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Identifying and Overcoming the Most Common Career Roadblock


August 18, 2016

By: Carl Winston

Everyone faces challenges in their career, especially those who seek to become leaders.

Disliking your work and/or workplace is a relatively easy problem to solve—you find something new. But what about when you’re not unhappy, but also not feeling fulfilled on the job? How do you make headway in pursuit of a higher position within your organization or industry? Things become a little more complicated when you have your sights set on moving up rather than moving on. 

The Potential Pigeon Hole of Being Good at Your Job

Many people go to work every day under the false assumption that if they work hard and do a good job, they will eventually be promoted. While that may be the trajectory for some positions, more often than not, the dynamics don’t work that way.

Bosses—even those who are truly great and take on a mentorship role—don’t spend their days planning the career development of their employees. When an employee does their job well, the boss appreciates their competency and reliability; they’re perfectly happy keeping the employee in that position! After all, the whole point of having a staff is to enable people to specialize in specific roles.

This is why employees are typically better at their job functions than their managers are at those same job functions. For example, 9 times out of 10, an experienced front desk clerk will be more fluid with front desk clerk duties than their boss. If you’ve ever witnessed the manager of a busy coffee shop try to run the cash register one morning out of nowhere, you’ve seen this phenomenon (and probably an unusually long line for your coffee). Step aside, boss—let the cashier take it from here!

The point I’m making is that being good at your job can actually be a roadblock rather than a golden ticket to a higher position. If you’ve mastered your job and are not seeing your responsibilities evolve, you must turn your attention to becoming good at the next job up the ladder.

The Best Way to Move Up in Your Organization

Now the question is: how do you break through the barrier of becoming an all-star in your current position?

The tactic I always suggest is to identify tasks in your boss’ job that they don’t like to do, and offer to help in those areas. If your manager doesn’t like to do the weekly schedule, ask them to learn how to do the schedule. If they hate writing the monthly report, ask to be trained on doing the monthly report. Find their pain points and relieve them. It may sound like I’m telling you to kiss up to your boss, and it’s completely fine if you come off that way, but it’s more a matter of beginning to take on responsibilities that prepare you for the next level and put you in an opportunistic position should a higher role open up in your company.

Finding Other Avenues

Not all bosses are going to be keen on you vying for their duties. If your offer to become your manager’s right-hand person is denied, don’t get discouraged. When you were a teenager and your father said, “No” to you staying out with your friends past curfew, what did you do? You probably either went and asked Mom, or stayed on your best behavior until the next time you had a chance to ask either parent.

On an adult level, the same concepts or resourcefulness and persistence apply to navigating your career. There’s certainly a delicate nature to a situation in which your boss is not enabling you to grow as a professional, but you can almost always find a way to forge a relationship with a higher-up in a different department who might be more receptive. Again, it’s all about putting yourself in a position to be called upon. 

The Ultimate Roadblock Breaker

Education is a powerful tool when it comes to career development. At the SDSU Hospitality & Tourism Management (HTM) Master’s Program, we help leaders achieve their respective visions for their careers through a combination of personalized attention, strategic guidance, mentorship, and a curriculum built for real-world application in the hospitality and tourism industry. It is a truly aspirational program offering much more than a piece of paper. See how the HTM Master’s Program can change your life.

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