Not too long ago, I looked at my LinkedIn profile and thought, “Wow, I’ve had my current title for a while now—almost two years.” It’s way longer than I’ve held any other position in the past before getting promoted. I started to wonder if there was something wrong with me, or if there was something more I should be doing to prove that I’m able to make the leap.
When I started asking myself what that next step looks like, I realized it’s not always bad to have the same title for a few years. To play my own devil’s advocate, there are of course times when it’s not a good sign. Let’s take a look at both scenarios.
It’s OK to Have the Same Title if You’re Getting the Opportunity to Lead New Projects
As frustrating as it might be to not receive recognition for your hard work in the form of a promotion, that doesn’t necessarily mean your teammates don’t lean on you for more advanced projects than your current job title would suggest.
Take a closer look at your current to-do list. Has your boss started trusting you with some really important initiatives? Do you feel that you’re still being compensated fairly? If the answer to both questions is yes, chances are that you’re punching above your weight-class and that everyone around you recognizes it.
It’s Not OK to Have the Same Title if Your Responsibilities Haven’t Changed
On the flipside, you might have some soul-searching to do if you’re doing the same tasks you were assigned in your first few months in your role. While a number of factors could be in play, the chances are that you’re still doing those things because you haven’t proven to anyone that you can handle a little more.
If you’re unsure of how you’ve been performing, don’t be afraid to ask your boss for a little feedback to get a clearer idea of what’s really going on (this email template). You might not like what you hear, but you’ll know what you need to work on to take the next step in your career.
It’s OK to Have the Same Title if You’re Learning New Skills
Sure, it can be frustrating to be adding skills to your toolbox without a pat on the back from your boss or a raise. At the same time, it’s not as if you have to leave those skills behind if you decide to leave.
When you’re feeling frustrated, keep this in mind: You are putting yourself in a much better position to score a new (and more senior) role in the near future.
It’s Not OK to Have the Same Title if You’re Bored
Here’s the thing: if you’re bored at work and your responsibilities haven’t changed much over the past few years, you’re only doing yourself a disservice.
Are you seeking out opportunities for growth? Are you volunteering for things that are out of your comfort zone? If not, your lack of a title change is probably a reflection on your current effort level.
It’s OK to Have the Same Title if There’s No Open Job for You to Step Into
Unless you work for a handful of companies, your team probably doesn’t have an endless amount of money to promote people willy-nilly. You might be doing a lot of work—and a lot of it might be beyond your job description—but the truth of the matter might be that there’s simply no room to promote anyone right now. And while that’s frustrating, that’s in no way a reflection of your work. At some point, you’ll be recognized for your effort.
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Stop worrying and just take a look.
It’s Not OK to Have the Same Title if You’re Putting Off Applying for an Open Role
I will be the first person to constantly tell myself that I’m not qualified or ready for a promotion. It’s a comfortable place to live. But the downside to that mentality is that you’ll never put yourself in a position to find out whether or not you could’ve qualified.
Hearing “no” is never, ever fun. But if you’re constantly turning down opportunities to take a step in your career, nobody’s ever going to force you to do it.
The truth is that getting a promotion’s a huge confidence booster, so it’s only natural to be anxious if you’re not getting one as quickly as you think you should. But take another look at your current work situation.
If you’re going above and beyond and truly think you deserve a new title, don’t be afraid to start the conversation with your boss. Uncomfortable with doing that? Check out these tips on asking for a title change. Don’t think that’s the best solution for you (or already tried it)? Well then it might just be time to start looking for a new job.
Photo of person working courtesy of Hero Images/Getty Images.
Richard Moy is a Content Marketing Writer at Stack Overflow. He has spent the majority of his career in talent management, including a stint as a full-cycle recruiter and hiring manager. In addition to the career advice he contributes to The Muse, he also writes test prep and higher education marketing content for The Economist. Say hi on Twitter @rich_moy.More from this Author