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I’m overlooked by my bosses. How can I get on the promotion track?

The question:

While at university, I dreamed of getting into the financial/insurance sector and becoming an actuary. By circumstance, I have worked in different places but never worked as an actuary so I forgot my initial dreams and what I learned at school.

I earned my degree more than a decade ago and now have landed a job in the insurance sector, which in theory should make me very happy, but is not. I know that I do not have all the knowledge required of the job but I have shown willingness to learn and improve. I went back to school and I am also taking some other courses at work, yet I feel overlooked.

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How can I get them to notice me and my desire to progress within the organization? I feel that my superiors don't trust in my abilities, and although my direct boss has told me that I am doing well and that he is happy with me, he gives most of the projects to my colleagues.

The answer:

Congratulations on landing a job in the sector in which you have wanted to work. It is encouraging that you are working in the financial/insurance field in which you have a strong interest.

You say that you have dreamed of being an actuary when you were in university. As opposed to being disappointed about not being an actuary, why not focus on the opportunities that you have, such as going back to school to upgrade yours skills? I am curious as to whether you are taking actuary or other courses. What is stopping you from fulfilling your dream of becoming an actuary at this point? What are you working towards by taking these additional courses?

It sounds like you are dealing with confidence and assertiveness challenges. I hear that you are feeling overlooked, underchallenged, and unappreciated. Are you clear on what you want for your career and how you want to progress at your company? Have you communicated this to your boss and the human resource officials in your organization? Have you discussed your professional development plans at your performance reviews? Does your company have a formal succession plan? These are all areas that you will want to explore, clarify and pursue if you have not already done so.

Speak up about what you think, how you feel and what you want. Remember your boss and others in the workplace are not mind readers. You have to speak up and spell it out for them.

Talk to your boss about your interests, talents and abilities. Indicate that you want to be challenged and take on new and additional responsibilities. Volunteer to take on particular projects and serve on task forces and committees where you know that you can make a real difference. Tell him that you are confident that you can take on extra responsibilities and do a stellar job for the company. Discuss any professional development plans, and how they fit with the company's succession plan.

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Find a mentor on the executive team (other than your boss) and meet with that person on a regular basis. Ask for advice and guidance on how to get ahead in the company.

Focus on the positives and the reality of what you now have – a boss that is happy with you and your work and a company where there is room for growth and development.

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