Career Clinic: Help, I'm stuck in a career rut

I’ve been stuck in my role for five years and I don’t feel like I’m progressing. I’ve failed to get other internal jobs I’ve applied for and I’m running out of ideas of how to develop my career. What should I do?


Over the past five years you are likely to have experienced different projects, people and contexts. So while it may feel like you have been “stuck”, it’s very likely that you have developed some useful skills.

A good place to start is to reflect on what you’ve done over this time. What are you doing differently today? What type of work really energises you? What are you looking to do less/more of in the future? Having a good sense of where you are right now is a really useful step in planning what comes next.

Remember, development means different things to different people. Clarifying what it means for you and what you are willing to compromise on or sacrifice to achieve it is critical. To some, progression is about being promoted or taking on a management position. To others, it is feeling that you are continuously learning and doing new things. It can be helpful to think of progression in its broadest sense as this opens up more opportunities for career development.

If you haven’t already, seek out as much feedback as possible from any internal opportunities you may have applied for. This will give you some good insight into where to invest your time. For example, were you unsuccessful because you didn’t have some of the skills required for the role? If so, seeking out training opportunities might be the answer.

Companies like mine invest significant resources in developing training programmes that can help develop new skills and aid career progression – it’s important to harness these opportunities.

Today, companies across all industries are operating in times of change, so the need to continue learning has become ever more important. The great news is that learning has never been easier. Even if your company doesn’t offer formal training, courses are increasingly accessible for little or sometimes no cost. Take a look at online tools or speak to your manager about external courses you could enrol in – you’ll find the options are extensive.

Along with learning new skills, networking is the other crucial ingredient that helps in successfully navigating internal moves. Many new career opportunities come about through personal networks both inside and outside your organisation. What new connections have you made in the past few months? What existing connections should you be investing more time in?

Finally, from a personal perspective, mentoring is critical. Mentors are not only useful for developing your network, but many have often been in your position. Use and learn from your mentor’s experiences and seek their advice. Find someone that is doing what you aspire to do. Almost everyone is willing to give an hour of their time to share their experiences and give you the guidance you need to continue to grow in your role.

Lara Carty is head of learning and leadership development, Emea, at Bank of America Merrill Lynch

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