Are you sabotaging your own career? Find out from Robin Ryan, author of What to Do With the Rest of Your Life: America’s Top Career Coach Shows You How to Find or Create the Job You’ll LOVE.
- Not producing results. “You have to get things done,” one Fortune 500 CEO wrote. Dozens commented in their surveys that one sure recipe for career failure is not producing results. If moving up is on your list, you must become good at what you do, follow through, and produce results. There’s no other way to advance, according to our top executives.
- Not working at a job you’re passionate about. Several CEOs mentioned this, stating you’ll never be happy if you aren’t excited, interested, and enjoying what you do. The vast majority noted that the true key to success is discovering your inner passion and then finding a way to work in that arena. Even if you can’t do “it” (for example, play football), you can still be part of an industry or field you love, performing a job involved with it (such as coaching or marketing a sports team).
- Seeking job security. Sorry to tell you, but job security is dead! It does not exist inside companies — even government agencies have begun to downsize. Layoffs continue at an all time high. “Today, job security is something you build for yourself,” noted one CEO. “It exists inside you, in your own talents that will secure your next job.” Labor studies estimate you’ll change jobs twelve or more times during your working lifetime. Today your skills, talents, and abilities will insure you a lifetime of employment.
- Thinking that money is everything. “A common assumption, but one most people prove false when they find their ideal job,” said the CEO of a prominent service company. “A reality I’ve observed for most people — executive or staff — is that they realize money means very little if you are truly unhappy.” It’s just not worth it to slave at a job you hate, no matter how much it pays. When you love your work, it doesn’t even seem like work at all. Desiring job satisfaction is the number one reason people elect to find a new job.
- Having a bad attitude. “It kills even the most talented,” said one top executive, who has observed many talented people rise and fall. The CEO of a $700 million organization blatantly stated: “You’re going nowhere if your attitude sucks.” That’s pretty in-your-face, but it’s true. Our CEOs noted, “Nothing moves you ahead faster than a great attitude.” Operate from a you-can-do-it position. Attitudes are learned, and you can improve yours daily by working on it consciously and actively. Negative attitudes slow you down, but good ones are jet fuel, enhancing all you do.
- Not believing in yourself. General manager Michael Lowe wrote, “There are peaks and valleys in everyone’s career path. Only you know if you are as good or bad as what’s spoken about you. Your strengths might not fit in at a certain organization — kind of the round peg in a square hole. You can improve your entire life by admitting that, noting your strengths, and finding a new environment where your strengths are needed, wanted, and seen as assets.”
- Not solving problems. Ann Salamone, a technology company CEO, was quick to point out: “Some people let a problem serve as an excuse for not accomplishing a goal. You’ll never achieve productive results that lead to the big jobs if you don’t master solving problems.”
- Fear of failing. No one welcomes rejection, but fear may be all that stands between you and your dreams. Nagging doubts — What if no one hires me? What if it’s worse than this? What if I don’t like the people? I won’t get three weeks of vacation — can hold you back. Business owner Victoria Kenward pointed out that it’s a serious error to “wait for someone to hand you an opportunity, instead of making your own.” In my experience, fear is really the culprit that prevents many people from finding better jobs or getting paid what they are truly worth.
- Listening to others. Your spouse, colleagues, parents, or friends don’t always know what’s best for you. One of my clients had a job that ensnared her in some terrible office politics. Her husband blamed her. “It’s your fault,” he said. “You can’t get along with others. It’s you, you’re the problem.” He only added to her pain and lowered her self-esteem. One day, after a bad confrontation at work, she decided she would quit. Her husband was not very supportive; he never wanted her to quit her job. She had listened to him for an entire year and endured the job. But when it got even worse, he still expected her to stay and just “live with it.” It was a difficult time in her life. She worked hard to find a new job in an environment she could thrive in. It took six months, but today she’s a customer service manager at a growing company that values her as an employee and has promoted her twice since she started. Only you are responsible for your career. Your friends and family members may have good intentions, but they don’t walk in your shoes. Listen to yourself. Your dreams, your goals, are all that matter. Don’t pay any attention to those well-meaning naysayers who warn you that you can’t do it. Sunny Kobe Cook, founder of the national retail chain Sleep Country USA, says, whenever she’s asked how she got to be so successful, “I just assumed it was all possible, and that I could do it.” She did and so can you; the key is to believe in and trust yourself to know what’s best for you.
