9 surprising mistakes keeping you stuck in the wrong career

Dec 7, 2023

Today, I’m talking about the biggest mistakes I see high-performers make — which keep them stuck in their careers and stop them reaching their professional goals. Are YOU making one of these common career fails?

Here’s a situation which has happened with EVERY new client I’ve ever worked with…

They contact me because they’re feeling stuck in their career and want help to figure out what to do next. In our introductory consult I’ll ask them what they’ve already tried to address this challenge. Nine times out of ten, I’ll hear:

‘I’ve applied for a new job BUT I’m not sure if it’s what I want.’ Or: ‘I went through an entire interview process and got offered the job — then realised it’s not the right fit.’

Can you relate?

You think your current role is the problem and finding a new job will ‘fix’ it. Only to find the same issues follow you to your next position. So, why does this happen?

Because immediately searching for a new role is an external, ‘band aid’ solution. You haven’t got to the root cause of the issue or looked internally within yourself to figure out what you really want.

Some people fail to tackle the true problem for years. In my previous career as a recruiter, it was common to see people job-hopping from one role to the next. A big reason why I do what I do now is the frustration I felt at not being able to help individuals address the real problem.

Finding a new job to ‘fix’ things is the first mistake keeping you stuck in the ‘wrong’ career.

Read on to discover 9 surprising mistakes holding you back — and HOW to avoid them.


The first career mistake is the ‘new job fix’. A variation of the situation I shared above is taking the first opportunity which comes along. I’ve had a few clients come to our initial coaching session saying: “Someone has approached me about an opportunity and I need to make a decision, NOW.”

Straight away, I’ll bring them back to their reasons for investing in working together. This is when they realise, they’re being reactive. Worse, they’re putting pressure on themselves to respond to a role they never sought out!

But when you figure out WHY you’re unhappy in your current career and WHAT you truly want before attempting to change it, you will start solving the right problem!


The second mistake I see people make is trying to figure out their ideal career first. You’re spending weeks, months — even YEARS thinking about potential ideas.

You’ve brainstormed a long list of job titles, new careers or career paths. Weighed up the pros and cons of each option — and you’re still stuck!

This process sounds logical but you’re approaching it the wrong way round. By trying to identify the ‘ultimate’ job title/career upfront — then match yourself and what you want to it. Yet if you don’t know what you need to feel fulfilled at work, it’s impossible to find the ‘right’ role.

Instead, when you understand what YOU want, first: work which aligns with your purpose, priorities, strengths, desired income and lifestyle goals — you will find a role or career path which ‘works’ for you.


This mistake is a form of avoidance — or distraction disguised as productivity. You fill your time with further study to feel productive whilst figuring out what you want. But you’re avoiding the real issue and are trying to find answers outside yourself.

I often see this amongst my high-achiever clients who complete an MBA or other form of study, believing it will ‘solve the problem’ of feeling stuck or dissatisfied in their career. Instead, they end up spending a lot of time and money on something they don’t need.

Of course it’s fine to pursue further study if your decision is strategic and aligned with what you want. Ongoing development is important and often necessary to reach your professional goals. The issue is when you have no idea what you want and do it to feel productive, validated or better about yourself.

The bottom line is this. When you remove distractions, you create more time to figure out WHAT you truly want and HOW to get it!


I’ve seen it time and time again. Waiting until you’re so miserable or burnt out in your career you’ve got no choice but to make a drastic change. Like quitting without a plan or taking a career break to figure out what to do next.

This is one I’m guilty of too.

At this point a clean break may feel like the only option. And if it’s impacting your physical, mental or emotional health, it could be the best decision. But the problem with quitting or taking a career break is you end up losing time and money.

The period of time you’re not earning an income can create financial pressure. Then add an extra layer of adrenal fatigue or mental health challenges into the mix? It slows down your ability to work on the real problem: identifying WHAT you truly want and HOW to create it.

