If you follow successful professionals, you’ll notice that there are certain things they have in common and that there are many similarities in the pieces of advice they share.
The more I’ve sought growth in my career, the more I’ve come to realize that there are small but very important things that we get wrong. If I had gotten serious about fixing these things earlier in my career, I would have missed out on opportunities less, and maximized the opportunities that I did seize, a lot more.
The interesting thing is that, from speaking with others, I know that these aren’t peculiar to me. Every time I sit down with someone to talk about what they could have done differently, and the small moves that made a big difference, it turns out many of us are making one or more of these mistakes that are probably holding you back as well:
- You haven’t taken responsibility for your own career growth. If you’re still largely reliant on the company or organization you work for and you’re not monitoring your own progress or setting your own goals, you’re making a mistake. Discover who you are and what you really want, otherwise you may end up living someone else’s dream. Establish and protect your personal brand. Write the vision for your own career, and run with it. Imbibe a learning culture and keep your knowledge capital high. Take responsibility for your career growth; if it’s to be, it’s up to you. Let passion drive you; be passionate about what you do and never give it less than 100%.
- You’re wasting time doing something you don’t enjoy. When you’re doing work you enjoy, success is easier to attain. When you’re just starting out, it’s normal to take on available jobs when the desired ones are out of reach. We know that the days of small beginnings are not to be despised and that every experience counts. We know that we must walk before we run and that we must pay our dues. Unfortunately, what often happens is that we lose sight of the goal — acquiring the skills and competences that will position us for our dream work — and we fall into the trap of spending our lives struggling in jobs that bring us zero joy.
- You don’t prepare for opportunity. It’s not only entrepreneurs who need an elevator pitch, a vision statement or a mission statement. You must know who you are, what you’re about, and where you want to go. You must also be able and ready to articulate these at any time. Keep working on yourself and building the skill set that you need for your dream work. Anticipate opportunity, ask yourself the necessary questions that said opportunity may present, and be ready to sell yourself and your vision brilliantly.
- Your mind is closed. Your mind is your greatest asset, and your growth depends on how well you feed and exercise it, and how open it is. How many times have you passed over opportunity because it didn’t look like what you expected ‘opportunity’ to look like? You sabotage your career when you don’t open your mind and continually exercise it.
- You don’t have a mentor. The word “mentor”, means “a wise advisor”, usually someone who has successfully walked the path you now tread and attained the goal you seek. If you don’t have one, it’s definitely holding you back from becoming all that you have the potential to be.
- You avoid failure. Every time this trap presents itself, I remember the words from a Dido song, “While I’m so afraid to fail that I don’t even try, then how can I say I’m alive?” Failure is part life, and part of the journey to success, so if you’ve not learned to embrace it and to fail forward, you’ll suffer stunted growth in your career.
- You don’t put in the work. The smart work versus hard work debate has been on for a while now. Whichever team you’re on, the active word is WORK. You must do the work; you must put the hours in.
- You don’t choose companies wisely. You can do everything right, give it your all, and still experience painfully slow growth if you’re with the wrong company. Growth is not all about a fat paycheck. Choose a company whose values you admire, and whose leadership inspires you to grow.
- You’re not networking. Ever heard the saying, “all things come to those who wait?” Waiting doesn’t mean sitting at home waiting for opportunities to roll your way. You need to put yourself out there. Create time to network. If someone you respect invites you to a seminar or social event, attend. Even a forum organized by your church for professionals can open doors for you and bring solid relationships into your life. You never know where your next big break may come from.
- You don’t value doing the right thing. Whether it’s being punctual, following due process, respecting lines of reporting, or complying with company policy, doing the right thing is absolutely essential to career success. Not to mention that not doing the right thing has a way of coming back to bite you. It’s never worth it.
Enjoy the journey.