In my early career growth I worked with a terrific relational leader in the executive ranks who had been in his position for 15 years. After some time I began to wonder why he’d been in the same position for so long. People loved him, respected him, and always asked him for advice in leading. But his depth of financial understanding particularly around balance sheets, income statements, and corporate finance was very small preventing him from ever joining the C suite executives. 

So here’s the deal. Your career will hit a brick wall like Tom chasing Jerry in the cartoons. Only you won’t notice an abrupt stop. 

You will likely realize it years later when your skills set has failed you, and you quietly, and with passive malcontent, dread your work. You wonder at times what happened to your career and the passion you once had to win. It’s not that you are too old or that you are too late. It’s not so much to do with politics as you may think. It’s something far more systematic and easy to overlook when you are earning promotions in the Spring of your career. But fear not, winter has not yet come; and you can restart your engine super fast. So let’s get to it. 

Who’s Peter and What is His Principal?

Why is it that when you are first promoted to a new position at work we are completely happy and absolutely love what we do but six months later the enthusiasm is gone and the dread of Monday is more real than ever? What happened? Your results are no longer there and you are no longer the top person in your department. What is going on? And this rut is not just at work but also in your personal life. Suddenly coming home is not as exciting as it used to be. The routine has set in and everyday seems to be the same. But do not get discouraged because with our coaches help both your life and your work can take a new direction. You can learn how to adapt and become what you wish to become. Right now you are stuck and you need to learn how to unstuck yourself. You have a case of the Peter Principle. 

The Peter Principle was first introduced by professor Laurence J. Peters and he believed that every employee will eventually rise to his level of incompetence.  His argument was that when people get promoted over and over again, they eventually reach a point where there is no more room for promotion because they are not competent at their new position they get stuck in that new position performing poorly for many years ahead or even the rest of their careers. The problem lies when the position requires new skills that were not required in the previous position. 

You Are Entirely Capable Of Designing Your Own Career Growth Plan

The person stays in that position doing a mediocre job because the ego gets in the way and nobody wants to volunteer for a demotion to their old position so he/she stays in the current role even if the end result is unhappiness and dissatisfaction. This belief is so popular that larger organizations and even the US Armed Forces have adopted the “Up or Out” method. Organizations focus on hiring new graduates that they can move up or fire as quickly as possible. But what do you do if you are not recently graduated or even young enough to start over in a new company. How do you address this view of being incompetent because you have been at your position for a long time and have not being promoted in a while. Let me tell you that you are not incompetent and that even though you might be stuck in a position you do not currently like, you can get out without having to accept a demotion or without having to quit your job. 

Most likely when you were promoted, you were promoted because of your results. Your knowledge in that particular field was vast and expansive. You were the go to person and people just loved that you had answers for them very quickly. That knowledge however was accumulated over a long period of time because the learning from your previous positions was vertical. Your new position however requires a new approach. A horizontal move needs to happen in order for you to get out of the rut. The good news is that you already possess the skills to become better or you would not have been promoted in the first place.

How Do You Get Out of The Rut?

You can become just as successful in any position you acquired. Being stuck in the same position for a really long time and becoming one of those subjects mentioned in the Peter Principle is not for you. Yes it took a really long time to achieve the success you held in the past but now you have experience on your side. You can continue to climb the ladder of success even faster now. Forget about what you used to know because it is no longer serving you. 

You wouldn’t let years go by before updating your computer right? Well the same is happening in your brain if you do not update it with new information that is relevant to your life as it is today.  If you want to be promoted again, you need to pay attention to the details in your daily life that you do not yet dominate. Study them, learn them, and use them everyday until you understand them and become a master at them. Stop living in the past, it is not allowing your brain to process the present and therefore slowing down your progress-just like an old computer memory. 

Skill and Development Map

The first thing you need to do is to make a list of the skills in your current position at which you are good. Then make a list of those that you wish you could be better at. Once you have that list you need to prioritize the one skill that will improve your results. Your action plan will depend on that one skill. If there are areas of your position that you do not understand, create a study plan to learn about those areas and understand them. 

  • What is their significance to your position? 
  • How do those metrics move the needle towards your success?  
  • How often are those metrics reviewed? 

Create a plan and document your progress. Your supervisor will not notice your success unless you point it out. Give yourself a timeline for each skill and move down the list until you have become better equipped to be in your current position. Your progress will lead to better performance and an increase in your happiness. 

The takeaway here is to get out of your current situation you must excel at your position while learning literally and vertically at the same time. It’s gonna take energy, it’s gonna take focus and it’s gonna take a clear vision of what you want to accomplish. You don’t need an MBA or PHD. You just need to excel at your current role and learn new and relevant skills that are applicable to 2021. 

Learn Laterally and Vertically

The ego can get in the way. We can have a tendency to have the “I have arrived” mentality and wonder what has happened to our career. Eventually you will come to a point where your career will stall. Where you will need to make massive changes. 

Look, if you are stuck in your current role you must learn some lateral skills. We are always looking for the next rung in the ladder of success. We want the next job up. But if you are in operations you need to partner with a marketing person  and vice versa, in your company and take some inexpensive digital marketing classes online in your downtime. You can specialize in your career but in today’s corporate world you must be diversified in your skill set. 

Your next position in line may require you to be an exceptional leader, but you are a rank and file manager. Guess what, it’s time to learn relationship building, improving your emotional intelligence, and improving your overall leadership ability. You have to go out and find the best leader you know and work with them. Find the best courses and take them online. 

Also anyone can benefit from learning to navigate a balance sheet and income statement. My best advice is hire a CPA to teach you this.  30 minutes per week for a couple months can go a long way. 

Measure Your Progress and Celebrate Your Wins!

The ultimate celebration will come for you when you are promoted or when you decide that you are so good at what you do that you no longer have a case of the Mondays. Can you imagine getting up every morning and loving what you do. Knowing that you are so good at what you do that your contributions are actually helping other people change their lives! These feelings of achievement and progress are incredibly important in keeping you on track when things get though. You may realize that there is a lot that you did not know, and what were you thinking when you accepted this position? But you are resilient and you are now determined more than ever to learn and implement what you are learning so that you can achieve the level of success that you once enjoyed. 

It is super important that you keep track of your progress. Maintain your master list that you created at the beginning of your journey and actually review it and update what you have conquered. You need to measure your progress so that you can stay motivated and continue to improve. Do not get complacent once you have become a little bit better and become once again a Peter Principle statistic.  Success will take hard work and it will be achieved one step at a time. You do not have to do it alone. In fact, most successful people have mentors that guide them and help them. There is nothing wrong with asking for help from a mentor. This is one of the reasons why many of us look for coaching and simply get some help from the experts. 

Having a fantastic life is similar to graduating from college or learning how to ride a bike-no one can do it for you! The effort that you put in will reflect the results you obtain but only if the effort is the right effort.  Improving your skills now will arm you with the confidence to ask for a raise, or a promotion, and even look elsewhere for the position that you now know you are very good at. You will know that you have what it takes to move forward in both your career and your life. 

Share Your Personal Development Plan With Decision Makers

So here is the last bit of “recareering” advice. Make it a point to let your supervisor and other decision makers know of your personal development plan. Share details of what you are learning and milestones you have achieved along the way with them. This signals to them that you are taking an initiative to better your performance and your overall skill set and hey, they may even pay for some of your courses or learning materials. 

So the good news is that you can restart your career by restarting your web of knowledge and skill set and it’s something you can do now. It will take time barring any performance issues and it will work. 


Cheers! .

Published On: March 2nd, 2021 / Categories: Uncategorized /

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