‘JT & Dale Talk Jobs’ is the largest nationally syndicated career advice column in the country and can be found at JTandDale.com.
Dear J.T. & Dale: My employer for the past 11 years is part of a large corporation. In the past 18 months, I have applied unsuccessfully for five positions within different divisions. I put off climbing the corporate ladder because I wanted to coach and attend my kids’ functions. Now they’re grown and I’m ready to move up, but there seems to be no room for someone of my age (50). — Kirk
Dale: I say this as someone older than you, Kirk: You may be facing age discrimination, and choosing to blame it would be the easy thing to do … and the easy way to ensure that it stops your career. Instead, I’d like to ask you to do something hard: Assume that the problem is NOT your age. Doing so will free up your mind to consider how you could get better (as opposed to trying to get younger, which rarely works, and can result in comically sad results).
J.T.: So, Kirk, you’ve been turned down five times in different divisions. Before you apply again, you need to get some critical feedback on what could be holding you back.
Dale: Perhaps you can see the problem for yourself. Seek out the five people who landed the jobs you went for, and ask them just how they prepared for promotion. Yes, how they prepared for promotion — it isn’t just about turning in good numbers, it’s about having a replacement ready to take over, about making the right connection at a level or two above your own, and letting those people know that you want more responsibility.
J.T.: Having been family-focused for all those years, you may have been typecast as fitting into supporting roles. Through the years, people may have started to anticipate how you think and what you can handle. Is there a chance you are seen as the “nice but not meant for the big assignments” guy? If so, then you need to volunteer for projects or assignments that will surprise management. Instead of applying for a new position, see if you can lead a new initiative that’s in addition to your current role.
Dale: I love the word “surprise.” Make that your goal for the rest of this year. Instead of being surprised by the being passed over, see if you can be one doing the surprising. Shake things up, and you’ll shake up your career. Get people talking about your experiments while you make sure you’re talking to the people who can promote you.
Jeanine “J.T.” Tanner O’Donnell is a professional development specialist and the founder of the consulting firm, JTODonnell.com, and of the blog, CAREEREALISM.com. Dale Dauten resolves employment and other business disputes as a mediator with AgreementHouse.com.
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