Realistically, you can’t expect career growth on a daily basis. That’s not a real-world scenario. On the other hand, if your career progress has stalled for an extended period or, worse, entered a downward spiral, you do have cause for concern. A key question is: What can and should you do about the situation?
Say you’ve missed out on more than one promotion opportunity in the last year or so. How worried should you be? If you’re overloaded with work and senior management turns a deaf ear to your requests for an assistant, is that a sign that you’re spinning your wheels or being written off? Are you still basically at the same place you were a year ago, with no real potential for progress?
Maybe it’s time to get a sense of perspective about your situation. To begin with, is this something only you are facing or is it part of a larger issue within your company? If others at your level aren’t going anywhere in the foreseeable future either, maybe you should be looking at a different concern–in other words, whether the company itself has troubles you might want to examine carefully. For instance, is its management making decisions you suspect could threaten the company’s future or endanger the survival of your department?
If you do seem to be the only one facing this difficulty, the next step is to look at factors such as how you prepared for your “missed” promotion opportunities or made a case for getting additional help. It’s just possible you overlooked aspects where you could have done a better (more effective) job of presenting yourself.
A company that wants to achieve an ambitious growth goal through acquisition, for example, needs to conduct thorough due diligence to evaluate the opportunity, see if it makes good sense in the long term, and determine what’s needed to achieve the desired outcome. Should you do any less for your own career goal?
First, don’t waste too much time trying to figure out how you got in that alarming fix. Can you do career triage that will at least slow, if not stop, the downward trend? For instance, can you identify a project or activity where you could contribute clear value, even if it’s not something you’re officially responsible for at this time? Maybe that would present you in a more favorable light to the powers-that-be (your boss, his or her boss, etc.).
If you’re able to do something positive in that direction, it could buy you a little time to dig further into the challenges and possible opportunities you might be able to turn to your advantage. Use that time to build a more positive view of your value within your current group and beyond.
Above all, don’t wait for a rescuer to come along and lift you out of the pit! As the saying goes, “If it is to be, it’s up to me!”
Finally, focus mainly on positive actions in your efforts, but base your choices on a realistic estimate of the challenges facing you. Work out a “Plan B” to fall back on if your career progress restart campaign flops. Switch to that plan if it becomes clear that your efforts to retrieve your current situation aren’t going to bear fruit.
Keep in mind the ultimate goal: achieving ongoing, sustainable career progress that helps you get to the next level, whatever that means to you.