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Take a Positive Approach to Overcome a Career Slump
© Paula Ancona - 26-Oct-04

Career plateaus have become more common as companies continue to eliminate middle management jobs. Making matters worse, there are millions of qualified baby boomers out there, all trying to grab and keep the same scarce advanced positions.

But don't let this get you down. Keep a positive attitude and learn the following ways to advance your career without getting a promotion:
  • Don't assume you're not a valued employee just because there are no promotions available for you. Objectively look at your skills and accomplishments. You may see that you still can be an effective member of your organization even in your current job.

  • Take initiative. Don't wait for your boss to tell you you're on a plateau. And don't assume that something will open up soon. If you've had the same job and responsibilities for the last several years, it's time to sit down and discuss your future with your supervisor.

  • Revise your expectations. Maybe some of your career goals don't make sense anymore in the current job market. Continue to adjust your goals as the market changes.

  • Don't assume that if you only work longer and harder, you'll get to move up. You may wind up focusing on action instead of results, and results are what will help you advance.

  • Note that in today's flattened organizations, status and titles may be less important than in the past. Are you measuring your worth against outdated standards? Do you have what leaders in your organization value in employees and prospective leaders?

  • Don't make a rash decision to leave your job. Analyze the job market. It may not be much better elsewhere. Also, know what's going on in your own company. Opportunities may open up if there are plans for expansion, reorganization or renewing a commitment to a particular business goal or division. If your organization seems poised to scale back, you'll be wise to start looking around early.

  • Expand your position by looking for new responsibilities. Grab middle management tasks no one else wants. Design new ways to improve the company, even if you weren't asked to do so.

  • Gain visibility from your new duties and projects by making sure higher-ups know you were responsible for strong results.

  • Keep track of your accomplishments by listing them weekly in a notebook or calendar. It will help you identify your strengths and weaknesses so you can improve the skills you use in your current job. The list also can help you fine-tune career goals and keep your resume current.

  • Look for ways outside your job to make professional contacts, gain experience and gain a sense of accomplishment. Join community boards, local trade groups, professional associations, volunteer organizations or your college alumni association.

  • Avoid tying too much of your happiness in life to your job. Make sure you have enough outside interests and relationships to provide you with fun, challenges and creative outlets.

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