- When you’ve reached a peak point of your career but don’t know how to move forward, you’re on a “career ledge.”
- It’s becoming more common amid rising expectations of universities and professional associations, high competition for graduate roles and increasing pressure on businesses to perform in the globalized economy.
- It’s possible to inch yourself over the ledge, but you’ll have to make an effort.
While career burnout is a more common issue, “career ledging” is a lesser-known phenomenon but widespread across industries and roles.
“Many people are suffering from career ledging,” says Darleen Barton, corporate therapist, author, and founder and managing director of success consultancy businesses, DIPAC.
And while it is detrimental to the future success of a person’s career path, “very little is being done to address these issues and support workers on a national level,” according to Barton.
“Stuck on a career ledge is where a high achiever has reached a peak point in their career or as I like to say ‘reached the top of their tree’ and they just don’t know how to move forward from where they are sitting,” says Barton. “Their ‘high achiever attributes’ have helped them get to where they are, but they don’t have the skill set to work out where to from there, or how to maintain the momentum at that peak level. High achievers stuck on a career ledge often step into ‘self sabotage’ mode and become disruptive, even start quarrelling with colleagues.”
She continued: “Incidentally, I also use the term ‘glass ledge’ to describe the situation many women find themselves – when they are in senior roles and are constantly overlooked for CEO and board positions.”
Barton explains that career ledging is becoming more common amid rising expectations of universities and professional associations, high competition for graduate roles and increasing pressure on businesses to perform in the globalized economy.
In fact, Australian graduates are facing particularly tough conditions this year when it comes to landing their dream job with Adzuna estimating that 22 graduates will compete for every job opening in the months ahead. That’s a 22 to 1 chance.
To ensure the problem doesn’t manifest further, Barton says businesses have to “start with facing the facts”.
“Sometimes life can be hard enough, but with additional stress with long days in the same career/field of study, it can lead to extreme pressure and stress,” she says.
“The more open workplaces and society are about the toll that your work life may have on you individually, the easier individuals will find it to seek support, discuss their concerns and find ways to find guidance.
“Businesses need to take responsibility for their success and their people… [and] they need to evaluate the standards and expectations they have set for employees. Are these viable?
“Whilst progress is important, ensuring the stability, happiness and health of your team should be a top priority also. Acknowledge the hard work of staff, ensure you’re openly communicating with your team and offering initiatives that show personal support.
Most importantly, Barton says “invest in your people.”
“Research and ample data shows that businesses that invest in their people, retain their people and minimise turnover. Long-term clients like to deal with long-term staff.”
Barton says these strategies that can assist in bolstering leadership experience, profile growth and forming and expanding critical networks:
Consolidate external leadership experience
“This can be done in the form of board appointments and advisory roles.
“Many NFPs are always looking for dynamic, forward thinking and motivated board members to steer their organisations through growth. Many NFPs are connected with a large section of the community and the corporate sector.
“Board experience, whether it be NFP or corporate, is essential to building leadership experience.”
Connect with key networks and professional associations
“Find opportunities to participate in member panels, working groups, and other initiatives. This experience builds contacts, involves you in industry issues and develops your profile.”
Source opportunities to speak and develop your skills as a speaker and industry expert
“Whether it be through your alumni, business networks, or conference organisers, this helps to develop your profile and also fine tune your experience in speaking on issues of interest to your industry.”
Seek out mentors known for their willingness to support, nurture, assist and professionally develop
“Mentors play a key role in providing support, guidance and feedback – as well as becoming important referees.”
Ensure you’re in the right frame of mind
“Mindfulness is a key ingredient to personal success. We need to be in the right head space when managing ourselves, our career, our decisions and our life generally.
“Confidence is also a key part of this. Confidence is infectious – it breeds positive energy and gives others a sense of hope, action, progress and comfort. These things matter when meeting and liaising with others.
“Confident people leave a positive impression on others. If you are not confident in yourself, other people won’t be either. Give people a reason to be confident in you – be confident in yourself.”