You know what’s really frustrating?
Being a highly sensitive person stuck in the wrong career.
You know what’s even more frustrating?
It’s trying 10,000 ways to get unstuck and feeling like you’re just getting more stuck.
Well, I probably don’t need to convince you. I’m guessing you are at least somewhat stuck in your career or you wouldn’t have clicked to read this article.
For what it’s worth, I want you to know that I get it, because I’ve been there myself and because I’ve seen this frustration in so many of my highly sensitive career coaching clients.
But here’s the thing. While most of my clients share the same pull-your-hair-out level of frustration, their reasons for being stuck are actually quite varied.
Different people get stuck at different stages of the career transition process. And not recognizing this fact can majorly add to the frustration, because you might be trying to solve the problem with the wrong tools for your stage.
So in this article, I’d like to help you recognize which stage you are stuck in and what tools are typically helpful for getting unstuck and progressing forward from that stage.
5 WAYS HSPs GET STUCK IN CAREER TRANSITION AND HOW TO GET UNSTUCK
1. When you don’t really know what you want from your career (or your life)
Here’s how it goes down for A LOT of highly sensitive people. We make early career decisions without full awareness of who we are or what we need. Often thrown into the mix is the well-meaning advice of family, friends, and/or career counselors who don’t really get us either. And so some years later, we find ourselves in career misery with a long list of things we know we don’t like about our careers.
But if you ask us what we would want instead?
Well, we may have some vague ideas, but they are clouded with lots of doubts and questions and uncertainty. We know we don’t want this, but we can’t really articulate what we want instead.
HOW TO GET UNSTUCK: If you are drawing a blank when questioned about your career wants, the cure is self discovery work to figure out what has been missing so far and what your career needs and wants are for the future. For a systematic way to complete this work, check out my HSP Career Discovery Online Course or HSP Career Discovery Email Coaching Package.
2. When you don’t know what careers match your needs and wants
Stage 2 of the career transition process consists of identifying careers that match as many of your needs and wants as possible. And there are actually two ways people get stuck at this stage.
The first way people get stuck is when they just don’t have access to tools that help you identify career matches. Sometimes HSPs are pretty clear on what they want and need from their career, but they just don’t know how to get it. They don’t know what careers might match their needs and wants or how to go about finding out.
But the second way of getting stuck here is much more common. Many HSPs have taken various career assessments that have just left them feeling more confused. This problem occurs when assessments are offered without the context of clarity around one’s needs and wants. The assessments are always going to give you a bunch of potential options, some of which might be a good match for you and some of which definitely won’t be. The assessments are really just a way of narrowing things down for you. Instead of you having to consider 2000 career options, the assessments narrow it down to 10 or 20 options that are closest to what you might be looking for based on your profile. But then you still have to do the work of figuring out which ones of those 10 or 20 options are the best match for your unique needs and wants.
HOW TO GET UNSTUCK: If you already know what you want and need from your career, but you don’t know what careers might be a good match, there are many different ways to generate options. You could read Best Jobs For The Highly Sensitive Person. You could do some brainstorming with another person. You could find free career assessments online by googling. Or if you are interested in paid assessments, you can sign up for an MBTI or Strong Interest Inventory Career Assessment Session with me.
If, on the other hand, you have already tried taking assessments and the long lists of career options have left you stumped, it may be that you are lacking clarity around what you are actually looking for or what’s most important to you. If this sounds like you, the answer is to circle back to Stage 1 and complete self discovery work in order to clarify what it is you really want and need from your career.
3. When you have one or more options you are considering but can’t make a decision
Often HSPs in career transition have one or more options they are feeling drawn to, but somehow they just can’t bring themselves to pull the trigger and make a decision. There are actually three potential reasons for getting stuck at this stage.
Sometimes people get stuck here, because they have jumped straight to this point without the clarity from Stages 1 and 2 above. Is this really what I want? Could there be something even better out there? These are the kinds of questions that plague HSPs who get stuck here.
Other people get stuck here because they are simply afraid of making the wrong choice. If I make the wrong choice again, I can’t cope. Maybe there’s something better out there, and if I just keep looking, I’ll find the perfect solution to my career dilemma?
The third group of people who get stuck here are those recovering from burnout. There are no perfect job options and every single career path comes with some challenges. People who have recently been through burnout and are not fully recovered yet may (understandably) not be feeling up to taking on those challenges. All the career options just seem too hard and come with too many downsides.
HOW TO GET UNSTUCK: If you are burned out and all career options seem like they involve too many challenges, the way out is through stress recovery. What do you need to feel strong again? Rest? Other forms of self care? New strategies for building resilience against life’s stresses? If you are feeling kind of stuck in that arena too, you might be interested in the HSP Self Care Guide.
For the other types of Stage 3 stuckness… If you haven’t really done the work of Stages 1 and 2, then the obvious solution is to circle back there. But if you’ve already done a bunch of self discovery and career research and have generated options that meet at least some of your needs and wants, then the only way to get unstuck is to accept that perfect solutions don’t exist and that every career move is going to involve a degree of risk. To move forward, list your top options – including the option of staying on your current career path and changing nothing. And then ask yourself one of the following questions or all of them:
- Which option has the best mix of pluses and minuses?
- Which option excites you the most?
- Which option has so many pluses that it makes dealing with the minuses worth it?
If you’d like support talking through your options and going through this process, click here to find out more about my 1:1 HSP Career Coaching Services.
4. When you know what you want but the idea of transitioning to a different career is too overwhelming
Sometimes HSPs make it all the way to figuring out exactly what they want to do, but then they get stalled because the idea of transitioning to a different career is too overwhelming. And I actually think feeling overwhelmed in the face of it all is normal and quite understandable.
All life changes – even positive ones – are stressful. Simply changing jobs within the same field can easily knock you off balance for a while. So if you are considering a switch to a completely different field or into self-employment and you are a sensitive person who is easily stressed even by smaller changes… yes, it can feel like an insurmountably big deal.
HOW TO GET UNSTUCK: There are a couple of things that can help here. One is finding out what it would actually take to transition. Many people don’t do this because it’s too scary. They tell themselves that it’s probably not doable anyway, so why even look into it.
Another thing that can help is breaking the vagueness of it all into concrete steps that are small enough to feel doable.
And finally, it can also help to change the way you think about time. Our culture promotes fast and easy solutions, but some things – like typical career transitions – just take time. If your career transition involves learning new skills or building a business, it’s going to take time and you are allowed to do it at a pace that is sustainable for a highly sensitive person.
Again, if you’d like support in wading through the overwhelm and coming up with a doable transition plan, find out more info about my 1:1 HSP Career Coaching Services by clicking here.
5. You know what you want and what you need to do to transition to a new career, but you are held back by self doubts, fears, and procrastination
Sometimes it all looks fine on paper, but your mind keeps playing tricks. Whenever you think about taking concrete action toward your new career, your mind is filled with thoughts and feelings that hold you back – doubts, fears, and overwhelm. So you keep putting it off. And putting it off. And putting it off…
HOW TO GET UNSTUCK: The only way to overcome doubts, fears, and overwhelm is to dig deep and work through it. You need to feel the feels and address the thoughts. What doesn’t help is waiting around doing nothing or trying to stuff your anxieties.
- What specifically are you afraid of?
- How would you cope if your worst fear came true?
- What is the risk of staying where you are and taking no action?
If you’d like to read more about mindset changes that make career transition easier for HSPs, check out The 5 Reasons Why HSPs Stay On The Wrong Career Path. Or for personal support, check out my 1:1 Career Coaching Packages.