Updated May 31, 2023
Mohit trudged back home and flung his laptop bag on the sofa. He crashed on the couch 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 place for the past three years. He had gone to his boss to ask why he was repeatedly overlooking. Still, 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 could have been more 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 to a standstill?
Sign 1: Monotonous work
He was doing the same things day in and day out. Work had become a struggle 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 you must enjoy what you do within the work structure and your job profile. 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 change their reporting structures. It indicates the lack of faith management has in you. So you are not growing; everybody else is.
Sign 3: Lack of challenging work
Other colleagues were selected to undertake key assignments and projects. Whenever an exciting or challenging task arose, Mohit saw that other colleagues who usually bagged key roles in these projects were being considered.
When opportunities for proving your worth in the organization arise, other names crop up instead of yours, which is a sure-shot danger signal. Being involved in your job responsibilities is insufficient; you must have opportunities to perform in diverse, cross-functional assignments.
Sign 4: Restructure of departments
Most organizations routinely evaluate and restructure departments to survive in a tough economy. There were talks of restructuring and “trimming the fat” in the organization, and Mohit had overheard his name crop up. Support functions are the first 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 considered 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 the company’s bottom line or to increasing the operational efficiency of any department or process. No organization is willing to tolerate non-performance or slackness, and underperforming people are seen as deadwood. If you are being seen as a non-performer, be prepared to face the axe soon.Image source: pixabay.com
Sign 6: No new skills development
It had been years since he had learned any new skill. He completed his MBA in 2005 and did a company-sponsored Enterprise Resource Planning course in 2008. After that, he had not added any skill or qualification to his resume. Multi-tasking is a reality now, and for that, you need to learn continuously. In today’s dynamic corporate scenario, it is preferable and vital to keep updating your skills and knowledge. It is a warning bell for you if you are still working on your skills.
Sign 7: Lack of Updation
He needed to improve with technological updates and preferred manual work processes. (Related to the earlier point). Updating your knowledge or skills will make it easier to adapt to new systems and software installed in your office to increase efficiency. How will you 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 because they were unrelated to his job area. Presence in key meetings and brainstorming sessions signifies 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 implies that you have little significance to add to the decision making or planning process.Image source: pixabay.com
Sign 9: Work by the clock
He was satisfied reporting to the office on time, doing the assigned work, and leaving at 6 p.m. Such work behavior was acceptable to even a couple of decades back, but you must be involved in today’s 24/7 work culture. When deadlines are near, and projects must be completed on time, you cannot work by the clock.
If you are uncomfortable working long hours, you can 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 of you, you might as well give up all hopes of career advancement. Fortune favors the brave, and the corporate world favors those with initiative and drive.
Sign 10: Ignorance
His boss ignored him at office parties and get-together. Office get-togethers 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, you need more than just networking with higher-ups to further your career 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.
Now that you know where you are, what options are available if your career is not looking up and facing an 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 on 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 must you 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 to give you another chance? If not, draw up a list of similar organizations to which you can apply to.
- Can your present job give you scope to grow professionally? (You may not get promotions or increments yearly, but you must grow professionally. Anything that helps add to your competence and prospects.) this may be by either handling new assignments, learning new skills, or leading or coaching subordinates.
If yes, plan to give it your best shot. Work hard, put in your best effort to gain results, and achieve targets.
If not, request 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 must you do to upgrade your knowledge and skills? Upgrade, re-skill, re-learn. Add a skill or qualification to your resume.
- 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 monster and be in a better space within yourself.
Good going! Soul searching over! Now that you have faced your inner doubts and concretized your 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 will help:
- Be proactive at work: Offer ideas, interact with seniors and colleagues, and show initiative. Since the company bosses perceive you as an underperformer, you must change their perceptions about you by showing drive and spirit. Come to the office early, move around, and 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 opportunities to participate in company initiatives like CSR drives, ISO activities, knowledge sharing events, etc.
- Network with colleagues, customers, and 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. Be polite and interested even with people who seemingly don’t matter (like janitors and helpers). You need to be seen as a professional who knows the value of networking and reaching out. No man or woman can survive on an island, however efficient and productive one may be.
- Mentor your juniors and subordinates: Nothing builds confidence more than knowing you can help or advise someone and provide professional guidance. You can gain fresh insights and approaches to problems in the give and take of ideas. Your subordinates will look up to you, and you, too will learn in the process.
- 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 also work well in teams. (Remember: A good team member will always keep team interests in mind and work at removing conflict. So keep your ego in check.) Offer to work on intra or inter-departmental, or cross-functional teams.
- Make it a point to attend office get-togethers, parties, and outings: Social networking and relationship building occur when bosses and staff interact in informal settings. People who actively organize or coordinate such events are generally seen as go-getters with social and networking skills. If managing a group event does not suit your nature, at least attend these events and participate actively. Besides bonding with your colleagues, you will earn a lot of attention and interest from all quarters, particularly from people who matter and 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 feel disheartened and ignored, cribbing about it has never done any good. Rather, it will project you as a whining, negative person. Don’t criticize and complain if you want to stay on in the organization. If you are unhappy with something, voice your concern at the right place and offer suggestions to alter the situation. Never, ever fall into the trap of negativity.
However, if you have yet to scope for growth in your present organization or see your prospects prevented, it is best to move on. The following steps need to be taken to secure alternative employment:
- Network with college alums or batch mates, ex-colleagues, friends, and acquaintances, and seek their help finding 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.
- Enroll in a part-time or online learning course that will add to your professional qualifications. (Successful leaders sometimes take a 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 forums 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.)
Getting your career back on track is possible; however, the task may seem uphill. If you keep at it, your efforts will be noticed and rewarded. Whatever you do, remember to keep faith and belief in yourself.
So, bon voyage!!
This is a guide to getting your career on track. We have discussed a detailed overview of the top signs that your career getting stagnate. You may look at the following articles to learn more –