Stalled In Your Career? Be Proactive And Take Charge

Are you stuck in place at your job? There are a number of reasons why you might not be advancing as fast as you feel you should be. It could be that your boss has changed (don’t they always) and doesn’t know you and your work. It could be that you haven’t kept up with changing tools and techniques. It could be that your peers are poaching on your turf and you are getting overlooked. It could even be that your results are just not good enough. (But I’m sure that can’t be it in your case!)

Whatever the reason for your career doldrums, I suggest that you take matters into your own hands and consciously design yourself an effective plan for moving forward. Put a stop to any unproductive ways of thinking that may be holding you back, and shift your attention to the work and to your results. Be proactive.

You may be thinking that you can take your woes to your boss and she will help you out, but she has her own problems, and adding yours to her pile is not going to make her sympathetic. Remember that from her point of view, your role is to make her life easier.

Some folks manage to tie themselves up in knots by focusing on the personalities of their co-workers. You’ve heard it: “My boss never liked me.” “That guy deliberately sabotages me.” But you’re not the type to be wasting energy on these kinds of excuses, are you? Otherwise, you wouldn’t be reading this piece and trying to see a better path ahead. So let’s get going!

Your action plan should start with an honest evaluation of your situation, answering questions like these: What is the role you perform? What are others expecting from you? What results have you actually delivered? What have been your outstanding triumphs in the gig? Consider doing all this thinking at a personal “off-site,” in a neutral space, to help your objectivity. Write down what you come up with.

OK. Now you’ve amassed this data on your past performance, it’s time for you to start looking ahead. How do you think your role should evolve? What is your vision for your position in, say, a year’s time? How could it grow more significant? What can be done better and how will you make that happen? What is your relationship with other teams and business units? Should that also evolve, how will it lead to better work and more efficiencies? This examination is (or should be) invigorating stuff. Perhaps you’ve been thinking about these things all along – maybe you’ve even been dropping little hints like, “If I were in charge things would be different.”

By now, you’ll be forming a clear idea of what the future of your position should look like. Pull together this thinking and turn it into a short, sharp, powerful presentation. If you are a slide person, then perhaps five slides would be enough to get someone else fired up. Use whatever format works for you — but make it strong and easy to grasp. Developing this presentation is an important component of your career planning: It’s the first step toward realizing those ideas that have been floating around in your head.

So far, no one but you is involved in this — your very own vision project. You are the visionary, the author, and the only audience for your presentation. So work your hardest to get it to a place where you are totally fired up by it. Be able to say to yourself, “Yes that’s it. That’s where I should be headed.”

But your work on this is not purely theoretical, even at this stage. This consciousness of where you think things should be headed will already be paying dividends in your immediate practice. You’ll find yourself starting to reflect your thinking in your current actions and strategies. Even as you are working it out on your own, you will be thinking more about the trajectory of your work and the substance of your communications with your co-workers; and you’ll be inadvertently strengthening your own leadership position.

But you don’t want to stop at your audience of one. I propose that you now identify a trusted friend or two in the organization: people who can look at your presentation and give objective feedback. Maybe you have team members who could help you refine it and advance the thinking. Get engagement from people you respect. They will look at you with new eyes — but more to the point, you can get them on board with your ideas — especially when you incorporate some of their thinking and credit them for it.

Then you can start thinking about how to make a more formal presentation to people in the organization who will likely respond to your thinking and become champions. Several aspects of your proactive agenda are at play here. You are showing that you care about the business and have strong ideas to propel it forward. You are showing that you can take the initiative and so should be given more responsibility, or a bigger leadership role. You are (hopefully) demonstrating your brilliant communication skills. You are also — and this might not even be the most important component here — showing your strategic and visionary brilliance.

This is all about taking your career progress into your own hands and designing your own future. It’s a proactive approach that doesn’t wait for the 360 or the annual review. It’s clearly focused on the work you do, and you will be creating a platform for your job satisfaction and your career advancement.

Sound good?


This article by Michael Pollock first appeared on