Your Career Stalled

No career path, No future, No further opening

Few of you did approach Pathfinders with a challenge – Stalled career, No Career path, No future, No further opening, It’s getting boring …. And, deciding to leave the job!

Is that the right solution? What assurance that similar situation will not arise in your new venture?

When your company does not have a position for you to grow into – a “blocker” above you – usually your immediate superior – who’s doing a fine job and has no plans to retire, change industries, or migrate to another country. She/he may even have a blocker above her/him.

This is a maddening situation, but nothing new – it happens all the time in business. The main culprit is lack of growth; your company, industry, or the economy overall is in a hard place, standing still or even contracting.

In such situations, opportunities for upward mobility are necessarily hard to come by.

Family businesses too have blocking. “Pre-ordained” individuals often fill the higher positions.

Your only choice in such a situation, is to decide how long you’re willing to endure stress, and decide. Your patience should have an expiry date. “If something doesn’t change within a year, I’m putting out feelers, and within two years, I’m out of here,” you might conclude.

You also have to consider your standing within the company.

  • If a promotion becomes available, are you likely to get it?
  • Have you been getting A-plus performance reviews or only in the B range?
  • Do you have an embedded reputation that might be hard to shake?
  • Is your superior known for promoting her/his best people or sitting on their careers while they reap the benefits?

It’s something like writing the Terms of “perseverance contract”, using such critical data.

No hard and fast rule on the time to wait out a blockage. You have to explicitly pick a timeframe based on your values, standing, circumstances, and constraints, as well as your company’s future.

Multitasking expertise is another general reason that careers stall. Cindy is a terrific financial analyst. John is a star in marketing. Back in business school, both Cindy and John were repeatedly assured that the fastest, smartest, most time-tested way to higher management positions is by successively seeking out and landing stints in every function. “You need two to three years in each function, plus some time in international,” they were told. “You need to build a well-rounded portfolio of competencies.”

There are companies out there that like to parade their high-potentials through the fairgrounds, stopping at every ride.

However, often companies promote people who are known to be really good at what they do, and they promote them right up the ladder, all the way to the top. If you’re a finance guru, you don’t need two years in marketing to understand the function’s importance to results. You know it in your bones, or through astute observation. Nor does a wildly creative type in marketing need to slog through a couple years in operations to know that quality matters. Yet, because of the perceived wisdom about “rounding yourself out,” you see many functional experts jump out of their areas, only to vanish into the organizational ether.

A caution – if you’re really talented at something and you intentionally up and move yourself to an area where you’re not so talented, it’s like an ice hockey star quitting to join the NBA. Let’s put it like this – don’t wear skates to a basketball game. It’s a surefire way to stall a career.

And if you’re finding that out for yourself right now, the fix is clear. Get back where you belong. You’ll be back in the game soon.

An attitude can also stall your career – haters (of everything), players of blame game, disgustingly criticizing the top bosses.

The challenge here is that they rarely know they’re boss-haters.

They are not the problem, in their opinion. The company is the problem.

The people in charge are fools and incompetents.

Top bosses only care about money; they don’t understand a thing about the customer or the products.

Unfortunately, their colleagues are also not much better. They all suck-up to the bigs and don’t know anything useful.

Let’s turn to the most common reason that careers stall – Performance.

Or, more precisely, under-performance.

Now, under-performance doesn’t mean you’re not trying hard at work. You might very well be giving it your all. This is real life – the results count then the efforts.

In real life, many under-performers don’t know that they’re under-performing. The reason is that too many managers out there don’t tell their people where they stand. They’re too busy. Or they think people should figure it out on their own. Or they’re too “kind” for straight-up candor, or so they claim.

None of these reasons make sense. People deserve to know how they’re doing at something they’re doing eight or ten hours a day. Come on – everyone has a right to know their scores.

You’re not big enough.

Big enough not in terms of personality. In fact, sometimes having a big personality can hurt you as you try to ascend the ladder.

People can read your extroversion as arrogance, or take you as a know-it-all.

People with big personalities can make very big targets of themselves.

Big enough in terms of having the breadth and depth to handle the next job.

Breadth and depth – regardless of the specifics of your job, that combination is what your bosses are waiting to see. You, a changed person.


Suresh Shah, Pathfinders Enterprise

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