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Getting Unstuck: A Guide to Discovering Your Next Career Path Paperback – December 21, 2009

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard Business Review Press (December 21, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1422132323
  • ISBN-13: 978-1422132326
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 5.5 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #388,843 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Butler, a psychotherapist and director of Career Development at Harvard Business School, says it's the ruts and dead ends in life that can provide motivation for the greatest change-provided you're willing to dig deep and confront unresolved issues from the past. Though it isn't an easy process, this self-help proves uncommonly fresh and thought-provoking. Butler's approach is built around a practical six-step process that he's used with thousands of corporate executives and students, who provide anecdotes and experiences. The book is divided into three sections: in the first, readers learn how to identify a psychological impasse and open themselves to the possibilities it hides; part two focuses on unearthing passions and interests that have been forgotten or buried; and part three is about "Moving from Impasse to Action," achieving the ultimate goal of change through a heightened awareness of "the energies and possibilities that are emerging, regardless of their threat to habit, comfort and stereotyped expectations." In the end, the real challenge may be in winnowing a single path from the wealth of options Butler uncovers.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


...what Butler offers are really some very practical approaches to breaking the career impasse. --Washington Post, April 1, 2007

Getting Unstuck draw[s] you through the currents and undercurrents of impasse, offering hope, inspiration and a few memorable tools as a bonus. --Globe & Mail, July 13, 2007

…a culture that values relentless work and connectivity squeezes out the time we need for soul-searching… --The Boston Globe, September 23, 2007 --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

The book is very well written.
Much of the books accessibility comes from the numerous examples of how clients resolved dynamic tensions and moved towards new, more fulfilling careers.
Michele Rapp
I would recommend it to anyone who's looking for a new way to think about career change.
Dr. Cathy Goodwin

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

70 of 72 people found the following review helpful By Thomas Duff HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on April 3, 2007
Format: Hardcover
There comes a time (or many times, actually) in everyone's life when things appear to be at a dead end. You know you don't want to be where you're at, but you're in a quandary about how to move on. That's the subject of the book Getting Unstuck: How Dead Ends Become New Paths by Timothy Butler. If you're willing to work his process and exercises, you may well find that "new path" to take you to the next level.


Part 1 - Impasse: Facing Crisis; Feeling Stuck and Doubting Ourselves; Opening Up and Letting Go; Shifting to a New Understanding

Part 2 - Vision: Our Deepest Interests (The First Pattern in the Carpet); Learning to Let Our Passions Guide Us; Power, People, and Achievement (Three Interwoven Patterns); Mapping Our Insights (Patterns in the Sand)

Part 3 - Getting Unstuck: Moving from Impasse to Action; Living at the Border

Appendixes: Continuing the Journey (An Annotated Bibliography); A Note on Impasse and Depression; Scoring the One Hundred Jobs Exercise

Notes; Index; About the Author

Butler is a researcher and business psychologist who works with people who have hit a "dead end" in their life. Many of the stories in the book involve students who have gone to business school, have a number of options in front of them, but nothing seems quite right. His approach to getting unstuck is to allow the inner thoughts and passions to direct us towards what we probably already know the answer to be, but we just haven't tuned into it. Many of these exercises are covered in sidebar entries called "deep dives". These sidebars go into detail about how an exercise works and how to do it.
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47 of 48 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Cathy Goodwin TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on February 29, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Butler's book has one of the best cover images I've see i awhile. A fish leaps into the air, leaving behind other fish swimming peacefully in their glass bowl. At first he seems bent on self-destruction, till we realize another bowl is waiting to receive him. It's mostly hidden at the edge of the page and it's emptier.

The image is appropriate bcause Butler's book ultimately is about finding vision and image. He keeps referring to the Hundred Careers exercise: choose your top 12 from a list of 100. Then (and this is the important part) uncover common themes.

Usually I get nervous when career counselors urge clients to work with specific choices, because most people carry inaccurate stereotypes of careers with them. Accountants can be extraverted and sales people can be shy. But I sense that Butler works with each person's unique perceptions of the careers, although he doesn't say so directly.

Another reviewer suggests that a reader might need a guide to work through the process. I'm more concerned about translating insight into action. If you're an artist trapped in a banking career, how do you carry out the exploration you need? How do you find your new life? OK, a creative decides to become a freelance artist, but things get a little more complicated in real life. Every freelancer I know (including me) has to deal with creating systems to get the work done, marketing, staying motivated, and dealing with dumb things like more ink for the printer and why hasn't the bank transferred over your account forms.

Of course, vision can be compelling. A strong vision can motivate career changers to find solutions, sometimes almost effortlessly.
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89 of 98 people found the following review helpful By Robert Morris HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on March 10, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Well before reading the final chapter of this book, I concluded that Timothy Butler is both a relentless empiricist (i.e. being keenly observant of human experience, especially his own) and a relentless pragmatist (i.e. leveraging this experience to apply lessons learned in terms of what works...and what doesn't). In the Introduction he focuses on the six phases of what he characterizes as "The Cycle of Impasse." They are (1) the arrival of the [given] crisis and impasse, (2) its deepening and the attendant re-emergence of unresolved issues, (3) the dropping of old assumptions and the opening up to new information, (4) the shift to a new way of understanding our situation, (5) the greater recognition of deep patterns of our personality, and eventuaolly (6) the decision to take concrete action." Once having carefully presented the "what," Butler then focuses almost all of his attention on the "how" of "getting unstuck."

It is important to keep in mind that as Butler duly acknowledges, crises vary (sometimes significantly) in terms of their relative importance; also, impasses also vary in terms of their nature and extent; moreover, "getting unstuck" from one crisis does not mean that it will never recur; in addition, most people find themselves struggling to cope with more than one crisis at a time; finally, and obviously, its is highly advisable to prevent a crisis, if at all possible, and thus eliminate the need to get "unstuck" from one.

The subtitle suggests another interesting aspect of this book's appeal: "How Dead Ends Become New Paths." I am among those who believe that every problem and, especially, every failure offers an invaluable learning opportunity. Long ago, Jack Dempsey suggested that "champions get up when they can't.
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