Help!?!? I can’t move forward!

Help!?!? I can’t move forward!

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Are you trapped in a role with nowhere to go? Most of us have felt like that at one point or another in our careers. You give so much of yourself to your organisation, but one day you wake up and feel like you have no more opportunities in a place you thought you’d work forever. Was it a gradual realisation, or did it just hit you all of a sudden one day?

Maybe there was a recent restructuring, or perhaps a new hire to the team, a more “senior qualified” peer with associating murmurs of succession planning? Or was it department outsourcing and that role you had your eye on is now many kilometers away?

An off-hand comment by your manager in your one-on-one: “I’ll be here until I retire”—that’ll give you that sinking feeling. Damn, you think, where does that leave me?

What do I do now?

As a Career Coach, “Help, I can’t move forward” are some of my favourite words, because it means it’s time to do what we coaches do best. Help!

Here are some things to consider if you find yourself in the ‘nowhere to go’ situation.


By recognising your current situation, you’ve started on a path of self-awareness, and this can only help. Recognising there are no obvious career advancement opportunities is the starting point, but it’s important to continue along this path.

First, take stock of your current feelings, mood, behaviour and actions. One of the first things I tell my clients is “How you see yourself is how others will see you.” In other words, if you are starting to feel frustrated your peers and management will start to pick that up–that is not good for your brand. ”Be mindful and be on your best behaviour whilst you reassess and work out your game plan.

Second, now is a great time to review your Career Plan. If need be, do some more discovery and self-assessment work to confirm what that next role is.

Finally, make a plan to get yourself out of the rut. Not sure how to start moving forward? Here are some techniques that work great.

People Leader Involvement

Talk with your manager and make sure they are aware—make that doubly aware—of your career aspirations. If your Individual Development Plan is up to date, it should be no surprise to your manager what your plans are. Your manager should be your ally, so make sure you communicate clearly and openly and see what their thoughts are. If it is not possible to work with your manager (for any reason) reach out to your HR representative. There may be roles or secondment opportunities that you are not aware of, and there’s always the possibility that they could create opportunities just for you. Remember that it never hurts to ask!

Mentors/Role Models/Coaches

Reach out to your support network and get their thoughts. Again, have an open and honest dialogue about what they think your options are. It’s natural to only see things from your own perspective, so it is important to supplement your views by getting an independent view. It might open up a few options; both inside and outside your organization.

Personal Development

If you decide that you are going to stick it out at your current company and see what happens,  or if you are looking for some short term solutions, one good strategy is to focus your energy on yourself and take control of your own development. Pull out your Individual Plan, do a full review, and update the actions with some ramped-up meaningful, tangible self-growth actions that align to your career plans.

Once you’ve reviewed your Individual Plan, see if you can leverage the company’s resources, such as internal training and development, or ask for some funding for an external course. If the company is unwilling or unable to support your development, you may wish to go it alone and self-fund your personal development with a university course, a new certification, coaching, etc.

Tip: If for example you are a Project Manager and want to move up to Program Manager, start acting, thinking, feeling like a Program Manager. Remember: how you see yourself is how others will see you.

Company Change

Deciding to leave your company can be easy for some and daunting for others. It is not uncommon for some people to take up to twelve months to decide to leave. My previous posts on being comfortable and familiar address this situation. The decision to leave can often bring a sense of relief if you have been debating it for a while.

Research potential organizations and roles as thoroughly as possible. If you can bring your people leader on the journey, they may have networks that you can leverage. Update your CV and LinkedIn bio; if you keep an exceptional LinkedIn profile you just might be contacted by a recruiter or potential employer.

Now it’s time to start applying, meeting with recruiters, and creating profiles on the main job sites.

Tip: If you have contacts in your targeted list of companies, now is the time to reach out to them for a coffee and a chat. Lots of jobs are not advertised, and you want to make sure you are aware of these and potentially get a referral. Make sure your elevator pitch is strong, memorable and well-rehearsed.

Career Change

The sea-change option, and my personal favourite! If during your self-discovery work you determine your current career path is not for you, then a career change is something to consider. You may already know what job/career you really want, or you can seek help to determine the right path for you. Either way, it is important to apply a targeted approach.

If you’ve identified a new job/career/industry that interests you, but you’re still a little unsure about taking the leap, sussing out the industry via volunteer work or a secondment could be an option for you. Tailor your CV and LinkedIn bio to focus on the skills and knowledge that will help you in your new field, and if need be, complete some industry-based learning to help bridge the gap. A strong network and networking are key elements to making a successful change.

Tip: If you change the world around you will change and opportunities will arise.

Good fortune!

Looking for more job and career tips & tricks? Keep an eye on my weekly blog.

Quote of the week: Don’t fear failure. Fear being in exactly the same place next year as you are today.