Want to Move Up? Find Out What's Stopping You

Last Updated May 4, 2010 11:10 AM EDT

If I've got my demographics right, most of you work in a corporation with opportunity to move up. But despite your initiative and efforts to the contrary, the vast majority of you won't advance very far. It's simple math. There are too many of you and, by comparison, too few management and even fewer executive jobs.

The good news is it's not preordained who makes it and who doesn't. And as Indiana Jones once said, "Never tell me the odds." It's a good line, especially when it comes to career and business. It has a bold, brave quality to it. Still, in the real world, completely ignoring the competitive landscape is just plain idiotic.

Take risks, pursue your dreams, but maintain some semblance of perspective by at least paying attention to the reality of your situation. And that means being aware of what's really holding you back and keeping you from moving up. You'd be amazed at how common the themes are:

  • Lack of self confidence. You're too insecure in your own ability or vision to take big risks or take a position. You know, look people in authority straight in the eye and tell them you think they're wrong and why. That's a big deal in management. At some point you have to put your fear aside, be brave, and take the plunge.
  • Unwilling to make the sacrifice. That means being driven to do whatever it takes, sort of a passion for climbing the corporate ladder. It means different things for different businesses, but it usually includes long hours, business trips away from home, and working really, really hard. You know, sacrifice.
  • You don't know the rules. Every company, organization, and business has its own pulse, its own DNA, its own rules of engagement. Saying it shouldn't be that way or complaining about it won't do a damn thing. It is what it is. I'm not saying be a yes-man. Some rules are good to break, but figuring out which ones is, well, part of the game.
  • Job performance. Some people feel as if they're entitled to move up because, I don't know, experience, tenure, birth right, who knows. That's BS. No performance, no promotion. Also, in a performance review, don't focus on the accolades, focus on areas for improvement. Listen!
  • Blaming everyone else but yourself. If you walk around all day long whining about your boss this and your coworker that and your spouse is holding you back and who knows what, you need to take a long, hard look in the mirror. The business world doesn't revolve around you.
  • Lack of flexibility. Flexibility is really important in the management ranks. It means actually listening to what people are telling you and molding yourself to the needs of the organization, the business, your management, whatever.
  • Gap in experience or knowledge. This is common, straightforward, and most easily correctable. It helps if you occasionally interview for a job that's way over your head. Ask why you didn't get the job and listen to what they tell you. Those are usually the gaps you need to overcome over time.
  • Your management is a brick wall. I saved this for last for a reason. If you have the other qualities, this one won't matter. You'll find a way to get around your boss, outlast her, move to a different group, or jump companies. Sure, it's frustrating, but you'll figure it out.
So, you want to move up? What's stopping you?

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