Ask LH: How Can I Progress In A Dead-End Job?

Hi Lifehacker, I have been in my current job for a couple of years now. I love the role, but there does not seem to be any chance of career advancement in my department. Any ideas as to how I could make my company notice that I am not just good at my current role? Thanks, Unable To Advance Past Go

Overworked picture from Shutterstock


Most managers don’t have the time or wherewithal to chart the career trajectory of their employees; they’re too busy running day-to-day operations. If you want to see results, you usually need to take the bull by the horns yourself. As we have noted in the past, there are various strategies and tactics you can employ in a bid to get noticed for a promotion. (Click on the above links to see some popular methods.)

That said, most of these techniques are extremely subtle with no guarantee of a payoff. For quick results, you’d be better served by taking a direct approach. Start by telling your manager that you want to explore new options within the company and are willing to undertake any training that might be required. If he/she gives you a flaky or evasive answer, it’s a pretty good bet that any career progression is unlikely.

The sad fact is that some workplaces are more stagnant than others, even within the same industry. Crazy John’s founder John Ilhan decided to leave his prior job at Ford for this very reason:

Leaving Ford was important because I never got a crack at a promotion. Within a three-year period I never got a promotion. They kept giving them to the graduates and I was looked down upon because I wasn’t a graduate. I was the best-qualified person for the job, but I just never got a go. So I got fed up with that and went to Strathfield Car Radio when the phone industry began.

In other words, if your manager wont come to the table, it might be time to dust off your resume and start looking for new employment elsewhere.

On the other hand, your boss could be surprisingly receptive to the idea. It’s usually easier to retrain an existing staff member than to bring on someone new (assuming your existing skills are translatable). With luck, a suitable position will open up which you can neatly slot into.

Before you make your play, it’s important to examine the company and identify the specific areas that you think you might like to work in. Do your research and have answers ready for whatever questions the manager might throw at you — otherwise it will look like you have no career path in mind and just want more money.

Just be mindful that promotions aren’t always the best career move; especially if you already love what you’re doing. While it’s obviously nice to have extra money, this shouldn’t come at the expense of your happiness. You could discover that the extra responsibility, stress and work hours don’t justify the pay bump.

If any movers-and-shakers have additional advice to impart, let UTAPG know in the comments section below.


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