Career Advancement: Have You Hit the Glass Ceiling?

Sections of this topic

    Do you feel that you’ve gone as far as you can with your current employer? Are there signs that you’ve hit what’s known as the “glass ceiling?”

    This is the point at which you can clearly see the next level of promotion yet, despite your best effort, something is stopping your career advancement.

    If you do, here are five steps to break through that glass.

    1. Identify the key competencies.
    They are the common skills and attributes of the people in your company’s upper levels. Companies that value innovation and strive to be leaders will probably promote individuals who are outgoing, risk-takers, and not afraid to “tell it like it is.” However, if you work for a conservative company (such as a utility), chances are that top management are analytic thinkers with a reputation for avoiding risk and making careful decisions.

    What behaviors does your company value and reward? What type of person is promoted?

    2. Strengthen those competencies that count.
    Once you know what sets leaders apart in the company, ask your boss what skill areas you need to develop. Let your boss know that you want to work toward a higher-level position. Work together with your boss to set goals and objectives, then monitor and measure your performance.

    What areas of your performance can you improve? What additional skills do you need to develop to be considered for an advanced position?

    3. Broaden your network.
    You should also build relationships with other people in your organization. You never know who may be in a position to help you or provide you with valuable information. It’s important to network in all areas and levels of your company.

    Who can you reach out to on a regular basis? Can you get involved with cross-functional teams? How can you expand your professional network outside of your organization?

    4. Find a mentor.
    Having a mentor is a powerful way to break through the glass ceiling. A mentor can help you learn how to get connected to the information and people who can help you. A mentor can also be a great source of ideas for your professional development and growth.

    Will your boss be able to provide mentoring support? Are there people with strong political power who can offer you assistance?

    5. Build your reputation
    Ultimately, the way to get ahead is to get noticed. You want people to see your competence, leadership abilities, technical knowledge, and any other competencies that are typical of people at the top. Remember, while you can see up, those at the top can see down. Make sure that what they see is important. Here are some examples: Seek high-profile projects, speak up and contribute in meetings, and share ideas with peers as well as people in higher positions.

    How are you going to champion and market yourself to build your reputation?

    Career Success Tip:

    We can’t all be exactly the type of upper management person our company wants. What we can do is develop the skills that the company values. Arm yourself with a development plan as well as the help of your boss, a strong network, and, hopefully, a mentor. Push yourself beyond your comfort zone, and you may find new zones of opportunity.

    Do you want to develop Career Smarts?