Your Own Worst Enemy

We have met the enemy and he is us. Pogo Cartoonist Walt Kelly.

As a career coach, I’ve met people who couldn’t understand why they hadn’t achieved the success they thought they deserved. In some cases, they are sabotaging their own success. Are you making any of these career mistakes?

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Not applying for jobs you’re qualified for. Sheryl Sandburg writes in Lean In that men are likely to apply for a job when they meet only 60 percent of the qualifications, but women usually apply only if they meet 100 percent of them. You may think you don’t have a chance at that promotion or choice assignment, but you’ll never know if you don’t apply. You can’t be sure how qualified the competition is or how competitive you might be. Even if you don’t get the job, you’ll get a chance to present your skills and help managers get to know you better. They may be aware of other opportunities for you – jobs that haven’t been advertised yet. Your career is like a raffle drawing in that way – you must be present to win.

Hanging out only with your team or people you know well. You must be visible to be considered for advancement. Doing your job well is of course important, but being known for doing a good job is also critical for your success. You can connect with other teams or managers by volunteering for projects within your company or serving on social committees. Pass on articles of interest about your industry. Ask for advice from a senior manager. Manage your personal brand within the company so that your name comes up when people start discussing high potential staff members.

Buying into other people’s cynicism. You can find people in every company who tell themselves a story about why the company is a bad place to work. “No one appreciates the staff in the field.” “They never promote (women, minorities, name your group here.)” “Management never listens to anyone’s good ideas.” Many times these stories are defense mechanisms; if I believe I won’t succeed, I don’t have to actually try. Take a critical look at the people who promote these cynical views; you won’t find a high performer among them. That can’t be a coincidence. Almost every company values talent; stories like these are seldom based in fact. If the company is actually as toxic as the cynics say, you should look for another job, right now.

Not speaking up in meetings. If your shyness is holding you back from contributing, you may be hurting your project  – and your career. I’ve heard from many workers who wait for someone else to speak up. They often miss their chance altogether when the discussion turns lively or becomes dominated by the strong personalities in the room. Sometimes, their ideas are voiced by someone else who then gets the credit. Sitting in meetings without contributing can make you seem uncertain, even unprepared. Do your homework before the meeting and come prepared with notes. Speaking up gets you noticed, especially if you follow up with strong planning after the meeting.

The good news is that these mistakes are reversible.  Take a step in the right direction today. Take another tomorrow. Results will follow.

Have you broken a habit lately? Comment and let me know what happened.

2 thoughts on “Your Own Worst Enemy

  1. Cassidy

    Sound Advice. Recently I almost didn’t apply for a job that had my interest in the past but having tried for it previously didn’t want to be disappointment again. Amazing that I did get hired.


  2. Lisa James

    This is great! Perfect advice and very concise!


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