Mohit trudged back home, and flung his laptop bag on the sofa. He crashed on the sofa himself and stared at the blank wall depressed. Once again he had been bypassed for the promotion and his colleague had bagged the coveted senior position. He was stuck in the same position for the past three years. He had gone to his boss to demand why he was being overlooked again and again, but his boss had just shrugged and offered various explanations that company finances were bad, that they had to reward performance, that it was the senior manager’s decision, etc.
So now, he was well and truly stuck in a rut. It had taken a while for Mohit to realize that his career was not exactly shining and that he was stagnating in his present job.
Now that he thought of it, the signs were all there from the past year.
Has your career gone for a standstill?
Sign 1: Monotonous work
He was doing the same things day in and day out.Work had become drudgery for him, and he was going through the motions mechanically.When you are not enjoying your job, not growing or learning, you are at a professional dead end. Monotony and routine are part of the corporate work-life, but within the work structure and your job profile, you must enjoy what you do. You must have some scope for value addition to your knowledge and skills. In plain words, your career must be going somewhere. If you have reached the end of the road, better watch out!
Sign 2: Lack of management faith
People reporting to him were now either his colleagues or were reporting to other people.A sure-shot sign that you are stagnating in your job is, when your juniors get upgraded to your ranks or get their reporting structures changed. It indicates the lack of faith management has on you. So you are not growing, everybody else is.
Sign 3: Lack of challenging work
Other colleagues were being selected to undertake key assignments and projects.Whenever an exciting or challenging project came up, Mohit saw that other colleagues were being considered who usually ended up bagging key roles in these projects.
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When opportunities for proving your worth in the organization arise, and other names crop up instead of yours, it is a sure-shot danger signal. Just being involved in your job responsibilities is not enough; you must have opportunities for performing in diverse, cross-functional assignments.
Sign 4: Restructure of departments
There were talks of restructuring and “trimming the fat” in the organization, and Mohit had overheard his name crop up.In order to survive in a tough economy, most organizations routinely evaluate and restructure departments. Mostly support functions are the first ones to be hived off or outsourced to a third party. If you are in a support function like administration, tele-calling, market research, HR, or IT support, be prepared to face the axe if your department is seen as extraneous or non-effective. Of course, the decision to outsource a function or department varies from company to company, but core divisions usually stay on.
Sign 5: Non-performance
He had not made any significant contribution to either the company bottom-line, or towards increasing the operational efficiency of any department or process. If you are being seen as a non-performer, be prepared to face the axe soon. No organization is willing to tolerate non-performance or slackness, and people who are under performing are seen as deadwood.Image source: pixabay.com
Sign 6: No new skills development
It had been years since he had learnt any new skill.He had completed his MBA in 2005, and had done a company sponsored course in Enterprise Resource Planning way back in 2008. After that he had not added any skill or qualification to his Resume. In today’s dynamic corporate scenario, it is not only preferable, but rather vital that you keep updating your skills and knowledge. Multi-tasking is a reality now, and for that, you need to learn continuously. If you are still sitting complacently with outdated skills, then it is warning bells for you.
Sign 7: Lack of Updation
He was ill-at-ease with technological updates and preferred manual work processes. (Related to the earlier point). If you don’t update your knowledge or skills, you will find it difficult to adapt to new systems and software that are bound to be installed in your office to increase efficiency. How will you make any progress in your career if you are not at ease with technological advancements?
Sign 8: Absence in key meetings
He was not included in closed-door meetings on the pretext that they were unrelated to his job area. Presence in key meetings and brainstorming sessions signify your importance in the organization. This does not mean that you should attend meetings at the cost of your work deadlines; it only means that being called to attend indicates that your opinion matters. Being overlooked means that you have nothing significant to add in the decision making or planning process.Image source: pixabay.com
Sign 9: Work by the clock
He was satisfied reporting to office on time, doing the work assigned to him, and leaving the office at 6 p.m. Such work behavior was acceptable even a couple of decades back, but in today’s 24/7 work culture, you need to be totally involved in your work. When deadlines are near, and projects need to be completed on time, you cannot work by the clock.
If you are uncomfortable working long hours, you can opt to work from home. But working by stipulated office hours is a thing of the past.
Also, if you are passive at work, doing only what is expected out of you, you might as well give up all hopes of career advancement. Fortune favours the brave, and the corporate world favours those with initiative and drive.
Sign 10: Ignorance
His boss ignored him at office parties and get-together. Office get-together are great places to be seen with the right people. When your boss deliberately looks through you, it means danger. You need to be seen at the right place at the right time.
However, simply networking with higher-ups will not help in furthering your career very far in today’s performance-driven environment. You need to show results, and be seen as a go-getter, a problem solver and a team worker.
So now that you know where you are, what are the options available to you if your career is not exactly looking up and facing imminent downturn?
As they say, “when the going gets tough, the tough get going”. And you need to prove what a tough nut you are.
So let’s go through some steps you must take to reverse the downturn. (Warning: Some are tough measures, that will require you to come out of your comfort zones, and some will take time to show results, but you need to get going nevertheless.)
