7 Tips to Turnaround Career Stagnation

It’s never too late to recharge your career. Just take a cue from entrepreneurs.

According to a recent survey out of the University of Phoenix, 64% of working adults say they currently have limited opportunities within their current companies. That being said, age notwithstanding, 53% admit they should be more entrepreneurial in their careers—a strategy which is wholeheartedly endorsed by experts.

Intrapreneurship, a term coined in the late 1970s, references a corporate work style that integrates the risk-taking and innovative approaches associated with being an entrepreneur. Many career experts say taking an intrapreneurship approach to your career can help redefine and help get noticed in your current company.

“There are opportunities if you have the right spirit and do your research,” says Michael Bevis, director of academic affairs for University of Phoenix  (http://www.phoenix.edu/colleges_divisions/business.html).

People need to be more creative to envision what could be, says Bevis. But sometimes, particularly in a tough economic climate, workers tend to be gun-shy and avoid taking risks in the office. In reality, though, experts say a challenging economy, tight budgets and a shrinking corporate workforce offer a proving ground for people to flourish.

In fact, employers are looking for individuals who can add value when times get tough, according to Bevis. From an employee perspective, it’s less about money and status and more about the contribution you’re making. “When your work has real value, you can say, ‘I helped create that.’”

Set Goals and Build Your Brand

The first step to reigniting your career is to set goals. Having goals complements the all-important personal branding. It defines: who you are, what you do and whom you want to do it for.

Beyond that, you have to be willing to stand up and share your ideas.

Let’s Grow Leaders (http://letsgrowleaders.com/) CEO Karin Hurt, author of Overcoming an Impossible Boss,  says some of her  best team members were constantly coming up with ideas—some of them “wild and crazy. Still, even half-baked ideas created the spark that got others interested,” she says.

She adds that’s important to challenge the office’s status quo—within reason. “Kicking the tires starts with an employee raising her hand,” Hurt explains. “While you must learn how to work within the rubric of the system, you can’t let it stifle you.  There’s no room to say, ‘it’s not my job…or nobody asked me.’”

While there’s no guarantee that your innovation will automatically be accepted, milewalk’s (http://www.milewalk.com/)  Andrew LaCivita, author of Out of Reach but in Sight, reminds that goal-setting is a process. “Even though it may not be immediately apparent, every time you act on a goal you pick up a new skill.”

Learning how to swiftly move on from disappointment—and even failure—is at the heart of innovation, says Bevis. Don’t be dejected. “It’s great you got your foot in the door. Next time you’ll be more confident.”

Here are some tips to help you recharge your career:

Build your reputation. Be known as a giver who’s willing to drop everything to help someone, advises Hurt. Though you reap what you sow, this is all about helping the company perform better, not making you shine as a superstar.

Zero in.  Stay focused when creating your goals to avoid making a too-broad objective, advises Bevis.  Understand trends, know your target market and be fully aware of potential challenges.

Ask questions.  LaCivita says people who know how to ask questions respectfully have a better appreciation of how to improve x, y or z.

Get a sponsor. Approach your boss or other company leader who knows your work, suggests Bevis. Say something like, “‘I heard a rumor the organization is taking up a new customer engagement project, and I’m really interested.’”  Finding someone who already knows your work ethic and efficiency will help make your case. “She’ll know you’ll live up to what they’re asking.”

Keep it short. When pitching your ideas to the higher-ups, respect their time constraints, cautions Bevis. Develop a 15-slide PowerPoint presentation in lieu of a cumbersome business plan.

Be a good listener. If your ideas get shot down, take the time to understand why you didn’t get the green light, experts recommend. Once you understand the reasons for rejection, refine the idea and support it with more data. Then ask to revisit it.

Solicit buy-in. Preceding your pitch to a senior leader, talk to people who might be against your idea, says Hurt. “For me, this usually means the finance [person] whom I want to accept my viewpoint.” Then reference this when presenting your pitch—even quote him or her. “This helps to build a business case.”