Getting stuck in a crappy job isn’t a risk you can ever outgrow. Lots of people feel stranded in management roles. You may have a shiny title and good pay, but you’re bored to tears and there’s no way to move up. Or perhaps you’re a VP who reports to a terrible SVP and there’s no easy way to move out.
When you reach a certain level of seniority, the last thing you want to do is accept a lower title or pay cut for a change of scenery. Plus, other employers may pass you over, imagining that you’re too expensive, your experience isn’t transferrable, or you’re just “too old” to do the job they’re hiring for. Meanwhile, you’re too valuable to your current employer doing exactly what you’re already doing to be considered for in-house roles you are qualified for.
The bad news: There’s no single decisive thing you can do to engineer a change. The good news: Your small habits and activities can add up to a successful exit strategy if you’re diligent.
Network The Hell Out Of Your Coworkers
When you’re feeling burned out in your current role–sick of your colleagues, boss, and direct reports alike–it’s easy to just try and keep to yourself. But a better way to channel any frustrations with your immediate team is to get out there and talk to other people, including inside your own organization.
“Take advantage of opportunities within your company to connect with people you might not otherwise have access to on a regular basis,” suggests Blair Decembrele, a career expert at LinkedIn. “Take part in company volunteer days or join an employee resource group to build your relationships across the organization. This could lead to new projects or opportunities across teams at your company.”
Ramp Up Your Social Media Activity
“Keep your social and professional media current. Any social platforms and LinkedIn should be active and engaged,” Don Raskin, a Fast Company contributor and author of The Dirty Little Secrets of Getting Your Dream Job, recommends. This holds true for anyone who’s trying to land a new job, but it’s arguably easier when you’re a senior leader: You’ve got the credibility and expertise to share ideas other people in your field actually want to hear about. “Posts on LinkedIn about innovation in your industry are always a good way to position yourself–to those checking your credentials–as a forward thinker and actively engaged in your industry,” says Raskin.
He also advises tapping into LinkedIn’s paid features, which he feels may bring higher returns for senior-level job seekers. Since LinkedIn Premium lets you run more precise searches for contacts and job opportunities, Raskin suggests using it to “reach out to executives in other companies who can assist in your job search. Find executives you have something in common with (‘UCLA alum looking to connect’), [and] to start, ask a question, don’t ask for a job,” he suggests. “This is a good way to make a contact that can help put your resume in front of someone that counts.”
Ask Your Peers For Advice
Anyone who’s firing up a job search needs to let their network know they’re looking. That could mean clueing in a trusted coworker or two, but it might also involve reaching out to strangers. Decembrele recommends one of her company’s own products, LinkedIn Career Advice, to match you with fellow users “who can help you out based on what type of advice you need and mutual interests.” But the principle holds true no matter how you implement it: When you work at senior level, your peers are probably just as well-connected as your superiors when it comes to helping you sniff out new opportunities.
Update Your Skill Set
Prospective employers may (unfairly) imagine that your knowledge base is out of date; your task is to prove them wrong. As Decembrele sees it, the key is to triangulate a path between what you want to do next and what employers need: “Evaluate where you want to grow and identify the skills you need to achieve your career goals,” she says, then “identify trends in your industry and needs in your current company where you can bring added value by learning a new skill.”
“There can be a feeling among senior managers who are in the back half of a career that there isn’t an urgent need to stay ahead of the curve regarding skills,” Raskin acknowledges. “Just the opposite is true. Be the most skilled person in the room, and there will always be an opportunity for advancement–both inside and outside your organization. Age tends to melt away when skill rises to the top.”
Consider A Coach
Chances are your senior-level salary puts hiring a career coach within closer reach than your entry-level wages ever did. Says Raskin, “Sometimes it’s better to have someone with an objective point of view nudge your career in a different direction because they aren’t emotionally attached to your job or company the way you are.”
Look For Opportunities, Not Just Job Openings
“Many people at senior levels think about their job and career the same way they thought about it when they started. But today there are different paths–consulting, freelance, startups, etc.” Raskin explains, adding that side gigging is often a great choice in particular. “If permitted by your organization–and many more are permitting it [now]–you can use your skill set to generate interesting project work along with extra income.”
Plus, he says, “It can refresh your work spirit”–right when you need it most.