How to Handle Career Blocks

With so many changes in working conditions over the last few years, it shouldn’t be a surprise that many of us feel isolated, burnt out, or stuck in our jobs. Maybe you aren’t growing your career as quickly as you wanted because of a lack of interactions or opportunities amid the ongoing issues.

Or perhaps you were working tirelessly towards a promotion, but it got delayed indefinitely when the pandemic hit. Being stuck in your career can be incredibly frustrating, whereas believing that hard work and talent alone can help you rise is slightly naive. Sometimes you might be blocked because you work with a corporate optical. Blocks can be just on bias.

You will be surprised to learn how often bosses will hold back your career for selfish reasons. The main problem with such career blocks is that no one is going to come to rescue you, and you alone have to find a way out.

Some ways that this might be portrayed is making all communication go through them so you can’t talk to others about the topic or ideas, thus keeping you out of the loop on the next initiative. Taking credit for your ideas. If you only deal with that person no one will know who’s idea it was in the first place.

Fortunately, we are here to guide you on handling career blocks and regaining control of your career and its progression.

But before we dive into those, let’s discuss why you may be experiencing a career block.

Your Boss Needs You in Your Role

It isn’t uncommon for supervisors and bosses to keep your hard work and talent a secret from their peers and higher-level executives. You could threaten them as a competitor and fear being lost without input. Many optometrists may have faced this when they were looking to buy a practice or take over a sublease within the same brand. Many employers might not give a go reference just to keep you as an employee to benefit themselves.

They cannot afford to lose your hard work and talent because it may highlight their shortcomings once you progress. They need you to make them look good, which is why they hide your accomplishments, showing them only as team efforts or their efforts. It has been difficult to find coverage and fill in now with this labor market. Optometrists might be told by employers that it is difficult to start your own business or take on a new sublease.

You are too good to be promoted because it is nearly impossible to fill your shoes. You get stuck in one role, despite deserving progression, and your boss will never let you know it because it is unethical, selfish, and downright ruthless to hold you back.

Anytime you ask about your promotion, you are told you should “learn a new skill,” “get certificated with specialty lenses” “see more patients” “work more hours “complete another course,” “acquire a new certificate,” or “complete another project.” The carrot is constantly dangling in front of you and moving further as you inch closer.

Sometimes, you may experience this cruelty while an average performing peer, who is similar to your boss, excels in their career.

You Aren’t Playing Their Game

All your life, you have been taught by teachers and parents that hard work pays off with good grades and progression to higher levels. Unfortunately, no one teaches you about the harsh realities of the world till it’s too late.

Hard work is just one key component of success. It is by no means the only component and typically never enough on its own to help you succeed. Most people who succeed in their careers need to play a game of cat and mouse at certain points in their careers.

You can’t defeat the system, but you can avoid getting caught up in it. Even if you don’t like it, your career progression depends on a bit of successful office politics. You must network with people, find a fast track to progression, and make yourself heard where it matters.

Instead of just working hard, you must work smarter than others and let the right people know about your excellent work. A key aspect of such an approach is cultivating strategic relationships with those who can help you progress.

Seek leaders and mentors who can show you the ropes, help you avoid pitfalls, and introduce you to key players within your organization. If you cannot find such a person, it may take you longer to learn these things on your own, but it isn’t impossible.

You will find people in your path that will act like an advocate for you but might use you to get ahead themselves or might want to sabotage your career growth as well.

Economical Pressures

Companies are rescinding job offers daily, announcing hiring freezes, and laying off staff members. Budgets are shrinking, costs are being cut in every department, and promotions are delayed.

Companies are trying hard to stay afloat, and your career progression is the last thing on their minds. The current state of the economy and the job market isn’t doing you any favors, and you must fend for yourself during these tough times. Many will use this recession as an excuse. KNOW your value.

So, what can you do, and how can you handle career blocks?

1. Define Your Career Goals and Create a Strategy

Sometimes you may feel like you have a career block because your work reality does not match your vision of success. Mundane tasks, office politics, or lack of value in work are just a few things that cause these feelings.

It is important to start by defining your career goals. Review and update them regularly because goals change with circumstances and life events.

Consider why you chose your field of work and what your initial hopes were when you started your career. What drives you to work harder every day? What are your strengths, and how can you use them to get where you want to be?

What have you achieved thus far, and what are the accomplishments that make you feel proud? Asking such questions will help you define your long-term goals and even help you uncover the short-term accomplishments that will lead to those goals.

