Common “Career Potholes” and how to navigate through and around them

In a post last week I talked about the concept of Career Bridges and how you can use them to connect parts of your career.  During this post I talked about career potholes and I will spend more time today discussing just what career potholes are, when they might occur and how you can navigate through and around them.

My own career has had a number of career potholes.  Let me point out just a few:

  • After two years in my first role the company I was working for had a reduction in force and I was chosen to be part of the first ones to leave.  I was the last in, so it made sense, but still presented challenges that I will discuss
  • In my next role I ended up in a role that had no visible future. 
  • After six years in one of the best jobs I ever had I saw that the leadership was going to change at the top and knew that I needed to make a change
  • At the end of almost six years in the next role I came to the conclusion, after talking with my wife many times, that it was time to take a risk and give up my job

Each of these situations presented a “pothole”, a challenge that could or did present a bump in the road.  One some of them the bump was painful and somewhat challenging.  In others I was able to navigate around the pothole and found a new path that was even better than the path I had been on.

What are some of the more common career potholes you might face?  Let’s look at some of the obvious ones?

  • You are working for a firm that is going nowhere fast and the chances of you losing your job seem to be growing weekly
  • You are working for a firm that has a more stable path, but your future is blocked by others who appear to be locked in to their roles
  • The organization you work for is getting ready to go through a leadership change, or your department/business unit is going through a similar change
  • You reach a crossroads where you realize that what you are doing is not fulfilling or that you have a passion to do something much different

Each of these situations can cause a bump, even a detour, in your career.  Some of them are obvious prior to you reaching them, but some are somewhat difficult to see or perceive and they are upon you before you ever know it.

How can you prepare?  There are many ways to prepare for these career potholes?  Some of the preparation will allow you to avoid the bump, but even the best preparation cannot keep you from hitting some career potholes in your lifetime.

Here are a few suggestions that can help with your career journey:

  • Never stop networking-career potholes are intensified by lack of outside resources or contacts-keeping your network active and growing helps
  • Always work on skill building or education-you never know everything you need to know and most of the learning and development you have in your career will be self initiated
  • Look ahead at opportunities and reflect on what you have learned from the journey-You need to know what the future holds, but you also need to learn what the past has taught you.

Career potholes-they can cause a blowout and lead to a fatal wreck in your career.  With proper preparation and anticipation the damage will be much worse and you can navigate around many of them.

What career potholes have you encountered?

How have they affected your career?