What to Do If You Feel Stuck in Your Career

September 1, 2016, 3:43 PM UTC
Peter Cade — Getty Images

The Fortune 500 Insiders Network is an online community where top executives from the Fortune 500 share ideas and offer leadership advice with Fortune’s global audience. Beth Brady, senior vice president and chief marketing officer of Principal, has answered the question: “How do you move ahead when you feel stuck in your career?”

You know the story: You go to college, get a degree, and take a job that makes you happy and pays the bills. Then, after years of success, you feel you’re ready for the next move. If you feel stuck at this point, going forward in your career often means switching industries.

That’s what I did. My path to becoming a chief marketing officer was not a straight line. I began in the consumer goods industry, which I loved, but eventually realized I wasn’t developing the digital and data analytics skills needed to realize my dream of becoming a chief marketing officer. With that in mind, I moved into the financial services sector.

Here’s how you can move ahead in your career if you feel stuck:

Take stock of your assets

Do you have the strengths and skills necessary to be competitive in your industry? If not, create a plan to get to the next level. There are plenty of resources available to help you, such as mentoring groups and industry associations for networking. Career-advice books, such as What Color Is Your Parachute?, can help you figure out your strengths, so you can focus on using them.

I was told early in my career to spend 90% of my time doing what I’m good at and only 10% on what I’m not. You’ll move forward faster when you’re using and developing your strengths. And you can add to them by learning new skills along the way.

Try something completely different

You can round out your skill set by taking a job that exposes you to something you haven’t done before. For example, I am now in a company that is steeped in big data and analytics, allowing me to strengthen and expand my research chops. Working as a general manager early in my career, I didn’t have an opportunity to immerse myself in learning technical skills.

You’ll be amazed by how well your skills transfer. Your new employer will find value in your fresh perspective, because you bring new knowledge, processes, and skills to the table. My consumer-focused perspective was invaluable when transitioning from a consumer packaged goods company to a financial services company, since most of those organizations do not put as much emphasis on the end user.

Do community service

Volunteering is an excellent way to learn new skills and demonstrate your expertise. Nonprofit organizations are more willing to allow you to do something in which you may not be an expert. My first volunteer work was creating a big event with the Special Olympics. The leadership experience I gained in that role helped me when I later led sponsorship activities for General Mills.

Most importantly, to move ahead you need to have a strong passion for your role. Make sure you do things that will allow you to work on projects related to your passion. I love creating advertising, events, and content to help consumers make the right financial decisions. In our cluttered world, consumers will pass right over you if you’re not interesting and clear. My passion for my work motivates me to make an impact.

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