Can you see the next level of employment but can't get there, despite quality work, relevant qualifications and sufficient experience? Is there a lack of upward mobility routes and opportunities in your company?
You may have hit a glass ceiling. Before you waste any more of your potential at a dead-end job, here are a few signs to be aware of and a few tips on smashing that glass ceiling:
Four signs you may have hit the glass ceiling:
1. You're bored at work
2. There's a lack of diversity in the company's leadership
This does not necessarily mean you don't have enough work to keep you busy, but rather that the nature of the work has become tedious or laborious to you. You're just going through the motions of getting it done and it doesn't require much thought or offer any challenge anymore. As a result, you kill the time on social media and exchange memes and gifs with your colleagues while you watch the clock and your mind slowly decays. If these points resonate with you, consider reading 3 signs you are bored at work – and that it's time for a change.
Traditionally, the phrase "glass ceiling" refers to a barrier preventing women and people of colour from moving up in companies. For example, ask yourself: Is there any colour within the leadership structure at your company? In South Africa in 2017, if the answer is no, then there's a good chance a glass ceiling exists. While the phrase "glass ceiling" has expanded in meaning, this original meaning is unfortunately still relevant in many companies today. This status quo needs to be challenged and its complexities should be addressed. According to Huffington Post US: "The concrete ceiling is a term specifically made for women of colour… because the experiences of white women and women of colour are extremely different." [Source]
3. There are signs of nepotism
Managers and CEOs sometimes employ their friends or relatives. Are you seeing new employees come in without an interview process or an advertised position? Are new positions suddenly created for people who seem to know management prior to the job? This is nepotism and, when this happens, outside hires are ushered into top roles that were never made available to you as an existing employee.
4. The company values are incompatible with you/your values
According to MindTools.com: "Companies that value innovation… 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… chances are that top management are analytical thinkers, with a reputation for avoiding risk and making careful decisions." [Source]
You might be the wrong type of person to move up given the company culture. Maybe the company culture is just too conservative (or innovative) to ever see you flourish in it, reserving leadership roles and upward mobility for those who fit their mould.
How to break the glass ceiling:
1. Become what they need
Look at the skills and qualifications of top management, and upskill accordingly by furthering your education through relevant courses. Start networking and asking for support. When it comes to company culture, you may have to compromise yourself and adopt the company values even if you don't share them. Start aligning yourself with what your company needs and communicate what it is you want.
2. Fight to prove you're indispensable
You might be very valuable and still face a glass ceiling. This happens. Unfortunately, companies lose valuable people all the time. The ugly truth is that nobody is ever really indispensable. Some employees are just more valuable than others. If you are valuable, make it known, prove it, fight for yourself and your progress, ask for the promotion, increase or position and smash the glass ceiling with vigour. Note that you might still not get what you want; the position may not even exist.
3. Leave the job
The other option is to take the long view and break the glass ceiling within your career, and not necessarily your job. If you've outgrown a company and find that you're stagnating, it might be best to leave. Start looking at other opportunities and companies that will offer you upward mobility. Consider studying further through distance learning while you work. Or look at the possibility of starting your own company and working for yourself.
Ultimately, when faced with a glass ceiling, you can stay put and learn to be happy, you can try to smash it, or you can walk away. Consider being the Architect of Your Own Career rather than wasting your potential, ideas and output on a company that has no interest in seeing you thrive.