It happens to everyone sometimes. You find yourself professionally or personally somewhere you’d just rather not be.

You could be standing front and center stage in the middle of some sand-blown desert far, far away with only a camel to befriend you.

Maybe you are hidden, day after day, in a dark and dusty cave seriously lacking the basic elements of feng shui.

Perhaps you’re a civilian or contractor hopelessly bouncing up and down in a cubicle field of bureaucracy hoping beyond hope that you’re making a difference somewhere along the way.

Maybe you can’t even figure out where you are because the picture is just so horribly out of focus.

Clarity is lacking and clarity is what you seek, grasshopper.

Finding it, on the other hand, can be a bit of a challenge. The following steps can help:

¶ Acknowledge your plight.

Yep. No doubt about it. At the moment, it surely sucks to be you. That’s just the way it is and the sooner you accept it, the sooner you can just move on and do something about it.

¶ Quit feeling sorry for yourself.

Unless feeling sorry for yourself does something tangible to get you away from point A and toward point B, give it up. It’s not working and it only brings you down, man. It only brings you down.

¶ Figure out the next step.

So, here you are and here is not where you want to be. Just where do you want to be, anyhow? How much control do you have over the process of legally getting there? Answering “anywhere but here” won’t cut it. You must be a bit more specific.

Do you want to get your bad self promoted or do you just seek a change of venue? The path to get you to either end state could be significantly different. It’s crucial that you have an end state in mind to begin with or you will forever find yourself talking to a camel or debating the merits of mud as conversation piece.

¶ Craft an exit plan.

Develop an exit plan and write it down. It should include, at a minimum, where you are professionally now and where it is you wish to end up. It also should include the specific steps you are going to take to get you there. It should include a start date and an end date. If you’re feeling particularly administratively, you can even plug-in mid-point dates reflecting various benchmarks of your impending success.

Keep your plan real. If your goal is to have a job doing something that requires a master’s degree and you haven’t even started working on your bachelor’s yet, revise your end state until you reach the qualifications you need. Work with what you have now while continuously improving and increasing your marketable skills for the future along the way.

In reality, you may or may not meet the metrics of your exit plan but at least you’ll have a basic road map to lead you out of the career black-hole you’ve apparently dug yourself into in the first place. Note to your bad self … this is a plan that you’ll want to revisit, revise and redeploy throughout your entire career.

¶ Implement your plan.

Planning is easy. Doing is hard. Time to man up and turn your draft exit plan into a reality. You will find that things may go just as planned and in no time you are where you want to be. Good on you if that happens. Pop the champagne post haste!

If, however, that doesn’t happen quite that way for you, don’t give up. You will succeed. Sometimes it may be hard to understand and there may not be a glaring logic to explain it, but trust that you’re where you’re supposed to be at this very moment for a reason. You might not ever figure out what that reason is but accept that some things are just bigger than you in this universe. Time will move on and eventually so will you. Your camel understands this concept. Certainly you can try.

Janet Farley is the author of “The Military-to-Civilian Career Transition Guide” and “The Military Spouse’s Complete Guide to Career Success.” Her column appears monthly in Stars and Stripes. She can be contacted at:

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