In the workplace of the past, steady career growth was a common expectation. You’d get an entry-level job at a company and, a few years later, you’d get a promotion. Before long, you’d work your way up to management, and after a few decades of progressive career advancement, you’d retire with a beautiful gold watch and a pension.
My, how times have changed!
These days, it’s rare to meet a professional who has followed a traditional career path—and even more rare to see it within a single organization. Career advancement is not as pre-defined as it used to be. People can easily and frequently move from one organization to another, making internal promotions much more competitive. As a result, many professionals want to grow within their organization, but find it nearly impossible to do so.
If you’re struggling to advance where you are, it might be time to consider leaving for greener pastures.
When Does Leaving Make Sense?
If you’re otherwise very happy with your organization, you’ll want to make a strong attempt to advance there before you pursue outside opportunities. First, make your career goals known to your manager early on. Ask for his or her support and create a plan together to get where you want to go. At the same time, focus on being an exceptional performer in your current role. Track your accomplishments so you can share them articulately and frequently, be a team player, and go over and beyond to demonstrate your commitment.
If you’ve already done all of this and career advancement still eludes you, it’s time to have a serious discussion with your manager. Ask directly for feedback regarding your lack of progress and what you need to do to change things. If your manager can’t provide any useful insight—or if the factors are totally outside of your control—it may be time to explore other options.
Remember that patience is, indeed, a virtue. You don’t want to be so ambitious that you’re unwilling to put in the necessary time to prove yourself before pushing for a promotion. How long you should wait depends on the role you’re in and the organizational culture. Generally, two years is the minimum. However, if you’ve been in the same role for 5 years with no advancement, you run the risk of getting stale. It’s not good for your career to hang out too long without growth.
Where Should You Go?
If you’ve determined that career advancement is unlikely where you are and you’re ready to move on, you may be wondering where to go. The best recommendation is to do your due diligence before making the leap. After all, you probably want to go somewhere with a lot of opportunity for advancement. That way, you can stick around for a while and (hopefully) won’t find yourself in this same predicament.
Generally speaking, large organizations have more opportunities simply based on the numbers. However, some smaller organizations still believe in promotion from within and actively support the advancement of their employees. Start-ups also provide a lot of opportunity because they tend to be more flexible and have a lot of needs. If you’re ambitious, you may be able to carve an exciting career path out for yourself.
There is no single type of organization that is best for advancement. You have to do your research and target the ones that best suit your career objectives.
Is There Another Option?
Finally, it’s worthwhile noting that there may be another option. If you land an offer at a competing organization, you may be able to use that as leverage for getting the promotion you want where you are. Faced with the option of losing you or advancing you, your current company may be motivated to act.
Of course, you can’t count on this! When you inform your employer that an offer is on the table, be prepared to leave. There is no guarantee that they will want to engage in a battle to keep you.
Only you can decide when it’s time to move on. Recognize that it is YOUR decision to make. You are not a hostage at your current company. You own your career. If you’re not getting what you want, need and deserve where you are, there are plenty of other organizations that would be happy to have you.