smart spending

Navigating out of a career holding pattern

"Many employees see their workplace through the filter of how it affects them directly," says Bennington. "If you want to move up, you have to see how things are impacting the company as a whole," she says.

No matter how likable you are, companies need problem solvers, not seat fillers. That's why Lassiter recommends marketing for mutual benefit when it comes time to make your move.

"Look at problems to be solved rather than looking at job openings. Most of my clients create their own jobs, whether they're going into new companies or they're already inside and moving up," she says.

Look for pressure points or problems and present solutions. It's easier said than done, but take cues from your company's competition -- what problems do businesses like yours have?

Observing the competition and noting their successes and weaknesses will give you a new way to talk to the senior people in the company.

And knowing the vernacular will help your cause. Rather than appearing as a supplicant, the higher-ups will see you as wise and knowledgeable about your industry. Showing that you are an "ask not what your company can do for you" kind of worker is the quickest way to get positive attention.

"That helps reposition your reputation. Talk in other people's language and position it as what is best for the company instead of making it all about me. People will hear it differently," Lassiter says.

Toot, toot

While you're scouring the company for problems to solve and growing your skills, don't be afraid to toot your own horn a little. Ensure that your boss knows you do great work. If the only time the boss knows you exist is when something goes wrong, you may have a problem.

Bennington recommends sending a short note to your boss every Friday, outlining accomplishments and areas where you could use some input.

"Your boss is very busy, much busier than you would know, and probably not aware of everything that you're doing," she says.

These notes will come in handy when you walk in to the corner office to make your case for a promotion. You'll have months of your accomplishments recorded and ready to reference.

Climbing the corporate ladder isn't easy. Maybe you won't get the promotion you want, but by increasing your skills and finding ways to solve problems, you'll eventually get where you want to go.

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