Is Your Job Running out of Gas?
Gas-tank reading: 1/4 down
Your boss doesn't support your career
"Everybody has a boss," says Lassiter. "It could be a board of directors, or your customers, or just a standard boss. If you don't have the kind of boss who helps you grow, eventually you're going to be limited." A job in which opportunities for growth and development are constantly reined in is a job that is running out of gas.
This problem doesn't always manifest itself in an obvious way. Lassiter offers this scenario: "You tell your boss that there's a conference that you want to go to. Attending it would be good for the company and good for you. But the answer comes back: 'We don't have the budget for it.' That may be true once. It may even be true twice. But if there's a local conference with a minimal fee, and the boss still won't let you go, then there's something else going on."
Or consider this scenario: "You're asked to be on a cross-functional team. Again, the benefits are clear: You'd learn about another department, and you could represent your own department. But the boss says no: 'We can't spare you. We don't have the time.' "
In cases like these, says Lassiter, the boss may feel threatened, or may be afraid of losing you if you develop too many skills. Or perhaps the boss just doesn't know how to develop people.
There are ways to get around this problem - short of quitting. "It's your job to grow you," she says. "Look for ways to handle your career development on your own. Take courses on your own time, offer yourself as a consultant to other companies, join a professional association - do anything you can to keep growing." But sooner or later, if your boss continues to limit you, you're going to feel the effects on the job. So this is an indicator well worth heeding.
Gas-tank reading: 1/3 down
You're stuck on lower-profile projects.
At some time or another, almost everyone works on a project that his or her company clearly doesn't value very highly. Often the assignment simply comes with the territory: Somebody needs to do it, and your turn has come up. But what happens when one low-profile assignment is followed by another? "If you're going from project to project, and none of these projects is important to your company, then it's time to check your gas gauge," says Lassiter.
The main problem, Lassiter insists, is not what the company is doing to you - it's what you're doing to your own career. That you're stuck in a Groundhog Day-like repetition of the same dead-end project should tell you something about how you're approaching your job. "You're allowing yourself to drift," Lassiter says. And that's a sign that you're less than fully committed to either your job or your workplace.
Settling for low-profile jobs is like putting your career on cruise control - or worse, into neutral. It suggests that you've given up on where you are now and that you aren't willing to face that fact. Of course, Lassiter points out, it may not be too late to turn things around. "Position yourself now for what you want to do next," she counsels. "Control your own destiny to the extent that you can. It may not be fair, but the best jobs don't always go to the most competent people. They go to the most visible people, the people who go after what they want."