The workplace overflows with talented baby boomers who want promotions. Competition is fierce, as shrinking companies cut the number of management slots.
So what's a victim of the promotion glut to do?
The options: Accept that you've "topped out" and remain in your job. Scramble for a promotion. Seek it elsewhere. Switch careers. Start your own business.
Do anything but unhappily accept your fate, experts suggest. Make a choice that improves your situation. But do it thoughtfully and methodically.
Karl Shinn, senior managing partner of Curtiss Group and Outplacement International, a Fort Lauderdale, Fla., consulting firm, said: "Don't do anything foolish. Hang on to what you have. But take the blinders off to see all the ways to move up internally and externally."
Malcolm Kahn, director of the counseling center at the University of Miami, said: "It may be a matter of changing your specialty, as with lawyers. Or it may be a matter of going back to school or changing careers."
But first, there's career tunnel vision to conquer. It's not always easy, Mr. Shinn said. One of his clients, a high-tech researcher, was laid off three times by a South Florida computer company before he decided to switch to a marketing career.
Once the blinders come off, begin a self-assessment.
Ask yourself: " 'Does my career meet my interests, personality, abilities and attitude?' If not, consider a specialty within your field or another field," Mr. Kahn said.
"Are your personal and professional goals being met?" Mr. Shinn asked.
Among the areas he suggests that workers should examine are sense of achievement, upward mobility and compensation.
"What Color Is Your Parachute?" a career-changing guide by Richard Nelson Bolles, suggests that you:
* Inventory your skills and put them into categories.
* Decide what skills you enjoy using.
* Decide where you want to use them.
"You have got to decide what it is you want, or someone else will sell you a bill of goods," Mr. Bolles writes.
Consider talking with a career counselor or psychologist to help discover what career best suits you, Mr. Kahn said. Such professionals can help uncover family influences on your career. Your parents' attitudes toward their jobs affects how you conduct your career, Mr. Kahn said.
Another important question to ask, Mr. Kahn said, is: "What do I do for fun? What people do for fun often can become a career."
Also ask: "Do my weaknesses lend themselves to staying on my current path?" Mr. Shinn said. His example: an accountant who has poor math skills.
If you decide to switch careers, explore new job options by systematically gathering information, Mr. Shinn said. Network with peers to learn about their jobs. Attend meetings of professional organizations that represent unfamiliar professions.
Go to the library. Read about other careers.
Even with a glut of middle managers and the recession, people are changing jobs, looking for answers. The key, experts say, is to line up the options and examine them carefully.