I’m a middle-aged man and feel like I’m almost invisible at work. I’ve been in the same professional role for over 15 years and even though I consider myself very experienced and always do the job to the best of my ability, I am overlooked for promotions. Younger, less experienced colleagues always seem to get their ideas heard over mine, while it’s taken for granted that I will just get on with the job. This is making me feel resentful and unappreciated. Is there anything I can do to change things?
This is an issue for many people in the second half of their careers; they feel their influence wane and a growing sense that youthful exuberance and ideas outdo maturity and experience when it comes to getting the ear of the boss.
In some ways, you should be flattered that they see you as a ‘safe pair of hands’ who can be relied upon to do the job properly, but that can also make you feel put upon, especially if others seem to outshine you with words as opposed to deeds.
You describe yourself as feeling ‘invisible’, but I wonder how far you have looked inwardly for the causes of this, rather than placing the responsibility for how you feel onto others? It’s very easy to lay the blame elsewhere when we feel resentful, but one of the most powerful ways of changing things is to look at what you can do to take control of the situation. After all, your own behaviour is the only thing that you can truly influence and it’s a good place to start looking for solutions.
You can initiate this process by being objective. You said you have been doing the job for 15 years. In this time, you have obviously gained experience and that is invaluable. But, you may also be fatigued and bored by it all, in a job you can do with your eyes closed that doesn’t really stimulate you anymore.
By contrast, those who are newer to it will naturally have a fresher outlook and perhaps be more in-touch with what is current in the profession. The key is to try and tap into this energy to re-energise yourself. Why not suggest to your boss that you mentor new colleagues? That way you can share your mature experience and guide them in those daunting first months whilst at the same time giving yourself the opportunity to engage with new ideas, new personalities and regain a sense of influence.
Work is important, but it’s not everything. You don’t mention anything else but work and I sense that perhaps you need to achieve a greater balance in your life.
Making the most of life beyond the office is so important to our sense of well-being and strengthens social bonds. Rather than working harder to prove yourself at work, why not shift your perspective and your priorities to focus on what you do in your spare time? Throwing yourself into a new hobby, accepting invitations or making them yourself, spending time with people you connect with on a social rather than a work footing, will all do much to improve how you feel about yourself and boost the confidence you feel you’ve lost.
Finally, it’s important to re-evaluate what your goals are. Being in a job for that length of time sometimes means hopes and dreams get lost in the day-to-day. So, ask yourself: What do you want to achieve in the next five years?
The answer might not come instantaneously – so stick with it, but do try and define what you want the future to hold. If you don’t know the destination, you won’t know the route required to take you there. It’s important to have something to aim for and plan for, so that you have real purpose. Shift the onto yourself. You clearly still have a lot to offer, you just have to let others see it.