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Here’s What To Do If You Think You’ve Hit A Ceiling At Work

To learn more about degrees for a new career, head to Charles Darwin University, a leader in flexible, online learning. CDU has delivered online and distance education for more than 30 years.
It’s no secret that work takes up a huge chunk of our waking hours.
In adulthood, we spend more time with our colleagues than we do with family and friends. Considering how much of our lives is taken up by work, we want to make sure that we’re gaining some level of satisfaction from it. 
If you’re finding your work is less than inspiring right now, you may have ‘hit the ceiling’. This (mostly corporate) phrase describes a point in your career where you feel you’re not growing or receiving the support you need. 
It may feel like there’s nowhere for you to progress to the next stage of your career or, you may feel like you’re being blocked from opportunities by management. 
Carly Dober, a psychologist from Enriching Lives Psychology who often works in corporate employment spaces, notes that there’s a big difference between going through a rough patch in your career and hitting the ceiling.
“A rough patch at work will be a moment in time, whereas hitting the ceiling will be ongoing,” says Dober. 
“If you’re in a rough patch, previously to this experience your management and team around you will have been providing you with career progression opportunities, exploring your creativity and goals, and having ongoing conversations about what you’d like to get out of the role, with a tangible plan to get you there.”
Hitting the ceiling, on the other hand, may look more like vague or empty promises about what you ‘might’ get in the future, without a tangible plan. Your progression may not even be spoken about. 
“Being overlooked once or twice may happen to all of us,” says Dober. “But if this is a consistent pattern with no support to get you where you’d like to be, this is something to be mindful of.”
This workplace phenomenon is also more likely to happen to minority groups including women, people of colour, and disabled employees. 
“Boardrooms are windows and mirrors. The less everyone sees women in these roles, especially women from diverse backgrounds, the less people will promote women to these roles.”
Dober also notes that the outdated gendered stereotypes around having children may contribute to feeling as if there are a lack of progression opportunities. 

Signs your workplace is less than supportive 

Hitting the ceiling in your job may be the result of a toxic workplace, or, at least, an unsupportive one. 
Toxic workplaces drain the energy, excitement, and joy out of a workplace and replace it with intimidation, fear, and a culture of infighting,” Dober tells Refinery29 Australia
According to Dober, toxic workplaces may also involve ethical and legal offences such as sexual harassment, discrimination, bullying, and unrealistic workloads. There may also be a culture of not respecting an employee’s time outside of the office, or their mental health and well-being. 
In saying this, sometimes you may hit the ceiling even when in a healthy workplace. You may get along with your colleagues really well, feel listened to by your manager and love your day-to-day, but the next step just isn’t there. Sometimes, it’s just time for a new challenge.

When is it time to go?

Dober suggests evaluating whether you’re actually interested in the field at all anymore, or whether it’s just this particular job. 
“Talk to other people in your industry and see if there are any opportunities for you that they are aware of that may awaken your interest again,” says Dober. 
“If that fails, consider if you constantly feel like you’re burning out, feel bored or apathetic at work, are jealous of other people’s jobs, and feel like you have no room to grow and stretch yourself. Those are signals that it might be time to look elsewhere.” 
If this is the case, heading back to study may be a smart move. Universities like Charles Darwin University offer flexible, online degrees that can work around your schedule. You can watch lectures and attend classes to your schedule rather than heading to IRL tutorials in your free time around work or hobbies (which, let's be real, aren't many spare hours).
Many adults actually can’t go back to full-time study due to financial responsibilities. So, training for a new industry or skill whilst you earn money at your current job may be a smart move and help you get started in a new career. 
Keep an eye out for scholarships as well. These can significantly help to lighten the load on the financial barriers to education – especially as an adult who may be juggling responsibilities such as work-life balance or family commitments.

What to look for in a healthy career 

According to Dober, you’ll know you’re in a healthy career and workplace when you feel invited, respected, valued, and listened to. 
“Employees should feel like they have a safe space to share their career aspirations, and a healthy workplace will try to support them to meet their goals. Whether it be via training, study options, secondments, or letting you know they are happy to provide you a reference when the time comes,” says Dober.  
“Sometimes we can just be bored and need a switch up in our current roles to keep us engaged [and] to stretch ourselves,” says Dober. 
“Other times, we’ve reached the natural end of our current field.” 
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