Paid Well But Stagnant!

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about feeling in a job slump and want  to move to one with challenge:

I am a professional in the IT (information technology) field and have been for the last 20 years of my life. More specifically I am in the area of computer operations, and it looks like me to I can no further. I have expressed interest to my manager and to his managers that I would like to move on to other more challenging positions in the company. It looks like nothings happening; however, I see people in my area moving on to better positions and I don’t understand why. Some were even my subordinates with way less experience than I have, but they have moved onto better challenging positions. I feel like I’m in a slump and not being intellectually challenged. I’ve been self evaluating to see if it is me.

My immediate boss, whom I report to, is never around. He manages my department from a distance. I’ve spoken with him concerning my career, but it seems like he doesn’t really care. Don’t get me wrong, the pay is great, but more importantly, I feel that my career goals are not being met. I’m getting no younger. What can I do to get out of this slump? I need a career upgrade.

It’s obvious to me no one is going to give it to me. Some people will say go back to school, but my question is: If every time I like to do move to a different position in a company, do I have to go to school? I’ve worked with for the last 5-10,years and even indirectly trained some co-workers who have moved up? I’ve got nothing but good performance appraisals with good raises over the years. One year my raise was so good I could not believe it! But promotion-wise I am not moving while other people are. Please give me some good and sound advice?

Signed, In A Slump

Dear In A Slump:

I appreciate your need for a more challenging position within your organization and the frustration you feel in seeing other employees make such moves when you have been passed over. It is always difficult to figure out why this happens and what one might do to improve ones chances for the next time.Sometimes such changes require a different or additional skill set beyond IT skills, for example skills in project management, written and/or verbal communication, etc. You might consider if this is partially the reason you are not being selected for these other positions.

If you really want to find out, consider asking one of the managers responsible for hiring in the other positions. In many cases, if one approaches such a conversation openly with the attitude of trying to gain information and insight on how to improve oneself for the future, the hiring managers are willing to share some helpful information.Another idea might be to see if you can take on additional jobs or responsibilities in one of the job areas you’d like to occupy. This would give you some real credentials and experience with the tasks involved in that job.

Another idea is, if the job was the area of programming or database management, you might see if you could apprentice to someone working in that area. Does your company have any mentoring programs or career ladder programs – you might check with Human Resources to find out. Any tangible experience or evidence of success you have with the type of work you wish to change to will be helpful.Another thing that can be a stumbling block in moving to a new position is current salary. Sometimes an employee wishes to move into another job at one’s current salary level when the company has other more junior employees job candidates willing to take the job for less pay. I’ve had this happen to me, but I was able to secure the job when I informed management that I was willing to take an initial cut in pay to start the new position with promise that my pay would increase as my experience increased.

As a broader approach, you might consider talking to a professional recruiter to get an idea of what IT skills are in demand these days and see if you have or want them. If you need some skill updating (which is very common these days), I would ask if your company would pay for the additional training. Many companies offer job training/re-training programs for their technical employees.Finally, I’m not sure if this applies to you but there are certain categories of employees that have some protection under EEO. If you feel you are legitimately being discriminated against you could file and EEO complaint. This however should be an option of last resort as it can create some difficult feelings between an employee and management. Yet if there is legitimate discrimination going on, it is not fair (often companies try to get away with what they can) and one has a right to speak out against it.

It is commendable that you want to expand your career… don’t give up. The process of changing positions is often a matter of patience, information gathering, skill building, and perseverance. One of things taught to professional athletes is to visualize the goal they want to achieve. You can do this too by following these few simple steps:

1. Find a few quiet minutes where you can be alone.

2. Relax your body by letting go of the tension in all the tight muscles;

3. Relax you breathing, let your breathing slow down becoming slow and smooth;

4. Now, once you feel relaxed, imagine or visualize yourself attaining the job you want: Imagine the perfect job for you; imagine the type of work, the people you would be working with, the environment. Then see the job being offered to you and yourself accepting it. For example, you can see yourself interviewing for the job and the interview going very well, you can see yourself shaking the managers hand as you both smile and accept the job offer. Then see yourself in the new position doing a great job. Note: You must believe that this is possible, so don’t analyze or judge it for that totally negates positive impact of the visualization. Just do it and then forget about it. Do it every day, it is a powerful form of positive thinking.

Good Luck. Striving to do meaningful work considers both self and others’ best interests–that’s what we call WEGO mindedness.

Christopher T. Clarke