Ask the everywoman Experts: How can I get out of ‘thinking’ mode and make the right changes to my career?

thinking mode

Our everywoman experts respond to a reader who feels like she’s ‘coasting’ in her job, and needs to break the cycle of never moving forward with her career change plans...


An everywomanNetwork member writes...

I’ve been with my company for 10 years. I enjoy my job, have great relationships, earn decent money, and there have been various progressions along the way — but it feels like I’m coasting. I go round and round, debating if moving on is the right thing, and come up with endless lists of things I ‘could’ do, but never seem to progress any of them. How can I get out of this cycle?


It can be hard to find the motivation to look for a new job if you feel comfortable in the current one, as you’ll always talk yourself out of the disruption of change, says mid-life career change specialist, Marina Gask.

Marina Gask

To get out of this thinking phase, take action. Buy a notebook to jot down thoughts and ideas about potential careers, sectors or entrepreneurial ideas as they come to you – what inspires and excites you? What would you love to try? Don’t edit yourself as you scribble them down, just let them flow so you get these thoughts out of your head and onto paper. This will help you focus on what want to do rather than simply thinking it terms of what you could do.

As you explore these ideas, if you have worries or questions, scribble them down too. Then after a few weeks look back through your notes and see what ideas really stand out for you. Now think laterally about your skills and strengths (if you don’t know what your talents are, ask people around you) — and how you can work in ways you would find more fulfilling. How could your talents be best combined with your ideas to do something that would give you meaning and pleasure?

By now you should have a few potential career ideas, so next comes the dabbling phase – when you start to gather information without making a full commitment. Start looking into the first idea properly. If you pursued this career option, what would you need to do to in order get there – what training, connections and experience would be required? Spend some time researching the realities of this career path. Listen to relevant podcasts, read related articles and books and pick the brains of people you know who work in this field or connect with people on LinkedIn who may help you. Once you’ve delved a little deeper, do you feel more excited? If the answer’s ‘no’, start dabbling in your second idea and so on until you feel more certain about the right path for you.

As you explore your ideas further it can help to find a coach or a mentor – someone who already works in the field you want to work in, who will have deep knowledge of it and can guide you. At the very least you need to share your plans with a good friend as it really helps to have a sounding board as well as accountability to help keep you moving forwards. Even if you only have half an hour a day to plan your new job or venture, it will help you inch towards certainty about taking that next big step.

Marina Gask is co-founder of Audrey, the home of reinvention for women who want a fresh start. She is also a journalist and copywriter specialising in midlife career change. audreyonline.co.uk


You need to consider this possible change in the context of your overall life and see how it fits in with everything else, says leadership coach Rasheed Ogularu.

Rasheed Ogunlaru

Step back and ask yourself what is important in terms of your life, your relationships and other areas as well as your work life for this next chapter. Overall, it may be that your current job, which you say you enjoy, might fit in well with everything else in your life if you make some tweaks because it’s a job you can do comfortably — it could give you the room to experiment, relax and enjoy the rest of your life, creating life-work balance rather than work-life balance.

Think about which bits of your job you enjoy and which you don’t to guide you forward. You also say there is no challenge in your current job, so explore what kind of a challenge you need and at what level — and importantly, what impact it will have on your life and career?  Chat to people you like and trust too, who are in jobs or careers they enjoy, and feel have enough elements that positively challenge them. When you're sitting with a potential change and just going back and forth in your own mind, it can be powerful to talk to others who might give you interesting clues, insights and ideas you've not considered. Overall, this is actually a great opportunity to also ask yourself, ‘How do I want to work?’; ‘Where do I want to work?’; and ‘How many hours? Because, sometimes we just think about the next job, rather than how it fits in with the bigger picture of our career and our life. 

In the end, the question isn't really so much whether you stay in your job or leave it, it's about the processes around that that lead you to understand what it is that you need. Sometimes, that can actually be to effectively reinvigorate and expand your job role through job crafting rather than change it, and if you find that is the case it might be about bringing new things into the current role that might make it more challenging or interesting to you. Or it could be that moving on to something else is right. You have lots of choices here and it's not necessarily a bad thing to get to a point of feeling comfortable at work, so you can consider what you need, what else you can bring to the organisation or just being able to work and enjoy other things in your life too.

Rasheed Ogunlaru is a leadership coach, author of Soul Trader — Putting the Heart Back into Your Business and Life & Business Coach partner to the British Library Business & Intellectual Property Centre.  www.rasaru.com


Are you really sure a new job is going to change things? Does the change need to be made within yourself before you can even start to think about what the next step is? asks positive psychology coach Sharon Aneja.

Sharon Aneja

I don’t think your question is actually about changing jobs or requiring hacks to get more motivated; it’s about what's going on in your mindset. If you enjoy your job, why does it feel like coasting? And why would getting a new job feel like the answer? If you take your same behaviours and mindset into your next job, then what's going to change?

For me, the clues were where you said, ‘I've got a decent salary, great relationships, my job’s fine, but I'm not challenged, I'm coasting’. That's the recipe for what we call ‘languishing’, and it’s one of the dominant emotions to come out of pandemic — and although you say you’ve been trying to figure out what to do for two years, I do think the pandemic has probably made it worse with all its uncertainties.

Start to identify and label the emotions you’re actually feeling. In positive psychology, we have an optimal working model and in that state there are different versions of stress; eustress, or ‘positive stress’, and distress — and one version of that is not being challenged, which can inhibit us from enjoying things or making decisions. At the moment, your outcome is an inability to take action, despite thinking that you feel motivated, which would suggest an emotional block.

The antidote to apathy is getting yourself into a state of ‘flow’, another positive psychology term — and the things that get us into that flow state are those we find challenging enough to feel satisfying and engaging, but not so challenging that we're overwhelmed.

You could also try using a Mind Story Map tool too, which asks you to think about what you're thinking that's leading you to feel in this way. You say you are not feeling challenged or interested — but are you thinking something negative about yourself, perhaps that these are things you can't have?

I recommend looking at the work on languishing by Adam Grant, an organisational psychologist at Wharton, because I think you’ll identify with some of the symptoms described, and actually going back to the basics of what you enjoy in your life and making more time to do those, which is in fact one of the remedies to languishing. The change is always in ourselves, and we need to identify what’s holding us back.

Sharon Aneja is a Positive Psychology coach, wellbeing consultant and founder of Humanity Works Consultancy, which helps organisations put out the flames of burnout by creating healthier workplaces. www.humanityworksconsultancy.com


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