“I'm Trapped And It's Crushing My Self-esteem. How Can I Rediscover My Career Confidence?”

After graduating, Grace fell into what seemed like an exciting career. But years later, an energy-sapping work environment and a lack of future prospects have left her feeling completely demotivated. When your confidence has disappeared, how do you pick yourself up again, and prepare for something new?

What's your career history and current job?

I originally studied for a Master of Engineering degree at university.

When I finished, I realised that a career in engineering wasn't the right fit for me, so I decided to travel and research some other options instead.

I then fell into a role in an investment management company, where I've been ever since.

How do you feel about your work?

At first, I really enjoyed getting involved with a whole new industry.

I've also completed some professional qualifications. That was an experience I've found very rewarding, as it's allowed me to continue learning and studying after formal education.

I enjoy problem-solving in the occasional project work I get to do, and the high-energy feeling of working with others towards an end goal.

But my day-to-day role is repetitive and uncreative, in an office where I'm hidden out of sight. In my personal life I enjoy helping others and getting to know them, while at work it's common for me not to say more than a few words to another person all day.

Although I'm a supervisor, I haven't got any real authority. My ideas and suggestions are frequently passed over by the company directors, who are very 'old school'. The company has been run in exactly the same traditional way for years, with no room for anything new.

There is also no scope for me to grow and develop my career. I've been told that I'm not allowed to take any more professional exams, in case I decide to leave the company once I'm fully qualified.

What would you like to be doing instead?

I'd love to do something that combines working with others, using my problem-solving skills, and contributing to the world in a meaningful way.

I enjoy thinking creatively to find solutions. I'm a big fan of crossword puzzles! I also do some painting in my spare time, which I really enjoy. But I can't see how that could be a real career.

All this makes me think that project management or consultancy work could be an ideal next step. I'd also be open to using my engineering degree to help me get involved in creating something useful – whether that's a system or a tangible product.

What's the biggest obstacle in your way?

My job has left me feeling so low and demotivated, that I can't see a clear way out of it.

In the past I've attempted to change things by looking for other roles in the same industry, but I gave up after seven unsuccessful interviews.

That experience affected my confidence so much that I was left with clinical depression. But I've since realised that I didn't get those jobs because I've lost any passion and enthusiasm I ever had for the industry, which must have showed through.

I hope that if I could get an interview for something I felt fired up about, things would be different.

But unfortunately, I just can't find the energy and motivation I need to plan my escape.

I'm naturally an open and sociable person – someone who's happy to bring cakes and smiles into work with them every day. But as I finish yet another uninspiring day at work, I feel like I'm retreating into myself more and more.

I tell myself there's no point in trying to do anything different, as there'll always be a reason for it not to work out. For example, it scares me to think I could be competing for jobs with bright-eyed new graduates, especially if I haven't got the right experience, or if I'm not able to sell myself with enough confidence.

My friends and family keep on telling me to just leave, so I can relax before I find a new job that suits me. But that's not viable from a financial point of view. Plus, if I can't find a new job while I'm employed, how will I find one when I'm under the added pressure of having no money coming in?

How do I break this energy-sapping cycle, and discover the self-confidence and motivation I need to explore exciting new ideas?

Can you help Grace?
  • Have you been in a similar situation, or are you in the same boat right now?
  • How do you think Grace could move her shift forwards?
  • Do you know anyone she could talk to?

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