I do acknowledge that people are made differently and all have different goals for their careers. Career goals are usually determined by a person’s passion, ambition, capabilities, skills, interest level, family commitments and their individual value system. People do differ in these elements and hence their career goals differ, although I strongly feel having values and ethics are not negotiable but that’s a topic for another post. All said and done I do think it’s important to have goals and it’s always a good idea to periodically revisit your career goals and benchmark it against where you stand currently. More often than not most people reach a stage in their career where they think they have hit a wall when the gap between their goals and where they are currently at stays the same for a longtime. We have two options when we reach that stage, one is to resign to the fact that this is the limit to where my career can take me or the other is to question and introspect why we think we are hitting the wall. I would never suggest the first option to anyone because I do believe people are always capable of more. In my efforts to do this exercise for myself multiple times in my career I have categorized these road blocks into these main buckets.
1. Your goals are right but your approach has some flaws.
So this is where you stick to your current organization and make course corrections. We will talk about this in more detail.
2. Your goals don’t complement your capabilities or you could be in the wrong organization or in the wrong industry altogether.
Always be in a place where your talent meets opportunity or vice-versa. It could be time to go back to the drawing board and re-work on those goals of yours. This is where you choose another industry or organization of your liking, something that has more potential to give you what you want. You could also decide to quit your job and become an entrepreneur, which could be something that you may have always wanted. My advice here is to follow your heart.
3. You have hit a glass ceiling
Your progress within the hierarchy of an organization has been stopped because of some form of discrimination, either sexist or racist in nature or because of some physical or mental disability. My only advice here is to persevere on and take inspiration of the numerous examples within history of people who have circumvented this and gone off to claim their rightful destiny. The choice of sticking out or moving to place that is more diversity friendly is purely yours.
So now let’s talk about point 1 where you need course correction within the same organization.
So here are the questions we need to ask ourselves.
a) Do you have an executive sponsor or mentor in your org?
Do you have someone in your organization that is at the executive level or even management level which could be your immediate boss that is taking personal interest in your growth and development? Is there someone who is willing to mentor and disciple you? If your answer is no then I strongly suggest you find one. It does happen sometimes that mentors may choose the people they want to mentor but most often than not it’s people who chase and seek mentors. Usually things like a positive attitude, passion and a willingness to learn attracts potential mentors. Do you project these qualities in your behavior and conversations? Are you willing to humble yourself and take direction from some else who knows better? All these play a decisive role in finding the right mentor or a mentor finding you. In the history of successful corporate careers there isn’t one example of someone who has climbed to corporate ladder without having an executive sponsor or mentor.
b) Have you stopped upgrading your skills?
It’s very easy to get into the rut of a routine where taking time off to learn new things, develop new skills and keeping abreast of new trends is difficult. Keep taking development courses within your organization and even third party industry events from time to time. Ask your manager to sponsor you for upcoming trainings, career rotation programs or projects beyond your current scope of work.
c) Do you work as if you are already promoted?
I confess it took me a long time to digest this one. But if you want to be promoted then you need to work at the capacity and maturity of one level higher than at what you already are. Of course you don’t get the authority but work as though you have the responsibility. Ask your manager to define skills that are needed at the next level and plan to work at that skill level. It’s hard not to promote someone who has already demonstrated their capability of working at a higher level without actually having it. Be strategic even if your job doesn’t demand that out of you. Something to ponder about ya?
d) Do you network and maintain connections?
The best jobs or opportunities are never advertised they are offered selectively to people. Your best way to stay connected to organization is to network with people and collaborate on every opportunity. Sure there are jobs that can be done at individual level but organization needs people who can work and connect with people.
e) Your boss just doesn’t inspire you.
You can read about this is my previous post on this topic ‘People Don’t Leave Organizations… They Leave Managers’
Career and job decisions are tough especially if they are mid way. Sometimes family matters or other personal commitments do come in the way of aggressive career moves but it’s important to know your options and why you are taking them. It’s also very important to be in touch with our personal capabilities. Making wrong career decisions is very possible when you are not thinking clearly and don’t have all the right reasons to make them.