In the fast-moving world of marketing, it's easy to feel stuck. Here's what you can do to get your career moving forward.

Speed holds serious weight in marketing. MarketingProfs' Ann Handley, who champions the art of slow marketing to get faster results, describes the industry vividly: "fast-paced, always-on, agile, want-it-yesterday, mile-a-minute."

So, when your career isn't moving according to the pace of how you work, it can get pretty frustrating.

If you're hustling in the fast lane yet feel stuck in a (career) traffic jam, you're not alone. Marketing Week's 2016 career and salary survey reveals this:

  • Marketers are ambitious.
  • They're up for challenging work.
  • And they are often overworked and underpaid.

The study also finds that 68% of marketers consider career progression as "very important," but 42% see insufficient opportunities for advancing their career.

So, overall, it's not great, but not too bad either. Just holding it steady. But you're feeling antsy because you know that you're not maximizing your full potential. And you do know that that steady does not necessarily mean safe, right? Naturally, you want to do something about it.

In this situation, the most common advice you'll probably get is "Go for it!" Because, you know, if you're stuck, then the next option is to move, push, drive forward, get up and go.

But here's where I share my seemingly counter-intuitive, even crazy, but real-life-proven tip: Don't go rushing ahead. And don't stay just where you are, either. If you're feeling stuck, the best move is to take a step back.

A Shift in Perspective

How did you get to where you are now? It's a vital question to answer, and a difficult one especially if you're always just running after what you need to do every day.

Taking a step back is your chance to assess and find answers to that question. Stepping back is your opportunity to remind yourself about and examine closely the things that really matter most to you.

I have worked with people from various walks of life—different professions, backgrounds, ages, genders, nationality—all with their own unique personal and career puzzles to solve. And what I've found is that the following steps are universally effective in the crucial work of stepping back.

1. Conduct an audit

Just as you would do before developing a marketing plan and launching a campaign, it's important to take stock of the givens.

List down the following:

  • Your talents: what you are good at, and what skills you often get praised for and the accomplishments that prove your proficiency
  • Your passions: what are the things and activities that you choose to do and you feel strongly about
  • Your ideal lifestyle: what you absolutely can't live without, what are nice-to-haves, and what are the things that you will never allow in your life
  • Your ideal employment environment: what you need and want in a career

While making the list, refrain from editing yourself. List down items even if you think they have nothing to do with work. The aim is to look at your career path in a holistic way—from perspectives that consider various aspects of your life.

2. Define your dreams

You need to be very specific about what you want: You need to have a clear picture and description of it in order to have a solid plan to make it happen.

To envision your desired outcome, do this:

  • Close your eyes.
  • Go deep into your imagination and picture what you would like to achieve: It can be the perfect career scenario, the attainment of a goal, or the events of what a perfect day is for you.
  • Don't think about the realistic or potential limitations yet. The aim is to have a concrete understanding and a strong visual of the life you would like to have and the person you want to become.
  • As you practice visualization more, you might find that the picture can change and become more refined to suit your increasing awareness of your personal and professional strengths, capabilities, and objectives.
  • Take time to regularly access the "mini-movie" you have in your mind. Visualize it regularly to remind yourself of what's important and to inspire you to continue to work toward them.

3. Look into the impossible

Many people have discovered that not thinking about the million reasons their vision won't work is the most difficult step in the visualization exercise. Your perceived roadblocks may even appear in the vision...

  • The solution to that one is to define the things that make your vision impossible.
  • List down all the obstacles you can think about that can block you from pursuing your goal.
  • Create two columns: Real and Fear. Think about each item/obstacle, and transfer it under the heading where it really belongs.
  • Items under "Fear" are generally self-limiting beliefs—mostly under the excuse that you're not smart enough, young enough, or rich enough. Don't dismiss them! Rather, take the time to understand why you are held back by these beliefs, so you can discover how you can gradually let go of them.
  • Prepare to work on overcoming the items under "Real." Study possible solutions, listen to advice from others, and look into the tools you may need to invest in to help you address these real roadblocks.

Where You Stand

Your task of creating more self-awareness, asking the right questions, and opening yourself to possibilities is essential but incredibly difficult work. But there are proven, scientific ways that can help you do it. Many people access the resources and perspective they need through coaching programs, for instance.

When you're stuck, take a step back. In a world that pushes you to constantly move forward along with everyone else, stepping back can put you in the most powerful position of all.

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image of Salma El-Shurafa

Salma El-Shurafa is the founder and an executive coach at The Pathway Project (TPP), which provides tailored executive leadership and career development coaching to professionals in the global UAE market.

LinkedIn: Salma El-Shurafa