How to Get Ahead at Work When You're Stagnating

How to Get Ahead at Work When You're Stagnating

An AI robot offers advice on how to move up your company’s org chart

The sad truth is, we're probably a mere few decades away from seeing the storyline of I, Robot play out IRL. But until the android apocalypse, we might as well make the best of artificial intelligence. So here it is: LEVEL's new advice column, We Asked a Bot, the place where your pressing concerns and queries are treated with a tenderness and care befitting of a machine learning algorithm.

Dear Level, 

I've got a decent job at a state agency. I make pretty good money and the benefits and job security are good. But after four years in this administrative job, I haven't had any chance to move up the ladder. I've applied for a few internal positions and have asked my supervisor what I need to do to get promoted. My manager said, basically, "You have to wait your turn." Most of my coworkers are much older – I'm 30 – and they don't seem like they're going to retire anytime soon. How do I keep from feeling like I'm running in place? Should I look for another job with more chance of advancement? Or should I demand a timeline on when I'll get to move up at my current job? Thanks.

—Stagnating in San Diego

<We asked ChatGPT to answer this query in the style of an older, smart, and empathetic work culture expert in his 30s-50s.>

Dear Stagnating in San Diego,

Thank you for reaching out and sharing your concerns about your current professional situation. Navigating a career path within the confines of a state agency can indeed present its unique challenges, especially when seeking advancement and growth.

Firstly, it's important to acknowledge your dedication and persistence in seeking opportunities for career development within your current workplace. Your willingness to inquire about potential promotion paths and gather information from your supervisor demonstrates a proactive approach, which is commendable.

Related: The 9 Most Annoying Bosses You'll Ever Work For, Ranked

Considering the circumstances you've outlined, it appears that internal mobility might be constrained due to factors beyond your control, such as the age and tenure of your coworkers. In situations like these, patience and perseverance are valuable qualities. While waiting for a chance to move up, focus on enhancing your skills and competencies relevant to your desired advancement. Consider seeking additional training or certifications that align with your career goals.

Simultaneously, it's advisable to keep an eye on external opportunities that align with your aspirations. Exploring other positions or organizations that offer a clearer path for advancement may be a prudent course of action. However, it's crucial to weigh the benefits and stability of your current role against the potential gains and risks associated with a new position.

Related: The Mental Gymnastics of a Virtual Job Interview Are Hard to Land

As for communicating your concerns within your current workplace, a tactful approach is key. Instead of demanding a timeline, consider scheduling a constructive conversation with your supervisor to discuss your professional growth aspirations and seek clarity on the pathways available within the organization. Express your eagerness to contribute more effectively and inquire about any specific milestones or achievements that would facilitate progression.

Remember, managing a successful career involves a delicate balance of ambition, patience, and strategic decision-making. Ultimately, the choice to remain in your current role or pursue opportunities elsewhere should align with your long-term goals and values.

Wishing you the best in your career journey.


<It sounds like ChatGPT is advising playing the long game and not making any hasty decisions. Basically, improving skills and biding your time while you wait for a good opportunity. Next, we asked ChatGPT to follow up with questions to ask a manager about job advancement that Stagnating might use.>

In order to gain a clearer understanding of your potential for career advancement within your current organization, asking thoughtful and strategic questions during a conversation with your manager is essential. Here are some suggestions to guide you:

  • Clarify Expectations:
    • What specific skills, experiences, or accomplishments are considered critical for advancement within the organization?
    • Can you outline the key competencies that someone in the desired position possesses?
  • Performance Feedback:
    • Can we discuss my current performance and areas for improvement that would make me a stronger candidate for advancement?
    • Are there any particular projects or tasks where excelling would significantly impact my advancement prospects?
  • Training and Development:
    • Are there training programs, workshops, or professional development opportunities offered internally that can enhance my skills and contribute to my advancement?
    • Could you recommend any external training or certifications that align with the career path I'm aiming for?
  • Networking and Exposure:
    • Are there opportunities for me to collaborate with or be mentored by individuals in roles I aspire to have?
    • Can you suggest ways for me to expand my professional network within the organization and industry?
  • Timing and Opportunities:
    • What is the typical career progression timeline for employees in this role or department?
    • Are there upcoming projects or initiatives that might create openings or additional responsibilities aligning with my career goals?
  • Seeking Feedback:
    • How can I consistently gather feedback on my performance to ensure I'm on the right track toward advancement?
    • Are there formal performance evaluations or feedback sessions that I should be aware of and actively participate in?
  • Company Vision and Strategy:
    • How does my role contribute to the overall vision and strategy of the organization?
    • How do you see my role evolving in the context of the company's long-term goals?
  • Alternative Pathways:
    • Are there lateral moves or cross-functional opportunities within the organization that can broaden my experience and contribute to my advancement?
  • Future Opportunities:
    • Can we discuss potential future openings or positions that align with my career aspirations, and how I can prepare for them?
  • Final Thoughts:
    • Do you have any advice or suggestions for me as I work towards advancing in my career within the organization?

Approaching this conversation with a genuine interest in your own growth and a willingness to understand what's expected of you can foster a productive dialogue with your manager.

Best regards,

<Our advice: Don't be too pushy with your manager, but make it clear you have ambitions and that you would like to keep growing within the organization instead of having to look for opportunities elsewhere. Don't make it sound like a threat, though: That could really backfire. Overall, ChatGPT seems to be advising caution, patience, and good communication with your manager. Good luck, Stagnating, we hope you get to move up sooner rather than later!>

LEVEL consulted ChatGPT 3.5 for the aforementioned text. Need advice, insight, or just want to troll a chatbot? Hit us up with your questions at We'll feed it to the robots and see what it spits back out. (Disclaimer: YMMV!)