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Great advice from The Lawyer Whisperer

March 7, 2016

My boss just announced there would be no promotions in the legal department for the foreseeable future. I love my job, but I want to advance. Should I stay or leave?

Julie Q. Brush

When an employer “announces” that career advancement in the organization will be nonexistent for the foreseeable future, it can be a bit jolting as well as confusing. And sometimes it’s hard to make sense of what it really means. Is it true? How serious is it? Will it be enforced? If I’m outstanding, will they make an exception and bend the rules? Is the company in trouble? Is Legal a sinking ship?

Whether by formal announcement or general conversation, a message alluding to a career “dead end” is a statement you can…and should take to the bank. So proceed with your decision-making process with this understanding so that wishful thinking or hope that the situation will change will not cloud your judgment regarding your next career choice.

So is this new corporate proclamation a sign that it’s time to leave the job you love?

It’s not easy to find a job that you truly enjoy – let alone love. And if this was your only career priority, sticking with your current employer for the foreseeable future would be an excellent option. But you also value career advancement which means the opportunity to move up the corporate ladder is an important component to your personal career satisfaction. And this has been compromised. So determining whether to leave now…or later will be a timing assessment that will require balancing your current career fulfillment with your desire…and patience to advance now or soon in the future.

Loving your job weighs heavy on the career scale. And if you do not have or foresee the desire for a promotion immediately and are not demoralized by this new development, it makes sense to remain in your current role for a bit longer. But you still must examine the details of your situation…and yourself so you can determine a general timeframe to start your search process. Because there will come a time when you will want to move up so you will need to be prepared. Whether it’s during the summer, after your bonus or after a specific period of time in your position etc., the timing should be contemplated. As that window of time approaches, reevaluate your situation. Are you still happy? Are you ready for that promotion? Has anything changed with your employer? Do you want to stay longer? If your situation remains stagnant and you ready to advance, it will be time to start your search.

On the flip side, if you are feeling the itch for career recognition and mobility now, it’s wise to update your resume and explore other options promptly. Depending on your background and the legal market, finding a new job will typically take between 4-10 months (if you are proactive). So starting your search now will provide solace that you are taking control of your situation and will enable you to maintain positive feelings in your current role and towards your current employer. If you wait too long, resentment, frustration and perhaps anger will develop, which will compromise your leverage to choose a new role that’s right for you. These feelings will also likely seep through and hurt your interview presentation.

Being in a job you love feels like a career jackpot. But those feelings can soon sour once a professional believes that opportunities to advance and grow no longer exist. The announcement from your current employer has messaged such limitations – and given your value of career advancement, it is in your best interest to map out your next move. In the interim, the promotion ban may lift…but it likely will not. So move forward with this in mind and take the steps you need to ensure that when the time comes, you’ll be in a positive frame of mind and your upcoming search will be on your terms.

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