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5 Reasons You’re Unhappy With Your Career Progress

There have been times in my life, while working for other people or companies, that I’ve thought to myself, I should have more job responsibility than this, or, I should be getting paid more than I am. A disagreement with the boss over my skills, potential, and value to the organization created tension. For some people, this tension could be demotivating.

Dissatisfaction with career progress is often not something that could be blamed on the company on the boss. Sometimes it’s due to a bad fit between people, but more likely, employees can look at themselves to find the barrier to success in a career. Here are a few possibilities.

Ladder1. You haven’t defined what you really want. The first step to getting what you want out of a career is having a clear goal with a series of steps that will get you there. Knowing where you’d like to be in your career helps you carry a sense of purpose in your job. If career advancement isn’t important to you and you haven’t found a need to define any goals, chances are your boss will keep you right where you are. If you have a goal in mind and are willing to put in the effort to show why you can accept more responsibilities, you have a better chance of moving ahead.

2. You haven’t discussed your career with your boss. While the best organizations are partners with employees in the career-building process, the initiative must come from the employees. After you have clear career goals and a personal job-related mission, you must share that with the people in your organization who can help make that happen. I’ve been too quiet about my desires in the past, and it has hurt me. After the fact, I’ve had bosses tell me that they didn’t know I wanted more responsibility. You may think you are showing the organization what you want through your actions, but in most cases, career desires need to be discussed explicitly.

3. You aren’t passionate about your work. Not everyone is lucky enough to be able to follow passions. The missions that people are more likely to be passionate about are in fields in which is may be difficult to make a living. If your passion is fine art and the only job you can see yourself doing is a painting artistic landscapes, the competition to become one of the few painters who can earn a solid living on their art is tough. If your passion is in a field that pays well, like engineering, you have a better shot. Most people settle, and particularly in job markets that favor employers, people often take the jobs they can get and don’t factor passion into the equation.

When you’re not passionate about your work, it’s more difficult to summon up the intrinsic motivation that’s required to not only do what’s asked of you, but to go beyond the call of duty and excel, impressing the decision-makers in your organization. Find something about your job to be passionate about, even if it’s not the job itself.

4. You haven’t clarified why you deserve more. Few people enjoy talking about themselves, particularly if it could be seen as bragging. Unfortunately, managers are busy and often don’t see everything you do. This information should come out in annual performance reviews if your organization participates in this ritual, but these reviews tend to be formalities after management has already decided whether you receive a promotion or a raise. Set up time to review your progress with your boss on a much more frequent basis. Even if discussed informally, let her know that you’re succeeding in ways that may not be immediately visible to a busy manager who focuses on many different people every day.

You may also need to make the connection for your manager. Explain not only what you’ve done but the effect these activities had or will have on the organization.

5. You’re not talking to the right decision-maker. You may have had all the right discussions with the wrong individual. At one company, I knew my direct supervisor had a good idea of where I wanted to be, but she wasn’t the person who could help move my career in the right direction. While she always claimed to be working on my behalf, for my to see career success, I needed to have more open communication with her supervisors — not her direct supervisor, but her boss’s boss, two layers in a corporate hierarchy up. When you need to jump ranks in order to move your career forward, it can tend to be intimidating. You don’t deal with your boss’s boss’s boss on a regular basis, but she might be the one who needs to know what your goals and desires are. She needs to know how you’ve succeeded, and she needs to she your passion.

Relying on long communication chain may be respectful of rank, but in the end, it’s not going to get you anywhere.

There might be other reasons you’re unhappy with your career progress. Perhaps the company just isn’t a good match for you. Perhaps your management plays favorites. Perhaps you’d succeed further working for yourself. Perhaps your management isn’t lying when they say the company has no money. Rather than focus on these external factors, look within. If you believe the career path you’re on is the right path for you and you’re undervalued, you can change your approach to increase your chances of being noticed positively.

Photo: plastAnka

Published or updated November 4, 2011.

About the author

Luke Landes is the founder of shizennougyou. He has been blogging and writing for the internet since 1995 and has been building online communities since 1991. Find out more about Luke Landes and follow him on Twitter. View all articles by .

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar 1 Anonymous

There are always a lot of intangibles that go into why you are successful and unsuccessful in a job or career. Some refer to it as chemistry, image or some other subjective reason. You are right, it may come down to a bad match. The next question is when do you leave?

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avatar 2 Ceecee

Did you see the unemployment report and productivity numbers this morning. Companies are doing more with fewer and fewer people. They appear to be in the driver’s seat right now. A lot of people are just happy to be working and not worried about their satisfaction levels.

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avatar 3 shellye

I have experience with all 5 points. Finally, this past summer, I bit the bullet and left my former company for a new job – doing the same thing as before, but for significantly more money. I always felt I was underpaid, and last spring finally had the courage to do my own salary survey, which confirmed that I was being vastly underpaid. I invested some money in a resume writing service (best thing I’ve ever done professionally) and sent it to one headhunter who just happened to have a position open for me. It was a very tough thing to do, leaving the job I had done for 5 years and the friends I made there, but every two weeks when I get paid, I remind myself that it was worth the move.

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avatar 4 Cejay

I know that my problem is a bad fit between me and my current manager. I have worked at the company going into my 13th year. I had no problem with my previous manager but he did not fit their idea of an ideal manager so they let him go. The current manager is just someone to do the bidding of everyone else. He is so scared for his job that he will not make a decision on his own. That being said he has segregated the departments and no one knows what anyone else is doing so work is being done three and four times. FOr the 1st time in my life I was written up and this company believes that this is the way to getting more work out of people. I am blessed and happy to have a job but I also know that the first chance I get ( and a lot more feel like I do)I will leave them in the dust. I know that they have lost a good, dependable, trustworthy employee.

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avatar 5 Anonymous

I feel I’m dealing with #1 and I’m self-employed for the time being! My goals are to a.) pay my rent b.) do something awesome c.) love what I do. I think setting my priorities is something I should do around those objectives. These five points were exactly why I left my other job- I hated it, the company had no “path” in mind or route for improvement in pay or contribution and all the management deferred any kind of employee input to corporate thus blocking ideas and personal fulfillment.

Good post Flexo!

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avatar 6 Anonymous

#5 — not talking to the right decision-maker — is sometimes true in self-employment, too! As a self-employed careerist, its not a literal, singular decision-maker I’m hunting for, it’s finding the right client / base / etc.

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avatar 7 Cejay

Old article but I needed this. Having lots of trouble in my job and need to talk with my boss. I know that I need to put myself out there more and give up some of my other little jobs. But I have gotten comfortable.

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avatar 8 Anonymous

A timely post for me as I approach my mid-30’s. I make a decent living, but the reason I am unhappy is that I haven’t defined what I really want. This is not such an easy thing to do! Still trying, but making more money is just a short term fix.

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avatar 9 qixx

Don’t know how i missed this the first time around. This matches very well to some of the Dream Job material by Ramit Sethi. Part of the “80/20 Guide to Finding a Job You Love” link you find on the homepage to I Will Teach You To Be Rich. I highly recommend you check it out.

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avatar 10 Anonymous

and reverse discrimination via “affirmative action” has career damaged the best and brightest !!!

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