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Why Careers Stall and How You Can Advance Your Career

Why Careers Stall and How You Can Advance Your Career

As a former recruiter and now executive coach, I have seen the arcs of thousands of careers, and coached many people through assessing where they are in their career, what they want to do going forward, and what they need to do to get what they want.

Sometimes, just a few simple adjustments are needed to jumpstart a career, and sometimes, you need a whole new action plan.

Why careers stall.

There are multiple reasons why you can find yourself stuck in a job, or passed over for a promotion you thought you deserved. You can’t just “blindly work hard,” and assume that is enough.

Ask yourself these questions, and if you find yourself in any of these situations, try the action step suggested to get back on track.

Are you doing the wrong tasks?

I once worked with a client who was a beloved manager in his professional services firm, but who got passed up for a partner role. He needed to do more selling and more thought leadership. Yet, he was still very hands-on with his clients’ day-to-day needs.

What has worked to get you where you are today may not be the same skills to propel you to the next step up the ladder.

[Related: Three Exercises To Help You Decide Your Next Career Move]

Are you supporting the wrong people?

You want to be collegial and collaborative with everyone. This isn’t about being unsupportive or ignoring anyone. However, you need to know who makes the career advancement decisions (about plum assignments, promotions, and raises), and make sure these people know your value. Your boss is hopefully part of this decision process, but they may not have enough influence or credibility.

Confirm who does make these decisions, and focus your relationship-building on these decision-makers who can move your career.

Are you serving the wrong goals?

Market conditions change, and business strategy changes accordingly. You might have thrived when your department was in heavy growth mode and still might be proposing new ideas, repeating what had benefited you before. But maybe your group is streamlining or in cost-cutting mode, and your creative ideas are irrelevant, or worse, threatening.

If you haven’t recently confirmed what is on your boss’s priority list, then you might be focusing on the wrong objectives.

Has your salary outpaced your value?

If you have been at your employer for a while, your salary might have silently crept up above market value due to standard annual raises. Is your functional experience, institutional knowledge, and industry expertise worth your salary? Or are you just more expensive than someone with less experience?

Take an audit of the value you bring to the company, and make sure you’re not an easy target for the next restructuring.

[Related: Tried and True Tips for Brainstorming in Solitude]

Has your value outpaced your company?

On the flip side, you might be a superstar performer but trapped in a company that can never accommodate your level. I once managed an individual contributor who was so talented she could have done my job (and in fact, she now has a bigger management job elsewhere). But she would never have gotten my job for reasons unrelated to her performance: The group was small and didn’t need another person at my level. The company tried to manufacture a meatier role for her, but if she wanted that executive title (and she did want it and deserved it), she had to leave.

If you find yourself in this situation, it might be time start looking elsewhere.

Have you stopped growing?

Maybe you are not raising your hand for stretch assignments, or are not connected inside and outside your group to even hear about stretch assignments. Maybe you are not attending industry-related events or conferences. Or maybe you are not keeping yourself up-to-date on trends, technological advances, and thought leadership in your area.

Career advancement doesn’t just happen by clocking in time. You need to contribute value and increase your value over time by growing yourself and following emerging trends in your area.

Are you on autopilot?

If this is the first time you’re even thinking about whether you’re doing the right tasks, supporting the right people and goals, and contributing enough value, then your career is on autopilot. What you did before, even if it served you well, may not be relevant as market conditions change and companies respond accordingly.

You need to regularly look at your career and proactively manage your work habits, your focus, your network, your skills, and your expertise.

[Related: 5 More Limiting Beliefs That Hinder Success]


This post is an excerpt from a longform post at: Read the full post for an exploration of the reasons why people feel stalled or get stuck in their career, how to assess both what might be wrong and where you want to go, and specific recommendations for how you can advance your career to the next level.

Caroline Ceniza-Levine is a longtime Ellevate member, executive recruiter, and career coach. Her mission is helping experienced professionals in tech, media, financial services, and other industries find work they love, earn more doing it, and achieve FI (financial independence).

Have more questions? Follow up with the expert herself.


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