Workplace dilemmas: I’m worried my career is stalling

Our agony uncle offers advice on your problems. This time, what to do when you feel your career has lost momentum

Dear Tim,

If you’d have met me 10 years ago, I think you’d have been impressed. I was in my twenties and held a senior position in my industry as a director of marketing and communications for a charity. It wasn’t the world’s best-paid job, but I was responsible for a team of a dozen people and had decision-making authority. I was a direct report to the chief executive, which felt pretty good.

    ...people had me pegged as “one to watch”. I was well networked and trusted to speak on behalf of the wider industry.  

The sector I work in is quite small, and people had me pegged as “one to watch”. I was well networked and trusted to speak on behalf of the wider industry. People came from other organisations to ask my advice and I regularly spoke at conferences.

About six years ago, I was offered a job with another charity that some of my colleagues said was a sideways move, if not a demotion. I took it because it suited my lifestyle better: it was closer to home with the possibility of remote working. With young kids and a very busy home life, I decided it would be a smart move and reasoned that it couldn’t do my career any harm in the long term. I was one to watch, after all.

Sadly, the charity I moved to ended up folding. I managed to secure a new job before being made redundant, thereby saving my employer from paying me off. But it necessitated moving into a more junior role in a much larger commercial organisation. The pay is similar, but I’m one among many so-called “communications managers”.

For the first time in years, I don’t have a team to manage and have very little decision-making power. I’m struggling to find my feet in a larger organisation, where people of my grade are expected to work with next to no autonomy.

The big problem is that I don’t feel as if I’m taken seriously, either by my new managers or by the people in my old sector. The former don’t value my professional experience to date, and certainly have no sense that I’m a promising talent for the future. Meanwhile, my former colleagues think I bottled it when I moved all those years ago, and other bright young things have emerged to fill my boots.

I don’t feel like I’m old, although I’m fast approaching 40. But I am becoming increasingly worried that I’ve missed my opportunity. I don’t think I want to spend the rest of my working life as a middle manager, with very little responsibility for anything, even if the money’s okay and the working conditions fairly flexible. But the more I hark on about my previous experience, the less seriously I feel like I’m taken in my new role.

Tim says:

There are all sorts of dynamics at work in your situation, many of which are by no means unique to you.

For a start, you’re coming to an age where you start to doubt the decisions you’ve made and wonder if you should be living a different sort of life. It’s one of the many symptoms of middle age, so you should feel free to cut yourself some slack. There are things going on physiologically, psychologically and emotionally that cause you to question yourself. Your identity is being reshaped, and it may be that the things you valued a few years ago seem different now.

That said, it sounds like you made a smart decision when you traded seniority and career potential for lifestyle all those years ago. It’s a hackneyed old cliché but no less true for being repeated: your kids won’t remember you by the hours you spent at work or by a fancy job title. They’ll recall the time you spent with them, being a father and shaping their future.

So even if your career has run out of steam (and I doubt it has), you need to consider things in the round. Would you trade the last few years of personal satisfaction for a more high profile career?

    Your identity is being reshaped, and it may be that the things you valued a few years ago seem different now.  

One of the things about being a young buck with lots of potential is that it can be counterproductive. Many professionals time their run and grow into positions of seniority as they get older. Who’s to say you would now be at the top of your profession had you stayed in that original job? You may be just as frustrated as you are now.

It strikes me that you’re being harsh on yourself. If you’re still relatively new to your current role, you probably need to spend time settling in and establishing yourself. For the first time in a number of years, you’re an unknown quantity. You need to earn credibility. Resist the urge to be defensive or too pushy. Just do your job as well as possible. You won’t have lost your potential. It just needs to be recognised in a new context.

Of course, all of that is to assume you actually want to develop your career with your current employer. It may be that your feelings of frustration speak of a deeper desire to try something new. If that’s the case, consider how your skills could be used in another context, or look into retraining for a job you really like the sound of.

You may not feel like it, but you’re a young man with many years ahead of you in the workplace. Keep doing what you do and a stimulating opportunity will come your way. You’ve told me you have a good wage and a decent amount of flexibility. Enjoy that, and let the rest fall into place over time.

Published: 19 August 2019

© 2019 Just Recruitment Group Ltd

If you enjoyed this article, you may like: Just on mental health and wellbeing

You may also enjoy: Workplace dilemmas: I think my colleague has fallen for me

Jobs currently available

New job
Lettings Negotiator
Sector: Property and Construction
Salary: £20,000 - £30,000 per annum
Location: Wokingham
Role: Full Time
Contract: Permanent
Job ref: 908926
About the role

Are you an experienced Letting Negotiator?

A company based in Wokingham is looking for you, an experienced Lettings Negotiator to join their growing team.

