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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Informational Interview Questions

Yesterday, I posted about something you can and should do when exploring a new career: an informational interview. But that post only covered how to schedule the interview. You still need to know what to ask during an informational interview. So let’s get started.

Why do an Informational Interview?

This is a low-stakes way for you to

  • meet someone in a different career,
  • explore how they got into that work, and
  • get a snapshot of a typical workday.

In other words, the point of an informational interview is to give you more data points on whether it might be a career that suits you and warrants more exploration.

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Resources for Career Brainstorming

It’s Monday, so I’m guessing you’re as braindead as I am. But when you’re job hunting or career planning, you still need to be working on your career, even when you don’t feel like it. So it’s a good day to take on something easy, like brainstorming. Brainstorming is a good way to make use of your time on days when you’re feeling sluggish or caffeine-dependent.  Like, say, Mondays.

How Brainstorming Can Benefit Your Career

Career brainstorming can help you no matter what career stage you’re in. When you’re looking for your first job or considering a career change, brainstorming can uncover new job families to explore. And when you’re in a career but feeling stuck at your current level, it can help you find professional development options you might need to consider in order to advance. Or when you’ve found a job you’d like to apply for, it can help you figure out how to identify and describe your transferable skills on your resume.

Let’s take a look at some of my favorite career brainstorming tools.

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