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3 Steps to Break Out of Career Limbo


Most of us have heard of Chubby Checker and, for those not fortunate enough to have heard one of his classics, get out there and give your ears a taste of early American rock ‘n roll. Mr. Checker came on strong in the 1960s, tearing up the radio waves with his dance hall hits like “Limbo Rock.” In the early ’70s, unhappy with his career, he took a swing at psychedelic rock. Well, the album was only released in Europe and sales were disappointing. Checker continued on and has a solid place in our Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame, as well as in many music lovers’ hearts.


(Photo Credit: Shutterstock)

Why the rambling about Chubby, you ask? Well, it’s simple. Chubby Checker began to find himself in what he perceived as career limbo. I say perceived because most of us would be elated to have his kind of success in our fields, however defining “limbo” is a highly personal thing. What screams success for one person may feel unsatisfying for someone else. If you’re in the latter category, you’ve probably racked your brain about how to break out of your rut.

Do You Know What You're Worth?

Maybe your career’s ascent has plateaued, or that dream job in your 30s isn’t so dreamy now that you’re in your 40s. Whatever the case, there are actions you can take today to get yourself back on a course you can feel good about. Here are three things you can start doing today.

1. Look Outside. It’s easy to get so focused on your day-to-day work that you forget there’s a big world out there — and there are many more places where you can showcase your skills. From youth groups to industry events, consider lending your voice as an expert speaker or volunteer. While these will likely be pro bono gigs, the exposure in your community can elevate your status as a leader. Believe me, sometimes an action like this is all it takes — managers are busy and all too often exceptional employees get lost in the shuffle. Pointing the spotlight in your own direction works to show those who matter (like your manager or even your organization’s executives) that you’re ready to do more great things!

2. Get Loud. As we mentioned already, managers are busy. And while they may wish they had superpowers, the people we report to aren’t mind readers. If you are feeling stuck, have you expressed your concerns to your manager? Yes, it can be scary to have a discussion like this, but if your manager isn’t aware of your situation, there is no way for them to help alleviate it. Before you go marching into their office, think about setting up a meeting or using one-on-one coaching time as an opportunity to discuss. Write down your thoughts! This will keep your emotions at bay and help you get the most out of precious time. There may not be a solution right away, but good managers want their employees to be great and will be happy to help you put together plans to position you for your desired end result.

3. Get Educated. Have you found yourself in limbo due to a lack of skills? Are you interested in pursuing a new field or role? The first step is to take a hard look at where you are today and where you’d like to be in the near future. Do your qualifications line up? Even if you happen to be the spitting image of what it takes, more often than not the competition in the job market is excruciatingly fierce. Picking up a few new courses or skills could be what pushes you over … er … under the limbo stick.

Like Chubby Checker, not every quest for greatness is an instant success. You may stumble a bit as you initiate change, but these minor setbacks often harbor the energy that helps to propel us even further than we ever thought we could travel. Don’t toil and settle for the drab, dreary environment that is limbo — instead, decide today that unless it’s being sung by Mr. Checker, limbo is a dirty word — and one to which you will no longer give airplay.

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Have you recovered from a career setback? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

Michelle Kruse
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