The role would cover all duties from submitting properties to let, to enquiries, viewings and all admin alongside. They have a thorough system in place up to when the tenant moves in and everything is handed to the Property Manager.

A lively, lovely and fast paced team, this is the company to join for the next step in your career!

They work on a two week rota and offer a competitive salary!

Don’t delay. apply today!

Read more
New job
Design and Research Assistant
Sector: Media and Internet
Salary: £18,000 - £20,000 per annum
Location: Colchester
Role: Full Time
Contract: Permanent
Job ref: 908924
About the role

Just Recruitment is recruiting for a Design and Research Assistant on behalf of a company based in Colchester.

The successful applicant will need to be self-motivated, highly organised, proactive, creative and resolutive.

Ideally you will have a design, art or photography background and knows your way around a Mac and wish to put your skills to work and get involved with a fast-paced creative company.

If you enjoy a challenge and are self-motivated, organised, focused and wish to be part of a busy and energetic team then this bespoke, friendly company could be just what you’re looking for.

Experience in the following:

Intermediate to advanced knowledge of Adobe Creative Suite, including retouching and an understanding of digital images, resolution and the print process.

Graphic Design skills, and ability to produce design ideas and illustrations to brief.

Highly organised and thorough with good library and resource management.

Independent initiative in researching a variety of subjects.

The role includes:

Development of ideas and creating visual mood boards and brochures.

Design of graphic art, wallpapers, wall murals etc.

Picture research, photographic and graphic.

Scanning, printing and reproduction.

Internet based research.

*** Due to location you will need to drive ***

Read more
New job
Workshop Technician
Sector: Engineering and Manufacturing
Salary: discussed on application
Location: Braintree
Role: Full Time
Contract: Permanent
Job ref: 908845
About the role

Due to expansion Just Recruitment is recruiting for a Slide (workshop) Technician on behalf of a company based in Braintree, Essex.

The role is workshop based and will involve the complete tear-down, cleaning, inspection, repair, overhaul, functional testing and troubleshooting of aircraft components.

Electro Mechanical experience preferred.

You will be required to work on a variety of aircraft safety equipment and evacuation systems such as evacuation slides, life rafts, helicopter floats, oxygen cylinders, masks and escape slide inflation systems and general survival equipment for both commercial and military aircraft.

General workshop skills required. Someone who is able to follow technical diagrams, strip down, overhaul, repair and re-build.

The position would suit you if you have experience of repairing electro mechanical equipment.

Read more
New job
Transport Co-Ordinator
Sector: Transport, Logistics and Shipping
Salary: £10.50 - £10.75 per hour
Location: Witham
Role: Part Time
Contract: Permanent
Job ref: 908915
About the role

Do you have transport experience and seeking a new challenge?

Just Recruitment is recruiting for a Transport Co-Ordinator to join their client’s team in Witham.

Duties include:

  • Maintain all company vehicles in line with legal requirements and schedules, inspections, MOT, Insurance, tax etc; utilising the Fleetcheck software to show vehicle and driver status to facilitate the smooth operation of the fleet.
  • Maintain a vehicle file for all company vehicle documentation, including V5, contract hire agreements and any other relevant documentation.
  • Monitory and manage driver utilisation of the Fleetchecker vehicle inspection app and reporting functionality. Organise defect rectification in a timely manner.
  • Download and monitor all drivers’ tachographs, the vehicle download data, send to external agency for checking and monitory all drivers hours in line with the legal requirements, EU driving legislation, Great British driving rules and working time directive to ensure that the business and driving staff operate within the legal framework.
  • Ensure all dart charges, congestion charges and other tolls are promptly settled to negate any ongoing unforeseen charges.

Skills required:

  • Experience and knowledge of fleet management, logistics planning in accordance with legislative constraints.
  • Solid computer skills including Word, Excel and Outlook, along with good background IT knowledge to learn bespoke software programs.
  • Excellent communications skills, telephone manner and written word.

Hours Mon - Fri, 7.30am - 12.30pm.

Free parking.

 

Read more
Packing Supervisor
Sector: Engineering and Manufacturing
Salary: £9.00 - £9.73 per hour
Location: Halstead
Role: Full Time
Contract: Permanent
Job ref: 908914
About the role

Just Recruitment is looking for a Packing Supervisor on behalf of a company based on the outskirts of Sudbury.

Duties:

  • To make sure all new staff are aware of what is required of them, coach, encourage and support them
  • To oversee the day to day operation of the packing area
  • Participating in the operation of machinery in your area
  • Participating in all work positions within your area
  • Provide support to the shift manager as and when required

Working hours – Normal working hours are from 7:30am – 16:30pm Monday – Friday.

Overtime may be required depending on production needs.

You may be required to work 15 Saturdays/shifts during the working year to suit the requirements of the company.

Read more