unstuck.
The book is fascinating and will give you a lot to think about, but don't leave it at that.
- Confront the past that's holding you back. Whether it's someone else's expectations or your own 'accuser', try to capture the negative thoughts that kick in when you're about to take a new step forward. Once you've identified the barriers, you can work on pushing through them.
- Separate talent from self-worth. It's easy to feel you haven't got what it takes to make a change, particularly if this isn't your first career dead end. Keep reminding yourself: "This feeling is 'something I am going through' rather than 'something I am'."
- Forget about strengths.
Butler says: "We don't leap out of bed in the morning because we are good at something. We leap when we are excited." Focus on what interests you.
- Understand your social motivators. Is your greatest need to dominate, belong or achieve? This can determine the work and workplace that's right for you. Look for clues in what you did at school and work, your hobbies and interests, and the people you admire.
- Embrace tension. How on earth do you find a role that incorporates all of your interests and motivators? You don't! Choose the option that's right now, even if it only speaks to one of your life interests, and know that you can build on it later.
Have you read Getting Unstuck? Let us know what you thought of the book in the comments below.