What To Do When You Realize You Can Not Get Promoted Anymore

black woman leaning on light pole

Glass ceilings are real, honey.

In the working world, the majority of us operate with a forward-thinking attitude to some degree. At least, we do if we want a career which can fulfill us. The chances are that you’ve had to keep your eyes on the prize to get where you are. Even when we join a new company, it isn’t unusual to ask about the possibility of promotion and advancement. There are no two ways around it; us humans are a determined bunch. It’s a good job, too, else we would never have gotten where we are now. And, you would never have made it this far in a career you don’t actually dread turning up to.

So, everything’s as it should be. You’re climbing the ladder in the working world, and you’re feeling pretty damn good about it. Then, the worst thing happens. You reach the top floor. Or, in other words, you realize that there’s nowhere else for you to go. It may be that you notice this the moment your promotion goes forwards and you get moved into that dream office. Or, you might have been doing your top dog job for a while before this thought strikes you.

Either way, this can often feel like a case of ‘careful what you wish for’. You wanted to get better, bigger, more advanced. But, you’re now finding that being top of the career ladder isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. And, no; that’s not because you have all the responsibility on your shoulders. In fact, the job role itself could be exactly how you imagined. It’s still possible to find yourself unhappy. Why? Because you’ve been moving forward for so long that you don’t know how to stand still. With nothing to work towards, you may find that you start to stagnate, no matter how ideal your job role. And, when that happens, you’ll soon find yourself on a fast track to dissatisfaction in the workplace.

If this sounds all too familiar to you, the main thing is not to panic. Instead, you should realize that you have choices here. You ALWAYS have choices. So, instead of sitting back and accepting the fate your career has handed you, consider the following options to get past this rut.

Consider a change

We know this is the possibility you’ve been avoiding up until now, but it’s time to face it head-on. If you can’t shake that feeling of dissatisfaction, it’s a sure sign you’re ready to move on from your current career. There, we said it. That wasn’t so painful, was it? Admittedly, a complete upheaval like this can be a tricky thing to face. But, it’s better to acknowledge this need now than later on down the line. After all, the older you get, the more difficult it’ll be to secure a position elsewhere. If the thought of stepping away from the career you’re in now bothers you, consider making a change without leaving altogether. It is possible, after all, that moving to a new firm could open new advancements for you. Even moving into a similar role in a new company could be the change you need to refresh your outlook.

If even that doesn’t fill you with joy, you can’t put it off any longer. It’s time to consider a complete career change. Starting at the bottom of the ladder is never fun, but it does have some benefits. In this situation, the main one worth stating is the completely new ladder you would get to climb. If advancement is your ‘thing’, then it doesn’t get much better than this. Even if you don’t think this is what you need, a fresh start could instantly breathe life back into your working days. You could take this as an excuse to embark on the dream career you were never able to take when you were younger. Or, you could search for a new career which would allow you to make use of your skills. Either way, stop putting this off. You owe it to yourself and your future to take the plunge and apply for those new roles already. If you’re reluctant, remember that you’re much older and wiser than you used to be. You won’t be the new young one ever again. Instead, you’ll be a respected colleague from day one. Or, at least, that’s the hope…

Find new routes forwards

No means no in most walks of life. But, no in your career opportunities could well mean ‘not now’. Rather than rolling over and accepting this fate, seek new ways forwards instead. Admittedly, you may still find yourself coming up against a wall at every turn. In that case, at least you can say you tried. But, a lot of the time, it’s possible to find new ways forward if you only look for them.

An excellent example of this would be reaching a dead end that you could get past if you had qualifications behind you. On the surface, this may seem like a real pain in your backside. But, the chances are this is an easier hurdle than you imagine. Remember, here, that you aren’t a youngster on the block anymore. As such, it’s unlikely you’ll need to return to uni for four years to qualify yourself for that promotion. Instead, a store manager could do an evening admin course to qualify themselves for head office. An office manager could embark on something like the online Master of IT Leadership at Deakin University to further enhance their opportunities. It’s possible to do courses like these while still working your full-time role. And, you’d then be liable for promotion in less than year or so. You may also find that doing the course in itself brings back that forward momentum you know so well.

Or, you may opt to find new routes forward by creating roles above yourself. Companies always value employees with forward-thinking, so why not branch out? You are, after all, in the position to make lucrative decisions. It may be that you oversee the development of a whole new aspect of the business you can get stuck into later. Who said you couldn’t create your own opportunities?

Focus on the progression of others


If you have no higher to climb, consider whether you could regain career satisfaction by helping others up that ladder. From your position up top, you should consider it a priority to help others climb higher anyway. But, you may also find that doing so reignites the passion you found during your climb. How you do this could vary. You may opt to transfer to a human resources department which works on everything from employment to colleague issues. Or, you may be able to find ways to achieve this from your current position.

Could you take apprentices under your wing, for instance? Could you offer training courses which use your experience to help others achieve the same success? It may even be that you allow trainee colleagues to shadow you so that they can gain experience. These may all seem like pretty small steps to take, but they can make a massive difference to your satisfaction. You could even coach these individuals on their application writing processes. Just like that, you’ll feel the way you did when you were in their position. You can also then enjoy their successes with them and see this as a form of advancement in itself.

Satisfy yourself some other way

It’s possible that you’re struggling here because you’re craving the satisfaction your career journey gave you. But, instead of trying to find more of that at work, why not seek satisfaction from elsewhere in your life? Whatever way you look at it, your career progression chapter is over for now. You’ve gotten where you always wanted to be, and that’s a GOOD thing. Let it go, and focus instead on developing further outside of the workplace. It may be that you simply join an evening class to learn a new skill, for instance. This alone can keep you moving forward. Or, you may find that you need more than that. In that case, why not embark on a side hustle? This allows you to keep that coveted career position, and still enhance qualifications. Starting a blog, for instance, could see you earning more and embarking on a new project you need to master. Failing that, you may decide to do something crazy, like write a book in your spare time. It doesn’t matter. The important thing is that you find something which keeps that stale feeling from setting in. If you manage this then your efforts on the side have done their job.

A final word

Reaching your career goals is rarely what it’s cracked up to be. In fact, more often than not, it can lead to feelings like the ones you’re battling with right now. In fact, dissatisfaction is often part and parcel of reaching the top. The main thing you need to remember is that there’s no need to make do in this life. Instead, give the points above a real go, and see how they serve you. If one doesn’t work out, try another. Just keep pushing until you find something which puts that fire back in your belly!

FEATURED IMAGE: IG @kofmotivation

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