7 barriers that prevent your career progression

Last week I met a friend of mine after many years. During our conversation, Sarah (name changed) mentioned how frustrated she was in her current job at a multinational company.

“I have been working diligently for 3 years; they haven’t yet given me a promotion. I look around and see people getting ahead of me ‘out of turn’. They don’t even have half my ‘skills’. That makes me sick!”

Does that situation sound familiar? What can you do? Unfortunately, working harder is not the solution.


When you perform well in your job and know you are competent, in due course you expect to get new positions, promotions and pay rises. However that doesn’t happen automatically.

When you ask your boss, he/she says “The economy is bad. The organization is not doing well. We are advised to cut costs.” But, wait a minute. Have you noticed this – even when the economy is not doing so well, there are people who get positions, promotions  and pay rises!

Why do these positions, promotions and pay rises go to some and not to others?

Here are the 7 barriers that might be preventing your career from progressing.

Barrier 1: Lack of Will

Most people don’t feel that they deserve a promotion. They don’t think they are ready. Thought drives actions. They sometimes justify their lack of will and confidence, by giving excuses.

“After my baby grows up, I will be more ready for promotion”

“Things are going on fine. I don’t want to rock the boat”

“I don’t want the promotion. I want to spend more time with my family”

“There is no point asking for a raise. They won’t give.”

If you have a tendency to do that, you are probably ‘downsizing’ your dreams to justify your current predicament.

Food for thought: The higher your position is in your organization, the higher your power to delegate your work, the higher your rewards and the higher your control over your time. With the extra reward and extra time, you are freer to do the things you love to do – follow your hobby, take care of children etc.

 Barrier 2: Lack of a Career Plan

Have you ever taken the time to chart out your career? Have you? Do you know where you want to be 5 years from now, or 20 years from now? What skills will you need to perform well in that role? Have you been preparing yourself for such roles?

Food for thought: Spare an hour or two to think about your career plan. You will be glad you did. Your plan might change, but you need to be aware of what skills, exposure and experience you need in the long run. Start building up your repertoire.  You see, soldiers don’t go into battle without their armor and weapons. Build your competence, particularly to lead, manage and persuade others. Your focus shouldn’t just be on staying employed, your focus needs to be to stay employable and promotable.

Barrier 3: Lack of ‘Pre-emptive Strikes’

Who else in the organization knows your desires and needs? Most people ask for a promotion during their performance review. That’s often too late!!!

Let’s face it. Performance reviews are usually smoke screens, as the decision on you is already made way before that. If you argue your case during performance reviews it is already too late. Your boss will defend and not budge. Someone else has already taken your share of cake and eaten it too.

Food for thought: No one else can read your mind. Before you can receive, you need to ask! Personally inform your boss and key influencers that you are expecting a promotion by the end of the year. For example: “I need your guidance for my career progression. I am aiming for ‘that position’ by this date. Based on your experience and expertise, could you please let me know what competencies I need to have to get ‘that position’?”  Now, your boss will be inclined to give you “the expert advice”.

This would also mean that you need to be committed to build those competencies, but at least you know what to shoot at! (… and your boss has a stake in your plan.)

Barrier 4: Lack of Corporate Cheer Leaders

Others in the organization need to know about your skills, talents, experience and expertise. However, if you keep bragging about your fabulous achievements or keep telling everyone you are awesome, no one will listen to you or believe you. You need to get others to vouch for you. You need to do yourself a favor by building your internal network of well-wishers and cheer leaders. It doesn’t have to take a lot of time; it does need tact and technique. (… a skill you too can learn.)

Food for thought: Who will vouch for your competence, experience and expertise? Remember, your network determines your net worth. Even people who consider themselves shy and introverted, can build valuable networks. (Hint: keep giving value to people you meet, they will spread your good name.)

Barrier 5: Lack of Mentors

The easiest way to navigate the corporate maze is to have a corporate mentor (someone in the organization who has gone the path you like to take) or a career coach (someone with expertise in developing your potential and guiding you to your career goals). If you don’t have one, get one. It is not only nice, but it is sometimes necessary. Sometimes an external career coach is better than an internal mentor, as the assistance will be free from internal politics and bias.

Food for thought: Even the golf legend Tiger Woods has coaches and mentors. As Tennis legend Boris Becker said “We can’t possibly know everything ourselves. Feedback is the breakfast of champions.”

 Barrier 6: Lack of Courage

Most people are afraid to lose their jobs. That fear of loss controls their actions. Their actions are largely focused on making themselves indispensable and impressing others with their efforts. They keep politicking, they keep information to themselves; they prevent others from acquiring their skills, so as to make themselves indispensible. While that looks logical, that is ineffective.

Why? You are not indispensible.  No one is. Even Steve Jobs was kicked out of the company he founded. What you need to focus is to keep broadening your skill set and widening your exposure. Let someone else take your job as long as you are ready for a better job.

By clinging onto your job for long periods, you are definitely keeping your job, but you may not be learning much. There is an opportunity cost as you could be learning new things in a new position. The higher you want to go in the organization, the broader your experience needs to be.

Food for thought: If your aim is to climb the corporate ladder, you shouldn’t cling onto your chair; you need to search for the ladder and prepare for the climb. Do your work well, but keep an eye on your personal goals. 

Barrier 7: Lack of Self-Education

Most people stop their learning after they graduate. Others look up to their organizations to teach them new skills, tools, processes and techniques.  They do not develop a habit of self-education. Self-education is usually the best education. You can choose what you want you to learn, how you want to learn, from whom you want to learn and what depth you like to go to master something. If you are waiting for corporate training, that training is usually tailored to the organizational goals and limited to your immediate scope of work. They teach you to do your current job better. It doesn’t necessarily prepare you for your next position or next job. Be aware of that.

If you aim to get promoted quickly, the following skills are necessary irrespective of your industry, experience or position.  Learn,

– to sell (your ideas, opinions, product or service)

– to communicate (present persuasively, speaking effectively in front of groups)

– to connect with people

– to network (to know and be known)

– to lead (to inspire, guide and mentor others)

Food for thought: Most successful people were not born with these skills. They learn these.  Personally, I have seen hundreds of people from different nationalities who turbo-boost their careers and transform their lives through learning these skills. These are skills you too can pick up easily, if you wish to.

If you have read this far, you are far ahead of most people. Most people do not pause to reflect on these reasons and take immediate corrective actions. Instead, they sit down and complain about their circumstances! (no time, no money, no energy, no need etc) If you have seen someone who is less talented flying high in your organization, it could be because they have mastered these 7 ways. The only question that remains to be asked is this – are you getting what you truly deserve? If so, congratulations! If not, read on.

The Chariot, the Charioteer and the Horses

CharioteerOne of the things I tell my leadership coaching clients is this.(This is what I told Sarah too) You have to take charge of your career direction, pace and progress like a charioteer who takes charge of his chariot and horses. Otherwise, you are leaving your career to chance. You are letting others control your time, your mood, energy and destiny. Remember to grab hold of the reins of your destiny!


The distance between who you are and who you want to be is what you are doing about that!

UPCOMING PROGRAMSnervous-to-fabulous-flyersmoutain-5

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© 2014 – 2017, Manoj Vasudevan. All rights reserved.


  1. Your wonderful tips on “7 barriers to career progression” are very useful and practical. Shall be of special use to the young and mid-level careers.