9-point Game Plan for Career Breakthroughs


At some point in our careers, many of us will hit what feels like a dead end. There is a name for it – career ceiling. This challenging time could happen just once or several times in our lifetime. Six alumni share how they view and breakthrough such boundaries. From APEX-2006, Jean-Michel de Jaeger, Consultant-Trainer-Coach at 123@Business; Tan Choon Huat, Director IT & CIO at Lilly (Africa, Middle East, Turkey, Russia, Asia & China); Shikharesh Das, Director Strategic Marketing, Global Emerging Markets at GE Healthcare Monitoring Solutions; and How Ti Hwei, Professional Marketing Director at Johnson & Johnson Singapore. From APEX-C 2006, Chang Chun Yuan, Managing Director at Tassin Industrial Pte Ltd; and Zhou Xing, Vice President, Institutions at Singapore Exchange Limited.


Career Ceilings: Reality to Contend with

Set Realistic Goals

The concept of career ceiling depends on how one defines top profession. To some, being a manager is good enough; to others, vice-presidency is the goal. So, the point is to do one’s best achieve to achieve one’s most, and be satisfied with those achievements. Otherwise, nothing will ever be good enough. – Chang Chun Yuan

Take Charge, Don’t be Led

When the demands of career began conflicting with my family priorities, I knew I had reached a career ceiling of sorts. But at the same time, my decision to build a family was the turning point for my career too. I decided to take back control by creating my own career path, fully investing my resources into it, with my family as priority. – Jean-Michel de Jaeger

Innovate, Courageously and Persistently

For me, there is no career ceiling. When ‘stuck’ in one area, I always venture into other areas of my interests where I can apply my skills or pick up new skills. Ceilings are self-imposed limits. As long as I dare to change, I can create the space I want to operate and create value in. There are always opportunities to improve and different ways to break “barriers”. Sometimes these require challenging current advancement paradigm and creating a new one. In the short term, conflicts may arise, but in the longer term, this enables me to break previous career plateaus. All these take courage and commitment. – Tan Choon Huat

Embrace Learning

Beyond a certain stage, employment prospects reach a peak. Higher management faces greater policy-making responsibilities; but what next? That’s career ceiling. To go beyond this barrier, you must be willing to learn and upgrade continuously. After all, there is no limit to technical skills, product development and business development, all of which present more career advancement opportunities. – Zhou Xing

Pace Career and Education

I have seen people hit career ceilings – usually when individuals rise too fast and run out of depth at some point due to inadequacy of personal experience to draw from. There are two way to avoid his; either pace yourself to stay within your ceiling which is difficult to do, or increase your pace of learning which can be enhanced in many ways – through mentoring, attending professional seminars, etc. A great booster for me was the Executive MBA program; it gave me a completely new perspective of strategic thinking. – Shikharesh Das


Career Advancement: Deployable Tactics

Talent, Luck and Planning

Talent and being at the right place at the right time play a part, but career planning is also important. Know what career or profession you want to be in; what career advancement opportunities it holds; and what skills, knowledge and competencies you need to advance. Career planning may be more clear-cut and easier in some profession than others, but still critical regardless of the industry or profession you are in. – How Ti Hwei

Self-awareness, Good-fit and Commitment

Know your own strengths, weaknesses and career goals. This is difficult, but important and involves continuous soul-searching. Ensure good fit between these, the company’s needs and the opportunities available. Finally, be committed to the job – demonstrate consistent performance, grow your skill sets and willingly to take up new challenges. – Tan Choon Huat

Visibility and Relationships

Be prepared to learn new things, accept new challenges, and shoulder more responsibilities, all the while broadcasting your achievements so the bosses are aware of your abilities. Many capable people failed because they do not “sell” themselves. If others do not know about your abilities, how can they consider you whenever career advancement opportunities arise? Also, develop good working relationships with colleagues; career advancement could mean supervisory role with subordinates reporting to you, and you will want to have a strong team. – Chang Chun Yuan

The Bigger Picture

Build your personal and professional network. Each minute is an opportunity to meet people, and build or improve relationships. Take little things seriously, and be philosophical about important things. For example, every new subscription to the website I manage is an important event, and I welcome the subscriber wholeheartedly; I wait patiently – event if it takes six months – for an important invoice to be paid, instead of getting agitated about it – Jean-Michel de Jaeger

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