With your long-term goals in mind, develop a career strategy using short-term goals for the next 2, 5, or even ten years. Such a plan will give you a guideline and some sense of control, motivating you to achieve the short-term goals that lead to long-term progression.

For example, if your long-term goal is to make it to the c-suite in the next five years, plan out what you need to accomplish yearly. Then, set short-term goals for each quarter that will help you meet your year-on-year accomplishments.

2. Maintain a Journal

Most people overlook the importance of maintaining a journal. It is a crucial practice that we should teach kids about in school. It is an excellent way to record and assess everything at work to get the big picture of what’s happening.

We recommend using a small journal, but if you use a digital device for logging, make sure it is not a company device. You can also write down your career goals and strategy in separate sections of the log.

To maintain a journal, start by tracking your wins and key interactions, along with any new developments at work. You will start to see patterns of behaviors. Certain individuals will never help you get ahead and others might use your ideas for their own just to maintain status in the company.

You aren’t just recording your work but also the context, which means recording changes in sentiments and your work environment. Such a journal helps you track and maintain evidence that you are a crucial employee for your organization.

It is important to let your boss know what you are doing and record it in writing as well. You want a paper trail of every text, email, and memo citing your amazing work. If you want to work in industry, make sure you document your ideas and consulting work to have people know that you came up with the idea not another KOL.

Make management aware of all the times you went above and beyond your responsibilities and exceeded expectations. Apart from your boss, you must also tell others about your wins and achievements but do so subtly.

3. Identify Career Blocks and Career Blockers

Taking this step is easier said than done and will likely take time and deep thinking. Your work log can help greatly, especially if you maintain work interactions and developments. Ask yourself what is stopping you from reaching your career goals.

Be honest, and start by highlighting your shortcomings first. Sometimes, career blocks are caused by our lack of dedication or ambition. Other times, our habits or circumstances may prevent us from achieving our potential.

Once you have assessed yourself, you can start looking at career blocks at work. Identify the things and people getting in the way of your promotion. This is different for everyone, so you must observe, record, and assess situations and people accordingly.

Go through your work log to see the big picture; over time, career blocks and career blockers will start to stand out.

4. Start Playing Their Game

When you arrive at work, make your presence known to stand out from others. Talk to colleagues in the break room and hallways to maintain good relationships. Get ahead of supervisors, bosses, and superiors to inform them about your work proactively.

Ask your boss and key people if you can assist them and avoid those employees with no ambition to progress. Intentionally let people know you are going above and beyond. Your work ethic speaks volumes.

It shows that you are dedicated during a time when your peers are slumping into the trend of ‘quiet quitting.’

Look presentable and dress as though you are a few ranks higher than your role. Office politics is a part of career progression, and you must become proficient at it.

Do not let others take credit for your work, even if it is your boss. If you cannot subtly interfere, tell your boss how you feel about it privately and track the occurrence and interaction in your work log.

Whatever happens, remain professional and positive at all times. If a colleague tries to make you look bad in front of superiors, do not stoop to their level. You have a work log that you can use in the future to defend or promote yourself.

Instead, try to air out any issues with that person, avoid being stumped by them in the future, and maintain good communication with your boss and key players. If you frequently relay your good work to

those who matter, they will see right through your colleagues’ attempts and admire you for maintaining professionalism.

5. Pitch Your Promotion

Prepare a short but complete elevator pitch that highlights all the accomplishments you have achieved in recent months. If possible, fit in the great things you have achieved throughout your current role.

You can use your work log for reference if needed. While your aim is a promotion that progresses your career, you should consider or be open to a better bonus, salary raise, title improvement, etc.

6. Prepare For Resistance And Be Direct

You will likely receive pushback, especially if your boss is trying to hold you back. In such cases, it is always better to be direct and know that you are pulling much of the weight. Sometimes people will create rumors or provide negative feedback just to not see you get ahead. These people have always done this, but have never been called out. If you aren’t getting ahead because of these type of people, you must face this head on.

If needed, you can even let your boss know that you know they know about your good work. Tell them that considering everything you’ve done, you will take matters to their superiors if a promotion, raise, or bonus cannot be confirmed.

If there is a hiring freeze at your company, you can even say that you will start to look for another job. The thought of losing you and your work will at least nudge them to consider a raise or bonus.

Remember, these are bold moves to progress your career, so think things through before taking such actions. As mentioned previously, you have to fend for yourself during tough times, which most often means taking risks.

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