- Waiting for employers to notice you. Too many clients have come to me frustrated over not receiving a promotion or raise. They were doing a good job. In Debbie’s case she had finished her bachelor’s degree, but no one had noticed. She was waiting for her employer to notice her and give her a raise or promotion. Waiting…waiting…waiting. Nothing happened. She said, “I kept waiting for my boss to do something, waiting and expecting it should just happen.” After our coaching sessions, Debbie changed her approach. She went to personnel and got job descriptions for two other jobs in different departments, and we rewrote her résumé. She applied and got called to come in for an interview. But ultimately neither job appealed to her, so she kept at it. Within forty-five days the right position came along. Her qualifications weren’t as strong as those of the two other candidates, but Debbie persuaded the hiring manager — and she got the job. One CEO said, “Stop waiting for your ship to come in; you’ve got to be the one to make things happen. It all starts with what you do and don’t do.”
- Not having big enough goals. “A key career stopper is setting your goals too low or not being willing to put in the time it takes to reach goals,” noted CEO Randy Sheparo. “Believing ‘I could never do that’ or ‘They’ll never give me a raise’ means it probably won’t happen.” Many of us lack the confidence to boldly demand more, and it is almost always this lack of self-confidence that prevents you from going after more — a better job, raise, promotion, more time with family, and so on. Yet we can all act as if we possess confidence. You can “act as if” you merit a raise by outlining all your specific contributions to your employer. You can “act as if” you are the most ideal candidate the employer could hire by offering examples of past accomplishments. “Act and you shall achieve,” noted a healthcare CEO. “Then, reevaluate and draw up even loftier goals — that’s how you’ll do more than you ever thought possible.”
- Trying to taking credit for things you didn’t do or overstating your qualifications in the first place. “You can’t take credit for work you didn’t do,” advised one healthcare CEO. “In fact, a little humility and praising the whole team will get noticed faster than someone pulling rank and saying, ‘I did it,’ when the team (or someone on the team) really did.” Today’s workers want to be recognized and praised, so stealing their thunder will come back to haunt you, though you may get away with it in the short term. Many top executives noted that “bragging” and “accomplishing” are not the same thing. Exaggerating what you’ve done may get you in the door, but you may not stay there long. One sales manager said, “I’ve had many potential employees say, “I’m the best there is, and then you try them out and they prove they are far from great, and not even very good. That’s the true test. I find the bragger usually hasn’t got the skills to achieve real accomplishments, and that ends his or her career every time.” Another president mentioned employees who give a lot of lip service about where they’re going and what they want to do, but they have unrealistic expectations about the real price of reaching their goals. And that, she noted, resulted in their being unable or unwilling to work hard enough to achieve what they said they wanted.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Robin Ryan is the author What to Do With the Rest of Your Life: America’s Top Career Coach Shows You How to Find or Create the Job You’ll LOVE (Copyright © 2002 by Robin Ryan) and other bestselling books, including 60 Seconds and You’re Hired! She has appeared on more than seven hundred television and radio programs including The Oprah Winfrey Show, and has been featured in Money, Newsweek, Cosmopolitan, McCall’s, and Fortune, as well as USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and The Chicago Tribune. She has a career consulting practice in Seattle and has helped more than five thousand clients land better jobs.
MORE ARTICLES BY THE AUTHOR
- 9 Questions for Determining if Running Your Own Business Is the Perfect Job for You
- 9 Secrets to Successful Salary Negotiations
- How Not to Ask for a Raise: 6 Common Pitfalls
- Read Chapter 1 of What to Do With the Rest of Your Life: America’s Top Career Coach Shows You How to Find or Create the Job You’ll LOVE
- Browse more books about careers