My Career Stalled, Here’s How I Turned Things Around

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Three years in, and my career stalled.

I watched others get promoted. My peers were adding direct reports under them and receiving increased responsibility. The goals and expectations I set for myself, slipped by week by week, month by month, approaching a year on my team.

I searched within to understand my shortcomings, but continued coming up short. I reached out to mentors and advisors at my job and they assured me that I was on the right track. I heard consistent praise about my work and confirmation that my role and work was critical to our team’s success. However, results and actions failed to substantiate words spoken by managers and projects leads.

So what was wrong? And, more importantly, what could I do about it?

Skills Assessment

There was a major disconnect between my working style and what was valued at the firm. High quality work output is the bare minimum. In addition to the work you do, people should want to work with you. Your role and work needs to be in direct support of a strategic goal of the firm or department you are in. I realized that while I produced great work it was sidelined, and so was I. After reflecting on where I was currently at in my career and where I wanted to be, I decided to quit my job and pursue business school.

The decision to attend business school was strategic. I took a look at where I was and where I wanted to go. For me, business school is a building block towards what I hope evolves into a fulling career in business.

I now better understand how to assess corporate culture in order to pursue firms who will value me, the work I do, and reward me accordingly. I’ve learned how to communicate how the work I do ties to larger strategic goals of the firm. Most important, I have broaden my definition of success and measurement of worth at work.

Gaining Clarity

I’ve dreamed of being a business executive since I was 19, and business school would equip me with academic content, career guidance, and a personal network. Prior to business school, I had no experience with corporate finance, accounting, marketing, etc. content.

Leaving business school, I have foundational knowledge and practical experiences in all business topics which better equips me as I progress towards becoming a business leader. Business executive is a vague term. “What kind of executive?” “Which industry?” “By when?” were all critical questions I needed clarity on.  A full time MBA program provides two years to explore and craft answers to all those questions and more.

Social Capital

Finally, the network you gain in business school provides you with the social capital to better navigate your career over the long term. Your classmates become dear friends, most of whom go on to lead in diverse fields with diverse roles.

Promotions and increased responsibility are important but so is the variety of work projects, level of exposure and personal fulfilment. If your measurement of success is anchored in the experiences and expectations of others, you will consistently fall short.

I encourage you to be the boss of your career. What gets you excited? When does time fly? What are the items on your to do list you always avoid? What work do you delegate and why? Answers to these questions can help point you in a direction of a more fulfilling career.

Once you have gained clarity in where you want to go, chart a path of how to get you there. Will education accelerate you? Are there executives you should have informational interviews with? Or is there a professional conference you can attend to begin bridging the gap? The person most interested in the success of your career is YOU. Take charge.

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This post is made possible by support from the Forté Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to encouraging women to pursue leadership careers in business. All opinions are the writer’s own.

Melody B

About Melody B

Melody Buckley believes that being in charge of your personal finances is a key to happiness. She wants to inspire people to take action by providing them with finance knowledge in an approachable way. As self-proclaimed first generation middle class, she writes about what she’s learning along the way. If you care about credentials, Melody holds an undergraduate degree in Economics from DePauw University and a MBA from Michigan State University.
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