Your Mindset May Have Put Your Career on Standstill

Is a ‘fixed’ career mindset holding you back?

At a crossroads in my own career, one of the things that kept me at a standstill was that concept of myself as a responsible adult who had a stable job employed by a respectable company. Work was closely tied to my self-concept. My work was what I do. And my work was WHO I was.

I also had a belief that quitting was not an option. And that I must not stray from the career path I had chosen to journey on.

When I was 30, I took a leap from the corporate world into uncertain territory. It was a field where there wasn’t so much stability financially, but the potential for me to do what I know and learn more was endless. I risked not earning as much, for the possibility of earning much more and having more control of my time and pursue other priorities. It was scary and exciting. Most of all, it was worth it.

Career Mindset
For people who are unhappy in their career, one thing that makes it hard to take charge and make a change is the mindset that they should — no, they MUST — persist, work hard and commit to a career decision that they made in the past, even if it no longer serves them. They believe there’s no other option apart from this. They believe it would be foolish to change their mind about what they want to pursue.

It’s one thing to be resilient and to work hard at a job, but if it costs you your joy, then perhaps it is time to reconsider. Having a fixed career mindset — one where you can’t change your mind and must stick to a single career path, even if you aren’t thriving — is one of the biggest challenges to pursuing meaningful work.

Instead, consider looking at career as something fluid. We live in such an ever-changing, complex, uncertain world. Positive change in one’s career is just inevitable. The career decisions made in the past can and will change to stay relevant. Letting go of a job, role or career decision is not an indication of failure. Rather, it is adapting, growing, and learning. It reflects our becoming more in tune with what brings us meaning, rather than failing to work hard.

Fixed Career Mindset Pitfall
What’s the pitfall of a fixed career mindset? It’s that it only works for people who have already figured out what they want from the beginning. Truth is, not a lot of people know at the onset. When we make career decisions when we are young, how many of us have it really figured out? When we eagerly take on our first jobs, how many of us really understand what we’re signing up for? Some who’ve worked a long time don’t have it all figured out yet.

If you aren’t one of those with a defined track for your career, you may end up working so hard to the point of burnout, feel unfulfilled and wonder what’s wrong with you. Having a fixed career may work for others. But just because it does for them, doesn’t mean it must work for you.

Some clients of mine feel so discouraged for not being ‘successful’ in their career. Or feel like they must find joy in what they’ve been doing for a long time, just because they’ve already invested so much into that path. Or feel frustrated that they take on different types of work and aren’t set into just a single career path, doubting their career decisions. They end up dissatisfied and stuck.

Upon challenging their definition of ‘success’, we often discover that it is usually based on someone else’s definition. It’s their belief about the shoulds and musts of a career that brings so much anxiety.

Genuine Career Discernment
A fluid career mindset is not an excuse to be lazy in a job or job hopping every couple of months. I’m not talking about frequent shifts made by those who feel entitled, or drop the job at the first sign of difficulty. No. I’m referring to the mindset of those who are discerning, are intentional about their life direction and pursuing greater things for themselves — which may involve pivoting or re-defining careers. A fluid career mindset requires mindfulness and being intentional.

Fluid Career Mindset and Fulfillment
As a child my mindset was that you figure out what you want to be when you grow up as early as you can, you study for it, you work at an office and you have a ‘successful’ career. I think those who grew up around adults who invested their working lives is one career track (sometimes in a single company) like I did, will likely carry this mindset.

Breaking free from the belief that the only successful career path is fixed, straight, and traditional has helped me find more joy, not just in career but in life as a whole.

Now, because of other life changes — marriage and parenthood, to be specific — I’ve come to another crossroads. Choosing a different path or expanding the road doesn’t mean failure, but becoming more and more attuned to what it’s important, what drives me and gives brings meaning.

It would help to be a little more fluid and little less fixed in career mindset. It can be the path to finding more freedom and fulfillment.

Let’s explore your career standstill further, shall we? I offer free 30-minute online Career Coffee Breaks where we can unpack what’s keeping you stuck and help you find a step forward. Contact me at

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