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How do I beat career stagnation?

It’s frustrating when our career stands in limbo; when we are putting in our best but get to hear that “you’re a good performer but not ready for the next level” or worse still - our boss doesn’t even bother talking about the promotion or career progression. When faced with career stagnation, it’s natural to feel stuck and hopeless and wonder if there is ever going to be a way out. I hope this article will help you change things around.

Here is a simple but effective way of beating career stagnation:

1. Chart out a desired career path

After college have you given much thought about your 5 year or 10 year career plan? I’m sure not, but we do expect the organization to have a well charted career path for us and ensure our growth. Think about it, if we don’t have a career plan, why should anyone else care about it? Hence the first step in getting out of career limbo is consciously taking back control of your career by making career goals. Click here for details on how to make career goals. If you are stuck and need help reach out to us for a career path session.

2. Check your value in the job market

Once you have a career plan, and know what kind of role you are looking for, explore your market value – check out the job market and pay packages, assess your skills against the JDs for the role you want in long-term or the short-term, apply for a couple of roles which match your immediate goals and go for some interviews.

Even if you don’t get selected or shortlisted it will give you valuable insight into where you stand. Remember the objective of this phase is to understand where you are, what your market value is right now and what are your options, so don’t become very specific about the size or location of the organization. Just do a broad spectrum research; treat it like a market recon or window shopping. You can also reach out to a professional who will help make an accurate assessment of your market value.

3. Benchmark your competency with the talent pool

Objectively evaluate your candidature against others who are in the role or aspiring for it. It’s not an easy task, it requires you to distance yourself from your ego and look at yourself from a third party lens, so take some time to center yourself before you do this.

You can talk to your Manager/HR about the role requirements in terms of competencies required for the desired role or talk to a mentor in or outside the organisation. You can also directly interact with some people who are in that role via LinkedIn or through your own professional network (just remember that there is always a level of subjectivity and inaccuracy in this channel of information so take it with a pinch of salt). Another way is to approach a career guidance professional who can help you to benchmark your ability against the talent pool.

4. Think about your improvement areas

Make a list of competencies you have and those you need, and also areas where you need to improve yourself. The input for this list will come from all your previous steps i.e. eligibility criteria & job description of the desired roles, the feedback from recruiters & interviewers and the benchmarking with talent pool. The list of improvement areas can have both professional and personal attributes that you need to build or enhance in order to become suitable for the desired role.

This has to be an honest, objective assessment, and it really helps to do a bit of self exploration and introspection to sieve out facts from opinions. If you allow yourself to be too critical or too lenient about your improvement areas, you won’t be able to effectively move on to the next step and perhaps will become best friends with career stagnation. Don’t be shy to ask for help during this phase, an objective assessment from a life coach can help you build the objectivity and momentum you need.

5. Focus on what you need to learn

On the basis of the competency gaps and improvement areas that you have noted, chart out

what all you need to learn. In this context, learning could be growing your knowledge base, enhancing a skill, exploring a better managerial style, or discovering better ways to handle stress and anger at work. Clearly mention what you need to learn and put these learning goals in an order of priority.

Be as specific as possible in the learning goal; keep asking yourself "what exactly in this area do I need to improve", till you find a very concrete answer. E.g. if you think communication is your improvement area, then what in communication? Is it articulation, diction, vocabulary or fluency in English? Is it ability to understand other’s questions or ability to grasp the intention behind what’s being said? Is it speaking too much or too little, speaking without conviction and confidence or that your words and body language are communicating different things? All of these aspects can be bundled under communication but each requires a very different kind of learning plan. The more specific the learning goal, the more effective your learning plan will be.

6. Identify learning source(s)

Next research and figure out from where can you accomplish this learning goal. Maybe you need to pick up a bubble assignment at work, chose a mentor, hire an executive coach, enroll for skill enhancement training or personality development training, participate in workshops for people managers, or you may even need to go back to school to do a degree or diploma. For improving more inherent personality traits, you may need to seek out experiential trainings that focus on emotional wellbeing and help you in your journey of self-discovery and conscious re-shaping of your persona & body language. You could also have more than one source of learning.

7. Make a learning plan

Once you’ve decided the source of learning, figure out when & how you will do it. Make a concrete learning plan & write it down. Block your calendar, and make any necessary preparations like scheduling your work, speaking to your manager/HR, applying for leave, registering for the course, making arrangements for fee, etc. If you do not set up a deadline for this learning goal and block your calendar for the learning plan, you will always find reasons to not do it.

8. Set progress markers

Progress marker is measurable attainable proof that helps you check your progress in your overall plan. Without progress markers you would always end up saying I’m working on it, but wouldn’t know how far you’ve come. To set up progress markers in your learning plan as well as your career plan, ask yourself "how will I know I have achieved this?" The answer would be your progress marker! These progress markers are not the end results but periodical proofs of moving forward. To know more about progress markers and how to use them for goal achievement contact me.

9. Ask for guidance and support:

Inform your family members about the plan so that they can support you during the learning phase and be prepared for any changes that accompany it (such as lesser time for them, or change in schedule, change of location, etc). Also identify a mentor or a coach who will help you stick to the right path and prevent you from becoming complacent again. Keep taking feedback from relevant people so that you identify your blind spots and work on them.

10. Follow through your plan

Once you have made the plan don’t let it just sit as a note in some diary in your desk drawer. Implement it; build accountability to ensure you don’t drop the ball; keep checking periodically where you have reached through progress markers and if required revise the plan

Don’t just read the article and go back to cribbing about career stagnation, start working on it now. If you get stuck anywhere or need help, feel free to reach out to me. I would be happy to help you explore your options, plan your learning and help you stay the course and achieve your goals. The first consultation is free!


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