However, when you create a plan — whether it’s saving a financial buffer, finding a bridge job or other exit strategy — and take action early on, you will minimise risk with your next move.


A client was struggling to make a big professional decision. “I’m so confused” she said. “This person is telling me I should do this, someone else the complete opposite.”

When I asked her: “What do YOU want to do?”, the answer became crystal clear. But it had become lost in the noise of other people’s voices. Which confused her even more!

The reason you outsource career decisions is because you lack self-trust. You seek external validation from others instead of listening to yourself.

And the challenge with this is, everyone has their own opinion and bias — which often conflicts with another. This leaves you confused and stuck in the wrong career. Or it muddles your ability to hear your own voice, so you make a decision which isn’t right for you.

When you go internal instead of external and trust yourself, you will make decisions with clarity and confidence.


Another mistake is scrolling job sites or LinkedIn, hoping your ideal role will jump out at you. Or going down the Google rabbit hole and expecting your dream career to reveal itself to you (hint, it won’t!).

How do these time-sucking practices keep you caught in the wrong career? You’re searching for answers outside yourself, not addressing the actual issue.

When you ask yourself the difficult questions and take proactive action, you will get unstuck and figure out what you want next in your career.


A couple of years ago a friend shared this reflection: “Something you once said has stuck with me: You can find your passions outside your work. They don’t have to be your job!”.

It’s critical to do fulfilling work and find a career which lights you up. But the advice which is often thrown round to ‘follow your passions’ can be dangerous. Here’s why.

It puts pressure on people to turn their passions into work. Which can be challenging if you don’t know what your passions are — or have no desire to make money out of them! It can also lead you to make the wrong decisions or discount potential opportunities.

When you focus on your zone of genius: your unique strengths and what’s important to you at work, you will do the work you’re passionate about!


Following what you think you ‘should’ do, not what you want is one of the biggest reasons you’re stuck in your career. Widespread amongst high-achievers, this behaviour stems from your conditioning and beliefs adopted in childhood. A common one is being ‘practical’ or playing it safe in a traditional, well-paid career — even if it makes you miserable.

Believing you ‘have to’ work hard to make money or be successful. Thinking you’re stuck in a career path or role you committed to and can’t make a shift. Or chasing money and external success to validate yourself.

When you let go of what you think you ‘should’ do, you can start to choose what you really want.


Do you use numbing behaviours to cope with how much you hate your job? Excessive time on social media, binge-watching Netflix or online shopping. Extreme exercise, drinking too much or overeating.

These actions keep you ‘safe’ and stop you feeling the discomfort. Instead of taking steps to address the real issue.

What about using self-care to manage the stress of your job? Spending a lot of time or money on activities to relax and de-stress. Using medication and other therapies to manage job-related anxiety, stress or exhaustion.

Numbing and self-care treat the symptoms, not the root cause. They’re focused on avoidance and coping with the problem. But when you focus on solving the right problem, you will address the REAL underlying issue.

These unexpected career errors can stop you in your tracks. But as I always say, awareness is the first step to creating a change. Becoming aware of these mistakes has helped my clients and I avoid staying stuck in the ‘wrong’ career — I hope these insights support you too!

Before you get on with your day, ask yourself: Which mistake resonated the most? And what’s one small step you can take to address it? Write it down and commit to doing it in the next 7 days!

If you’d like some extra accountability, jump on over to LinkedIn or Instagram, send me a DM and let me know your action step — or biggest takeaway from this article.

If you’ve recognised yourself in anything I’ve shared here today and you’d like some support to get unstuck and create the career you want with clarity and confidence, let’s chat!

I invite you to book a free, no obligation 30 minute call with me — and let’s discuss if working together is right for you. Get started HERE.

Stacey Back is a globally recognised and certified career coach, speaker and facilitator. She helps high-achievers at a career crossroads find the work that lights them up, increase their income, impact and create a career + life on their terms. Stacey works virtually with individuals and organisations based across the globe.