8 things that can hold back your career
If you're avoiding something on your career to-do list, learn how to conquer your own resistance and get it done.
Sometimes, the obstacles you encounter along your career path are manmade. Meaning, you put them there. The actions you’re taking—or not taking—may very well be hindering your career advancement by preventing you from getting that raise or promotion you rightfully deserve. Good news! You also have the power to get rid of these roadblocks.
“Personal accountability is crucial,” says Tim Cole, owner of career coaching firm The Compass Alliance. “If your career isn’t going in the direction that you want it to be going, you have to look in the mirror.”
Ready to do a little self-reflection? Here are eight behaviors that may be holding back your career.
You wait for more responsibility
Unfortunately, many workers take a backseat when it comes to asking for new job responsibilities, Cole says. But, “passively waiting for the torch to be handed to you can cause you to miss great work opportunities,” he explains.
“You need to be a self-starter,” says executive coach Libby Gill. Ask your boss for new job duties, and, be specific with your ask. Don’t just say, “I want more responsibilities.” Steer yourself toward the action. Joining a high-profile project, for example, can increase your visibility within the company.
You don’t seek out new learning opportunities
“Companies are looking for lifelong learners,” says Gill. “They want people they can continue to train and grow.” That said, if your company doesn’t offer job training and other means of career advancement, the onus is on you to seek out learning opportunities, such as taking online courses or gaining industry certifications. Pro tip: “Make it known to your supervisor that you’re taking on any outside training,” Gill advises. (Your company may even pick up part of the tab.)
You don’t participate in industry groups
“Just joining [a professional association] without taking an active role is like getting a library card and never checking out a book,” Cole says. “You’re not actually leveraging your membership.” Taking on a leadership role within a professional organization, though, can boost your profile in your industry and help you form meaningful relationships with other professionals in your field.
You avoid networking
Career advancement requires expanding your comfort zone. We get it: Networking can feel weird, especially for introverts. Nonetheless, Gill says workers should be consistently building their sphere of influence, and that means attending networking events.
Not good at small talk? Go with a buddy who can help you strike up conversation with strangers. “Bring someone who is a bit more extroverted than you,” suggests Carolyn Birsky, founder of the career-coaching firm Compass Maven.
You haven't set concrete career goals
Many professionals don’t set career goals, laments job coach Hannah Morgan. However, identifying short- and long-term goals—and creating a plan for how to achieve them—can help you stay focused and motivated.
Still, you have to understand the difference between career goals that you have to strive to reach and regular stuff on your to-do list. “Updating your resume is not a goal,” she says. “Gaining a new skill that you can add to your resume is a goal.”
You take criticism harshly
Getting positive feedback from your boss is great, but so is getting negative feedback—if you can use it to your advantage. “All feedback is good feedback,” says executive coach Julie Cohen. Thus, it’s important to have an open mind and be receptive to negative criticism.
Not getting feedback from your boss? Take charge and ask for it, Cohen says.
You don’t play well with others
Results aren’t produced in a vacuum. In fact, “it’s hard to find a work environment today that doesn’t require some type of collaboration,” Morgan says, which is why building healthy relationships with co-workers is a must for career advancement. Being a good team player entails meeting your deadlines, appreciating other people’s work styles, and avoiding office gossip.
You never ask for raises or promotions
Sitting back and waiting for a raise? It’s time to vocalize what you want and advocate for yourself. After all, your boss isn’t a mind reader, says Robin Pinkley, management professor at Southern Methodist University and co-author of Get Paid What You’re Worth. So, speak up—and explicitly state that you’re asking for a pay bump.
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