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
Production Operative
Sector: Production and Stock Control
Salary: £8.22 - £8.44 per hour
Location: Halstead Essex
Role: Full Time
Contract: Temporary
Job ref: 907813
About the role

Just Recruitment is seeking driven Production Operatives to work for a company based in Halstead, Essex.

Are you looking for a new opportunity?
Are you willing and motivated?
Are you flexible and reliable?

The role will include:

  • General warehouse duties
  • Cleaning down the work areas
  • Production of dry food
  • Moving boxes
  • Picking and packing products

Shifts available:

22:00 - 07:00
15:00 - 22:00
07:00 - 16:00
07:30 - 16:30

Don’t delay, contact us today!

Read more
New job
Digital Copywriter
Sector: Media and Internet
Salary: £20,000 - £21,000 per annum
Location: Chelmsford
Role: Full Time
Contract: Permanent
Job ref: 909259
About the role

Do you have a couple of years experience within Copywriting?

Do you have some experience in Digital Marketing and SEO?

Just Recruitment is recruiting for a Digital Copywriter on behalf of a growing and highly reputable agency based on the outskirts of Chelmsford.

Your responsibilities and duties will include:

  • Writing engaging digital content, inclusive of blogs and optimised website copy
  • Optimising all content, including adding meta titles, meta descriptions and keyword insertion
  • Uploading various blogs and web copy to a variety of Content Management Systems
  • Liaising with management to ensure all content meets set requirements
  • Liaising confidently and professionally with clients to discuss content requirements, tone, audience and any amendments that need to be made
  • Conducting content audits and producing ongoing content marketing strategies
  • Editing in-house and existing client content to ensure accuracy and quality
  • Being responsible for managing your own schedule in a time conscious manner
  • Maintaining a sound understanding of SEO best practices

Qualifications and skills:

  • Minimum 2 years’ experience in a similar role with writing copy - candidates will be required to provide examples of previous written work at the interview stage
  • Some experience in digital marketing, in particular SEO would be preferred
  • The ability to adapt tone and direction according to the client or type of content required
  • Be confident creating content for clients across a broad range of industries
  • Be able to juggle a number of tasks in a fast-paced agency environment
  • Be able to track progress and report to management within timescales and when required
  • Candidates will have a working knowledge of Microsoft Word and have good overall computer literacy.

This is a great opportunity to join an amazing company who offer fantastic benefits to their staff.

This is a full-time, permanent role working Monday – Thursday 09.00 – 18.00, and an early finish on a Friday!

If you are interested then apply today.

Read more
New job
Senior PPC Manager
Sector: Media and Internet
Salary: £40,000 - £60,000 per annum
Location: Chelmsford
Role: Full Time
Contract: Permanent
Job ref: 908848
About the role

Are you an experienced PPC Manager looking for your next challenge?

Are you Google Ads qualified, and have a working knowledge of PPC, SEO, Web Analytics and CRO?

Just Recruitment is recruiting for a Senior PPC Manager to join a well-established Digital Marketing Agency based on the outskirts of Chelmsford.

Your duties will include:

  • Processing PPC audits for new clients
  • Setting and effectively managing paid media campaigns: Google Ads, Bing Ads, Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter, Google Display Network
  • Managing Google Tag Manager / Google Analytics projects for large corporate clients
  • Establishing targets and managing budgets
  • You must also be able to set up paid search campaigns by conducting target keyword research and writing relevant ad texts, whilst ensuring effective campaign and keyword structures
  • Analysing analytics and feeding back advice (this is an important part of the role)
  • Proactively keeping up to date with new developments in PPC and actively researching, testing and proposing new approaches to improve PPC services

Experience/skills required:

  • 3 – 4 years experience in a similar role
  • Have a good understanding of digital marketing in general (Online and Offline)
  • Be able to carry out comprehensive conversion rate analysis and ROI tracking for clients’ PPC accounts
  • Bing Ads qualified
  • Working knowledge of Google Tag Manager
  • Advanced knowledge of Google Analytics
  • Excellent communication and presentation skills

This role is a full-time position working the hours of 9am-6pm and is paying a salary of up to £60,000.

If you are interested in hearing more about this amazing opportunity, then apply today!

Read more
New job
Business Development & Account Manager
Sector: Sales
Salary: To be discussed on application
Location: Witham
Role: Full Time
Contract: Permanent
Job ref: 909230
About the role

Are you looking to work for an exciting new business offering a great opportunity for you to advance your career?

Have you worked to targets, and enjoy selling?

Just Recruitment is delighted to be recruiting for an Account Manager on behalf of a company based in Witham.

The role is to build and develop relationships with the company’s new members, working with them throughout their one month - free trial, and ultimately upgrading them to be a paying member.

There will be no cold calling within this role, all leads have expressed interest!

If you love working in a team, talking to new people, have worked in sales before and have good verbal and written skills then this could be the role for you!

This is a full-time, permanent role working Monday to Friday.

If you are interested then apply today!

Read more
New job
Commercial Assistant
Sector: Public Service and Administration
Salary: £18,000 - £24,000 per annum
Location: Feering
Role: Full Time
Contract: Permanent
Job ref: 909216
About the role

Are you an experienced order processor, who is confident in liaising with suppliers and negotiating prices?

Just Recruitment is recruiting for a Commercial Assistant on behalf of a company based on the outskirts of Feering.

Your duties will include:

  • Processing orders
  • Liaising with suppliers
  • Negotiating prices
  • Invoicing orders
  • Supplying stock lists
  • Sending quotes
  • General office/admin duties

This is a full-time, permanent position working Monday to Friday, 09.00 to 17.00.

Due to the location of the role, you must have your own transport.

If you are interested then apply today!

Read more