How to Move Forward When There Is No Up

Let’s take a look at my inbox. A question from a reader is as follows:

My college is – literally – the only higher ed game in town. And so even though I work in a staff job that I generally enjoy, there’s no upward mobility. I’ve been here for 3 years and I’m really ready to take on more challenging assignments. I’m in my early 40s and at a place in my life where I just am not interested in getting another degree (already have 2 Master’s). I’m trying to be patient but I just don’t see it happening. The people who are the next level up from me have been here for at least 8 years. What would you recommend?


I can already hear many of my readers nodding their heads. I know I can relate. In my last organization, I put in 8 years and still wasn’t at the level I wanted to be at. And the people who were in the job title I wanted? They’d been there 10+ years. I had proven my abilities – I had excellent performance reviews and was clearly capable of the next level of responsibilities. There just wasn’t a job above me to be given to me. Ultimately, I wasn’t willing to wait it out yet another couple of years…so I left.

So that would be option one.

Moving on to another organization.

You should do this only after you’ve 1 – made clear your desires to your boss, and 2- made a strong case for your abilities to take on something new. Repeatedly. Because it’s not fair to duck out on a boss / organization if “but I want more challenging work, and I deserve the chance” would be news to them. You need to give them the chance to meet your demands.

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No Time to Network? Send an Email

It’s not just introverts who hate in-person networking. It’s also people who are time-pressed. My workplace is pretty good about having networking events during the day – a first-thing-in-the-morning type thing, or a networking lunch – but let’s face it, most places are not. Most networking events are after-hours, often off site at a bar (which raises its own issues of shutting out people who don’t want to be in that environment). People who have dogs who need to be let out, long commutes, loved ones to go care for, groceries to grab just simply do not have time for this.

But fear not! You can network from behind your keyboard. I’ve written about this a bit before, but today I’ll walk you through a foolproof method for connecting with someone new via email.

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The Top 5 Types of Jobs in My Job Alerts

One of the gripes I hear most frequently from clients and colleagues is that there just aren’t any jobs right now. And, of course, what you mean when you say that is: I see jobs, but they just aren’t right. Or they’re perfect, but I’m not ready for that level yet.

Know that you are not alone. It takes patience. I just sorted through my own job alerts (yes, even career coaches are ever-looking!), and thought I’d share with you the 5 types of jobs in my alerts.

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This Gen Xer’s Thoughts On Job Hopping

I am an old. I will fully admit I am an old. A proud Gen X-er. One way that colors how I see the world of work is that I look askance at job hopping. I fully admit that I shouldn’t. As a manager, the people who work for me job hop all the time. Most folks – at least the Millennials I have on my team – stay in a job about 2 years these days. They are talented, capable, skilled, and really great workers! And yet, I still mentally ding them for job hopping. As if it will catch up with them one day.

Perhaps it will, but if it does now, I don’t see that indication yet, and they don’t seem to care. Obviously, if someone leaves my team after 18-24 months to take another job, that other hiring manager doesn’t care about longevity and loyalty. So I’m guessing it doesn’t impact their careers, and so I continue to conclude that I’m the old-fashioned one here and that this particular bias of mine is one I just need to ignore.

Actually, I can think of one way it impacts their careers.

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Flipping the Script: An Appreciative Inquiry-Based Approach to Career Planning

There are some interesting intersections in my (day job) as a Professional Development Manager and my career coaching. At work today, I was talking about appreciative inquiry theory. This is an approach to organizational and personal development in which we focus on strengths, possibilities, and a future-oriented vision. As you can imagine, it’s far more inspirational and motivating than focusing on problems, weaknesses, and gaps. And it made me think about how powerful that kind of approach could be for career planning, too.

If you think about where you want to get to, rather than how stuck – or miserable – you may currently be, then career planning can become more powerful. Thinking this way helps you think of and build a vision for your own future. And sometimes is what we all need – especially when they are mired in a job or career that stinks. What if you used your happy hour to think about where you could get to, rather than commiserate about how broken it is now?

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Trim the Fat: Get LEAN about your Career

Sometimes you come across or use concepts at work that could just as easily apply to your career. Working for a LEAN enterprise, I can definitely tell you that LEAN is one of them.

What is LEAN? The concept comes from manufacturing (I think?) but it’s all about eliminating what isn’t needed to improve workflow and efficiency. Making things simpler, easier to understand, and faster to do, basically. At my work what it means is to streamline our standard operating procedures to the degree possible so that we can provide the highest-quality services, and continuously update and improve our processes through a feedback loop.

What do I think that has to do with career planning, though? Actually a lot.

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