Does it feel like you’re never getting a promotion at your job? While it’s normal for your career to slow down from time to time, it’s also important to be aware of the signs that the stagnation isn’t temporary.
Why is it so tricky to tell the difference? In part, because promotions take time, even under the best of circumstances. You should expect to have to prove yourself to your employer and to do excellent work over a period of time. Simply hitting your goals likely won’t be enough; you’ll have to surpass expectations in order to move up.
But even that might not be enough. Consistently excellent work won’t get you very far if there’s nowhere to go, for example, or if your boss isn’t able to appreciate your achievements.
So, how can you tell whether you’re experiencing a brief pause in your progress or a full stop in your career? Learn the signs that you’re never getting a promotion at your current job, and save yourself time and trouble.
Signs you’re never getting a promotion:
1. You feel like an island
Are you always the last to know what’s going on at work? If you feel out of the loop, you might be off the path to advancement. At Entrepreneur, Lucas Miller explains why it’s a bad sign when your desk is a “desert island”:
People come and go around you, projects are assigned, problems are discussed; but you feel like an outsider who’s just watching it all happen. You’re consistently out of the loop — the last one to hear about what’s going on in the office…
…This is bad news, because it means that you aren’t viewed as someone with value to offer the company. Maybe your boss dislikes you, maybe he or she just sees you as a desk-filler; but whatever the reason, rest assured that when promotion time comes, you won’t be on the list.
2. You’re only after more money, and it shows
There’s nothing wrong with wanting to earn a promotion and a higher salary. But, when that’s your only motivation, other important things, like engagement and passion, are forced to take a backseat. And that won’t make a great impression on the powers that be.
If you only want to be promoted because you want to make more money, you probably won’t ever get what you’re after. Higher earnings can be one of your goals, just not your primary motivation. Promotions generally go to folks who wholeheartedly engage with the duties and responsibilities of their job.
3. Your gut is trying to tell you something
It pays to trust your instincts. Your gut is probably telling you a lot about where you stand at work. If you feel like you’ll never be promoted, you’re probably picking up on something — maybe your boss’s body language or maybe a general vibe in the office. (Just be sure that you’re communicating trustworthiness through your body language. This will serve you well in your career no matter what happens next.)
Don’t ignore the signs when your gut is telling you that you’ll never be promoted. But, you shouldn’t rest everything on those instincts either. If this is the only factor on the list that applies to you, you may be just misjudging things.
4. You’re willing to leave if it doesn’t happen immediately
Being excellent at your job isn’t always enough to earn you a promotion all by itself. It takes time to build a relationship and trust with your employer. So, even if you’re absolutely amazing at your job, you probably won’t be offered a promotion if you’re brand new.
A survey conducted earlier this year found that generation Z and millennial workers are likely to ask for, and expect, a promotion during their first year at a job. In fact, 75% of generation Z said they’d expect a promotion within the first year of employment. Thirty-two percent even said they’d expect one during the first six months. But, in many cases, those expectations are unrealistic.
If you expect to move up the ladder too soon and you are willing to leave if you don’t, you could be sealing your own fate. You’ll obviously never get promoted if you resign before giving it some time.
5. The company is in trouble
Your employer isn’t in a position to promote anyone if the company is having financial trouble. When corporate ladder is collapsing, it’s tough to move up the ranks. Your employer isn’t in a position to increase salaries if they’re concerned about trying to keep the business afloat.
If you’re concerned that your company could be in serious trouble, be on the lookout for some of the telltale signs your company is going under. Lack of new clients and low sales numbers are only part of the equation. If you start to notice more employee turnover, or a lack of transparency about how business is going from the higher-ups, be on guard. There probably isn’t much of a future for you with a company that isn’t thriving.
What should you do when you think your career has come to a standstill?
“Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don’t settle.” – Steve Jobs
If you’ve done some soul-searching and have decided that you’re probably never getting a promotion at your current job, it’s time to start to think about next steps. But, don’t do anything too rash. There are a few important factors to keep in mind in order to determine how best to proceed from here:
- Maintain a list of accomplishments. Think about what you’ve done exceptionally well in your current job. Generate a list of these accomplishments and be sure to update it as needed. You can bring your list the next time you sit down with your boss to discuss your future. And, if you do end up deciding that it’s best to move on, you can use your list of accomplishments to help you update your resume.
- Question your assumptions. Keep in mind that your assumptions about your status with your employer could be wrong. You may be misreading their cues or misunderstanding the situation in other ways. It’s important to remember that you’re not a mind reader. When you guess — about your boss’s opinion of you, about your opportunities for advancement, about who’s likely to be promoted next — you set yourself up for misunderstandings and poor communication.
- Talk with your boss. Does your boss know that you want to be promoted? Have you ever actually sat down and had a conversation about your hopes and goals for the future? If you haven’t, now is as good a time as any. You may feel anxious at first, but there are ways to talk with your boss about your career goals. And, it’s absolutely essential that you do so. Don’t make any big decisions until you’re sure that your boss knows where you stand.
- Work with a mentor or coach. Working with a career coach or a mentor can make a huge difference when you find yourself at a professional fork in the road. Having someone else, someone that you trust, to bounce ideas off of can go a really long way, especially if you ask the right questions. So, consider checking in with a trusted mentor before making any bold moves.
Most likely, if you feel as though you’ll never be promoted at your current job for long enough, you’ll eventually start to think about moving on. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. You’ll be in good company. According to a 2018 report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the typical worker changes jobs 12 times over the course of their career. The average tenure for employees is now just 4.2 years.
You deserve to be happy at work. The average person spends more than 90,000 hours at work over the course of their lifetime. It’s only natural to want to encounter new opportunities along the path. If you truly know that you’ll never, ever be promoted at your current job, it’s certainly worth considering making a change.
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