- Take a grip of yourself by analyzing your strengths and working towards building on these. Write down your strengths and unique abilities, and chart out a plan of action, involving the following:
- What are your long-term plans?
- Are you working towards them? If not, what do you need to do to rectify the situation?
- Is your present job offering you satisfaction? If yes, what do you need to do to keep the job and better your position? If not, what are the other opportunities available elsewhere?
- Is there scope to salvage your career in your present organization? If yes, how will you convince your higher-ups of giving you another chance? If not, draw up a list of similar organizations where you can start applying.
- Can your present job give you scope to grow professionally? (You may not be getting promotions or increments every year, but you must grow professionally. This may be by either handling new assignments, or learning new skills on the job, or leading or coaching subordinates. Anything that helps add to your personal competence and future prospects.)
If yes, plan to give it your best shot. Work hard, put in your best efforts to gain results, aim to achieve targets.
If not, put in a request for a change of job profile or transfer to a division where you can get better scope for adding to your professional competence.
- Do you have the skills and technological acumen required to take up higher positions? If yes, can you use those to advance your career in your organization? Or are there any other career options you can take up?
If not, what do you need to do to upgrade your knowledge and skills? Add a skill or qualification to your Resume. Upgrade, re-skill, re-learn.
- Once you have answered the above questions, you will have a fair idea of your position and of what you need to do. Now, write down your shortcomings, and a plan of action to overcome these. The idea is to tackle the monsters head on, and be in a better space within yourself.
Good going! Soul searching over! Now that you have faced your inner doubts and concretized your future plans, let us see how you must work towards changing perceptions at the workplace.
If you plan to continue at the same organization, the following steps would help:
- Be proactive at work: Offer ideas, interact with seniors and colleagues, show initiative. Since the company bosses perceive you as an under performer, you must now change their perceptions about you by showing drive and spirit. Come to office early, move around, talk to people. Offer ideas and suggestions at meetings. Keep your ears open for news of new projects or assignments being undertaken, and see how you can offer your time and efforts. Concentrate on adding value to the organization. Seek out opportunities to participate in company initiatives like CSR drives, ISO activities, knowledge sharing events, etc.
- Network with colleagues and customers, and with people associated with your field of work: We live in a wired world, but personal interaction adds much value to relationships. Call, visit, and stay in touch with people who matter. Remember to greet people on their special days like anniversaries and birthdays. Even with people who seemingly don’t matter (like janitors and helpers), be polite and interested. No man or woman can survive as an island, however efficient and productive one may be. You need to be seen as a professional who knows the value of networking and reaching out.
- Mentor your juniors and subordinates: Nothing builds confidence more than the knowledge that you can help or advise someone, and provide professional guidance. Your subordinates will look up to you, and you too will learn in the process. In the give and take of ideas, you may be able to gain fresh insights and approaches to problems.
- Brush up your team playing skills: Are you being seen as a solitary player, a lone wolf? If yes, then you need to prove that you can work well in teams as well. Offer to work on intra or inter-departmental or cross-functional teams. (Remember: A good team member will always keep team interests in mind and work at removing conflict. So keep your ego in check.)
- Make it a point to attend office get-together, parties and outings: Real networking and relationship building takes place on social occasions when bosses and staff interact in informal settings. People who take an active part in organizing such events or coordinating them are generally seen as go-getters with social and networking skills. If organizing a group event does not suit your nature, at least make sure to attend these events and participate actively. Besides bonding with your colleagues, you will be earning a lot of attention and interest from all quarters, particularly from people who matter, who might see you in a new light.
- Be positive at all costs: Avoid the tendency to crib, complain and gossip against your boss and management. As much as you are feeling disheartened and ignored, cribbing about it has never done any good. Rather, it will project you as a whining, negative person. If you want to stay on in the organization, don’t criticize and complain. If you are unhappy with something, voice your concern at the right place and offer suggestions to alter the situation. Never, ever fall in the trap of negativity.
If, however, you have no scope for growing in your present organization, or you see your prospects totally obviated, it is best to move on. The following steps need to be taken to secure alternative employment:
- Network with college alumni or batch mates, ex-colleagues, friends and acquaintances, and seek their help in finding out about suitable job openings.
- Seek professional assistance in the form of placement and headhunting agencies. Focus on getting an effective Resume made that showcases your achievements and qualifications.
- If it is possible, enroll in a part-time or online learning course that will add to your professional qualifications. (Successful leaders sometimes take an entire year’s sabbatical to contemplate, re-learn, and get their careers back on track).
- Join professional networking sites like Linked-In that will help you connect with professionals in similar fields. Join professional groups and discussion forum online to voice your opinions and make your presence felt. (The more visible you are, the greater your chances of being spotted for suitable openings.)
Whatever you do, remember to keep faith and belief in yourself. It is not that impossible to get your career back on track, however uphill the task may seem at now. If you keep at it, your efforts are bound to be noticed and rewarded.
So, bon voyage!!