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THE QUESTION

I am now 36. A few years back, I had an argument with a sales manager and, because of that, my career has stalled in my current organization. I am also unable to get a job in another organization as, although I have experience of more than 12 years, I am still an individual contributor and have no team-handling experience. Most of the jobs for individuals with my level of of experience are for positions of team leader, assistant manager or manager.

If I opt for a lower-level job in another organization, the salary that my current organization offers is quite high compared with the market. Should I lie about my current salary?

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I am caught up in this Catch-22 situation and I am not sure how to get out of it.

THE FIRST ANSWER

Heather Faire

Human resources executive, Atlanta

Do you really think the reason your career is stalled is because of one argument you had with one person more than one year ago?

Talk to your boss. Tell him you believe you have room to grow and ask him what he believes you need to do to get ahead. Ask him about the argument. If your manager confirms that the argument is the cause of your perceived limitations, reach out and make amends. But you should be open to hearing about and working to resolve the reason, or reasons, for your stalled career.

Pull together an action plan incorporating your manager's feedback and put a concerted effort into correcting the course of your career with your current company.

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Don't give up on your external search, either. Just make sure you are doing all you can to clearly convey the experience and expertise you have to offer. Never lie about your background experience, education or compensation, ever. There is nothing worse than being seen as a liar.

Eventually, you will find a company that will have the foresight to accept your willingness to take a step back in pay now for the chance to get ahead in the future.

THE SECOND ANSWER

Rachel Weinstein

Executive coach, Toronto

There are lots of reasons that careers plateau. Commonly, the pyramid structure of organizations simply does not allow everyone to move up into leadership roles. The higher you go, the fewer the opportunities.

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In pursuing a leadership position in another organization, highlight all the ways you've demonstrated leadership traits in your current role – strategic thinking, decision-making, influencing others and performing under pressure, for example. Explain to prospective employers why it's the perfect time to step into managing people.

Another option is to make a lateral move that would position you as a future leader. Get a sense of roles with promotion opportunities. If asked directly about money, don't lie, and express the value you see in the role beyond salary, such as an opportunity to build complementary skills.

That said, if you'd prefer to progress where you are, you must promote your potential. Take note of the traits demonstrated by those who have received promotions and identify the qualities of the leaders with whom you've most enjoyed working. Synthesize these with your own strengths to create your professional brand. Embody it as you network internally, and do so as diligently as you would if you were seeking a new job somewhere else.

Build and nurture relationships at your company, including the sales manager with whom you had the conflict. You may be surprised to learn you can rebuild rapport and reset your fate.

Got a burning issue at work? Need help navigating that mine field? Let our Nine To Five experts help solve your dilemma. E-mail your questions to ninetofive@globeandmail.com.

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