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Former executive vice-president of Telus, educator, adviser and author of Be Different or Be Dead.

A productive career – one that steadily advances – has a certain signature; it has clarity around the specific position an individual is targeting. And it is time-specific, with a 24-month period to achieve the objective.

For example, “I intend to be director of marketing for my company by March 1, 2021,” is a focused career-plan objective, which can inform the course of action that will help see the goal come to fruition.

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When this clarity of purpose is missing, the actions that individuals take are confused; they are not measured toward a goal and their intentions are often vague and inconsistent.

People are busy, but they can’t get the meaningful traction they need to make progress.

To relentlessly keep moving forward, your career game plan needs to be focused on your desired outcome. It’s the only way your actions will have purpose and can be measured for their effectiveness.

You’re not aligned with the organization’s strategy

In a perfect world, every employee in an organization is aligned with the organization’s game plan.

Each person delivers results that contribute to moving the organization forward on its chosen path and behaves in a manner consistent with the values the organization uses to define how people work together to achieve those results.

People who excel in achieving the strategic objectives of the organization typically have a successful career; those who are out of alignment with them do not.

So if you sense you’re in the stall mode, check to ensure that your priorities are directly aligned with leadership’s strategic intent. Take the initiative to ask management whether you are working on the right projects and revise your work plan accordingly.

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Finally, tell leadership what you’ve done; they will be impressed, and you will be climbing the ladder again sooner than you think.

Your competitive strategy is ineffective

The competition for jobs in every organization is more intense than ever before; fewer opportunities and more people hunting for those opportunities often results in raging battles to determine a winner.

Winners have a specific strategy to stand out from the crowd. They have perfected their career game plan and have created a unique value proposition that separates them from everyone else.

Their focus is on being the only one who does what they do; they resist claims such as “best” or “better” to describe their capabilities.

If your career is stalling, it might be that either you don’t have a personal “only” statement or you have one that doesn’t work – it doesn’t make you stand out from others in a way that is relevant to the needs of the organization.

Work on your “only” as your No. 1 priority. Get it right, and use it to answer the tough question, “Why should I hire you and not the 100 other people who have applied for this position?”

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You’re not spending enough time with your mentors

In times of uncertainty and change, it is critical to stay close to people who have been through it before – people you trust and whose advice and guidance you listen to.

Successful careers are built on the back of a stable of mentors who help mitigate the risks and obstacles people face.

One of the possible causes of your career slowdown could be related to the amount of time you are spending with your mentors.

When the rate of change around you is extreme, it is essential you are constantly with them.

They need to hear the latest version of your career plan, the competition you face and the setbacks you have experienced. Ask for their comments and insights on actions you could take.

Check your calendar. If you are not setting time aside to meet a mentor at least once a week, get on it and book some appointments for the next three months.

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Your network is out of date

Data are important; information is power. And information enables speed. In fact, whoever possesses the most reliable information is in the best position to outdo everyone around them – they do the right thing quicker. And success usually follows.

Where does information originate? People own the information that is critically important to the first mover in the career market.

Someone knows someone and something that you can use to advance your agenda.

If you’re stalling, perhaps your network is failing you and it needs to be refreshed.

Make an inventory of your connections:

  • Do you have people connected with areas critical to your career plan? How many of your LinkedIn connections actually relate to your target position?
  • Are they acquaintances or proven advocates? How many of them called you and referred you to others?
  • Have they told you anything interesting lately?

Purge your list down to the critical few people who can provide you with helpful information and who are willing to do so. And add to that list if you have vacant spots.

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If your career has taken a timeout, chances are you’ve not been paying attention to the vital factors that govern its success.

Be attentive to what you’ve just read, and you’ll be on the way up again soon.

Stay ahead in your career. We have a weekly Careers newsletter to give you guidance and tips on career management, leadership, business education and more. Sign up today.

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