Why am I not moving up in my career like my colleagues?

Thursday July 18 2019

Although colleagues may appear to have a head start, whether fairly or unfairly, having a clear goal, becoming more self-aware. PHOTO| FILE| NATION MEDIA GROUP

Q: I have colleagues who seem to climb the ladder at their workplaces with so much ease. While I have also moved up over time, my trajectory has not been as fast. Some of my colleagues have no apparent advantages over the rest of us, yet they have grown over time to become more senior than I am. What am I lacking?

Career paths and fortunes vary even among individuals who share similar capabilities and qualifications. Just as it is in competitive sport, in the career space, it is not possible to have everyone moving at the same pace, or ending up on the winners’ podium.

Different career paths bear unique challenges that make it unlikely that individuals in an organisation will share identical career trajectories. The summits of certain careers may also take longer to scale than others. Besides, career progress in some situations may require the consensus of a large number of stakeholders, which has implications on the time it takes to achieve one’s career goals.

Consider that the efforts individuals make in order to succeed in their careers may not be apparent to everyone around them. You cannot always tell how hard people are paddling under the water. You very often might only notice their progress. The amount of sweat on the brow is neither a reliable index nor a predictor of success. What, beyond what is apparent, could be accelerating your colleagues’ career progress?

What is your career goal? Are you more concerned about moving slower than you desire in your career, or slower compared to your colleagues? What is your own yardstick for career progress? Have you discussed your career aspirations with your line manager? If so, are you aware of any personal or professional development areas that you may need to address?

Do you know what it takes to make career progress in your organisation, bearing in mind that the formula for success in one function may not be as effective in another? Are there stakeholders whose opinion, advice or support might make a difference to your career progress?


Although colleagues may appear to have a head start, whether fairly or unfairly, having a clear goal, becoming more self-aware, courageously addressing your areas of development, learning how to interact well with others and rolling up your sleeves to do the hard work will in the long run prove worthwhile for your career.

Fred Gituku, Human Resources Practitioner

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