Are You Knocking Out Your Own Career?

The reasons why a fast-tracker suddenly derails are often evident to everyone except that person. To help you determine whether your career is in danger, we’ve adapted a “Derailment Inventory” from Lois P. Frankel’s Jump-Start Your Career: How the ‘Strengths’ That Got You Where You Are Today Can Hold You Back Tomorrow (Three Rivers Press, 1998) Use the scale below to answer the questions that follow. Each set of questions gauges your abilities in one of three areas: working with coworkers, working with higher-ups, and networking.

1 = describes me exactly
2 = describes me
3 = somewhat describes me
4 = does not describe me

People Skills

  • Other people describe me as a real “people person.”
  • I spend a part of each day making small talk with coworkers.
  • I see some of my coworkers outside of work, and I know most of them socially and not just professionally.
  • Because I have good work relationships, I often succeed where others fail.
  • I do not have an inordinate need for everyone to like me.

Working with Authority

  • When I have a good reason for doing so, I can express a view that differs from that of my company’s senior team.
  • If I see a senior leader making a decision that seems harmful to my company, I speak up.
  • People see me as someone who can independently assess an executive decision and, when appropriate, offer an alternative perspective.
  • When senior people ask for my opinion, they know that I’ll respond to them with candor.
  • I believe that it’s more important to be honest with senior leaders than to placate them.


  • I spend at least a part of each week networking with colleagues.
  • I belong to professional organizations and know other members of them.
  • A few times each month, I am invited to join key members of my team or my organization for lunch.
  • I’m fairly well connected to my company’s grapevine.
  • I regularly interact with peers in other divisions and at other companies.

The Score

Now, to find out whether your career is on the fast track or whether it’s headed for derailment, tally your score for each set of questions.

  1. 5 to 8: You’re right on track! Examine the points on which you rated yourself 1 or 2, and try to continue acting accordingly.
  2. 9 to 13: You need to fine-tune your skills to stay on track. Review the questions on which you scored 3 or 4, and work to add the relevant skills to your repertoire.
  3. 14 to 17: You’re dangerously close to derailing. Time to do an in-depth self-assessment and to expand your skill set.
  4. 18 to 20: You’re seriously derailed. To get your career back on track, seek help from a mentor or a career coach.
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