Career dead-end? 5 steps to a fresh start

career advancement | WomenAdvance.comDear Ann,

I work in a busy office as an executive assistant to the president/CEO. I can do my job very efficiently, and I enjoy my position working for “the big boss.” But I’m feeling bogged down and need to make more money. I don’t know how to advance any further without a college degree. I have worked for this company for 23 years. Any advice?


Dear Joanie,

I know, it’s frustrating. If it’s any consolation, you’re not alone. Whatever the job, if we’re ambitious, we will eventually reach a “saturation point.” We hit the limit of what’s possible in terms of money, or growth, or satisfaction. It’s not personal (usually), it’s just that you’ve outgrown your position and you’re not interested in coasting. In a way, that’s a good thing! So, time to get moving. I’ve put together five question, or steps, that you and any of our ambitious sisters can use to figure out that musical question, “What’s next?”

1.  What’s not working about your current position?

Dig deep and get very, very specific. Is it the paycheck? Is it the lack of personal or professional growth? Or the dwindling opportunities for career advancement? Are you facing a toxic work environment? Or is your work environment a bad fit (eg, extreme boredom or stress)? Maybe it’s just your boss . . .

2.  Given your answer to question #1, what is your logical next step?

For example: if you love what you do, but you’re at the top of your payscale at your current company, and the problem you want to solve is a lagging salary, then your logical next step is to find a similar position at a different company that pays more, perhaps in a more lucrative industry.

Another example: if you’re bored silly at your current position but love your organization, then your logical next step is to make a lateral move into a different function. You get to stay, and start growing again.

One final example: if you need to develop, say, a set of experiences across more industries to achieve your long-term career goal, then your logical next step is to move into an adjacent sector.

3.  What skills/content expertise/experiences do you need in order to get to your next logical step?

Again, be precise — and exhaustive. As you’re making your list, ask yourself: is it different skills I need, or a more diverse set of skills, or greater depth in my current skills?

4.  How can you best obtain those skills/content expertise/experiences?

Here’s where you need to get creative. Developing your talent isn’t a pre-packaged college major. It’s more like a self-designed curriculum. Consider the full range of options: You might take on extra projects in your current position. Or enroll in a degree or certification program. You can volunteer for a board to develop the skills you need.

5.  What’s the plan?

Now that you know what you’ve got to do in order to get where you want to go, make a plan. Start with a timeline, which means plotting which strategies you’re going to do when, and in what order.

(PS — In January I’m offering my annual New Year’s special for new coaching clients. Interested? Email me.)


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