“I am in my late-thirties and have several years of experience already behind me. I’ve worked my way up, but the process has been slow and steady (emphasis on slow).

“I’ve been in the same company for years, and I’m bored and frustrated in my current job, so something has to change. But though I’ve applied outside the company to several jobs that are a step above my position, I haven’t even got an interview.

“I know that this is a difficult time for everyone, but am I missing something? Have I hit a plateau, and should I be looking for jobs where I can broaden my skillset before I think about moving up?” 

This may come as a surprise, but moving up the ladder might require more focus than moving across it. At Aldrich & Co, we find that the candidates who come to us frustrated in their attempts to move up in their career are actually unaware of what the role above them entails, which leads them to roadblocks.

Often, the path to the ‘next step up’ is not entirely linear.

Ask your manager for feedback – they know you best of all. If you can be open with them about your plans (and any good manager should be open to this discussion), tell them what you want out of your career and what you need to grow. Even the best managers can’t read minds, so it’s important to voice your needs. (If you can’t speak to your manager, scroll to the bottom of the page for our advice!) Good feedback should help you to find out more about the role above yours and the skillset required for it. You might be missing a certain competency.

The fact is that, when we’re stuck, we tend to feel that all the decisions about our career are being made for us. So, let’s work on taking back control. What industry do you want to work in? Is it the same industry as the one you are in now, or is it somewhere else?

You write that you’ve applied for roles outside the company that are a step above the position. If you are not attached to your current industry – and it sounds as if you working for a different type of company and environment would be good for you – a sideways step could be the better move. Say you are an HR Talent Acquisition Specialist with experience in construction. If you wanted to apply to a higher role (say, HR Manager) for the financial services, you probably would not be considered because there will be other people with more relevant experience than you. You would gain more useful experience by moving to a similar level first and then moving up.

Moving across can become a fulfilling career step, especially when you want to enter a very different organisation or industry. Knowledge of the role from an ‘outsider’ perspective with several years of experience behind them can be a fresh and welcoming change for a recruiter, and they will mark you out as something exciting and different.

I sympathise – getting rejections in the mail is never pleasant. But rather than thinking of those rejections as a plateau, think of them as stepping stones. Everything you submit is bringing you closer to the moment you get the job you want. Use each application as a learning moment. What went well? What could you improve? Similarly, moving across is not a plateau, either. Think of it as adding breadth to your career – a breadth that fewer people will have.

To strengthen your position, stay optimistic about your prospects but realistic about what you can offer, be open to opportunities, and keep enquiring about what you want from a career. These behaviours should give you the boost you need to grab a role that suits your needs, whether you move up or across that figurative ladder.

– Emily Aldrich


Our best candidates are those who can take feedback and work on themselves. If you can’t speak to your manager about your goals, we recommend taking these routes to get the necessary advice about moving across or up the career ladder: