Is Your Career Going Backwards? Reexamine Your Career Options


You work hard to advance your career, either sticking with one company and climbing the corporate ladder or moving from one company to another.  With each move you aim for more challenge, responsibility and more money in your pocket.

What happens however when you find your career advancement has stalled – or gone backwards?

Sometimes your career can go backwards through no fault of your own.  Your company has a major restructure (or two or three) and suddenly you find your role is not what it used to be.  Somewhere along the line, though your position title reads the same, your responsibilities have been significantly downgraded.  Though your workload may have actually increased, you find yourself filling your day with a variety of mundane tasks.

Suddenly it dawns on you that you cannot remember the last time you learned something new in your current position.  It’s official – you’re stuck in a rut.

So what are your career options?

Stay with your existing company

  • Apply for better positions within the same company. Are you ready to take the next step?  Keep your eye on the internal job vacancies.  Also keep your ear out for talk around the office about people changing positions.
  • Look at making a sideways move if it benefits you. Investigate the job position as much as possible to give you some idea of what is required. Don’t underestimate a sideways move, in some cases these may be exactly what you are looking for.
  • Have a talk to your current manager – perhaps he or she is not aware of what you are capable of.  Discuss taking on more responsibility.  Try to ensure this does not involve being given more of the same.  The objective of this course of action is to work on some new projects to expand your skill set.
  • Seek out a reliable mentor within your company.  Guidance, advice and mentoring can be invaluable from a trusted company professional.
  • Perhaps your hobby or a social group outside of work could provide you with some stimulus.  This has a twofold advantage if the skills you learn from your hobby can be translated back into your work.

Investigate Training Opportunities

  • Though company budgets are tighter, resulting in reduced funds for training, look for training opportunities.  The key is to select the training or course that will offer you the most benefit.  Do thorough research as to what is available.  If possible speak to others in your company that may have completed the same program.  Be clear as to the objective for completing the training; what you will get out of it and how it will benefit you and the company.  To clarify your objectives, put them in writing.  You may need to submit a written request to have the training approved, so be prepared.
  • Look into the opportunity for cross training with other internal employees.  This is an excellent opportunity to be trained by your peers and learn new skills. There are often opportunities to fill a position while others are on leave.  This may result in extra pay – at least over the short term.  If your company is not already actively cross training, suggest it to your manager.
  • Look for secondments into different divisions.  If you work for a government department you will be familiar with secondments.  Secondments are a cornerstone of many Government operations.  Apply for secondments which are beneficial to your progress.  Being scared of stretching yourself will only see you stuck further in your rut.

Leaving your existing company

  • Apply for positions at a new company.  With the economy struggling in many countries, this may not be an easy proposition.  Be aware that your new job search may take some time.  Secure a new position before leaving your old one if possible.
  • Be prepared to have some money set aside for the transition to a new employer.  Timeframes between your last pay and your first one at the new company need to be taken into consideration. Bills need to be paid in the interim.

Continue to Network

  • Regardless of whether you stay with your existing employer or move, you should continue to grow your network.  Continue to build your list of contacts and strengthen your existing work relationships.
  • Though it may appear tempting, don’t burn bridges.  Having a rant in your exist interview may seem appealing but you don’t want to sabotage opportunities for work down the track.  Always remain professional. You never know who might turn out to be your next customer or client.

A Moment of Reflection

It may be worth taking a moment to examine the steps you took in your career up to this point.  Are there some instances where you could have made a better decision?  Did you see any warning signs along the way?  This exercise is not to wallow in the past.  This is about helping you to be more in tune with your wants and needs to allow you to make better decisions in the future.

Staying Put

In some economic climates, with redundancies taking place, the truth is you may need to sit tight in your current role.  Staying put however, does not mean you have to be idle.  Keep your eye out for internal opportunities. Keep your CV polished and up to date at all times, so you can be ready to pounce without delay on a good opportunity.

Be patient and continue to do your best work.  Remember to keep your eye firmly fixed on where you want to go.


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Thea Easterby is a freelance writer, blogger and keen traveller. Author of www.writechangegrow.com a blog offering practical tips on writing, career change and personal development.

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