It’s common to feel “stuck” in your career. Maybe you’ve been in the same industry for a while and are no longer excited by it, or maybe you love where you work but have struggled to climb your way up the corporate ladder. Whatever the case may be, you may be unconsciously getting in your own way when it comes to growing in your career.
Last updated: Sept. 27, 2021
Having a Defeatist Mindset
Your own thoughts could be holding you back from excelling in your career.
“I’ve found that the one thing that stops people from reaching their full career potential is how they talk to themselves,” said Ramit Sethi, author of “I Will Teach You to Be Rich” and founder of Dream Job. “It may not seem like much, but negative self-talk can be the thing preventing you from acquiring your dream job and living your dream life. Thoughts like ‘I’m not qualified,’ ‘I’m lucky to have any job in this economy, I should just stay where I am’ or ‘I should wait until COVID-19 goes away before any big life changes,’ really hold people back, and while macroeconomics and other unpredictable variables are all real things that affect how your career growth and opportunities play out, people regularly allow these kinds of thoughts to stop them from taking meaningful steps in the right direction for their career. If you don’t push yourself to meet your dream career goals despite these negative thoughts and excuses, you resign yourself to a permanent state of waiting.”
Being Passive About Your Job Search
“The majority of people that are searching for their dream job hand the responsibility of defining and securing this job to someone (or something) else,” Sethi said. “For example, trusting a job search algorithm to guide your job search, blindly sending out resumes and hoping for a response from HR, or relying on a recruiter to convince your dream company to give you a shot. Not only is this behavior a waste of the individual’s time, but passivity breeds failure, which in turn leads to the slow process of just giving up and staying in your less than ideal — but familiar — role or career path.”
It’s time to get more proactive about your job search if you want to land your dream job.
Only Looking For the Low-Hanging Fruit
Part of being proactive about the job search means looking outside the box — which many job seekers simply don’t do.
“The best jobs aren’t advertised,” Sethi said. “They’re made and won behind the scenes, far beyond your reach if you’re confining your hunt to generic online search tools. Unless you change your approach to searching for that next career growth opportunity, you will be stuck in the same cycle, unable to reach that next level and your dream life.”
Being Too Reliant on Generic Career Advice
“Typical career guidance is littered with vague solutions like ‘renegotiate your salary’ or ‘follow your passion.’ These fuzzy directions mean next to nothing and get you next to nowhere, but this type of advice is everywhere,” Sethi said.
“For example, common career-hunting advice is to send your resume to every job opportunity you see — and that might actually make sense if you’d be happy taking any job. But if you are aiming for career advancement, then taking any job is not your goal and following that advice won’t get you there. Vague advice often comes from family and friends who mean well, but who struggle with the same conventional mindset that you are trying to break out of, so how can they help your career growth? It’s more than just rejecting broad and unhelpful advice — the key is to systematically reject a cookie-cutter mindset.”
Read More: 15 Signs Your Employer Wants You To Retire
Sending Out the Same Resume to Every Job You Apply For
If you’re not tailoring your resume and applications to exactly the job you want, you likely won’t get it.
“To grow your career and find your dream job, you need to be specific,” Sethi said. “What job do you want? Name it. What size company? Where is it located? Everything in your resume and pitch should be hyper-focused on the answers you give to these questions. People who don’t do that waste time applying for dodgy jobs they don’t want anyway and fail to make themselves look like a desirable employment prospect to the companies that actually count.”
Failing To Negotiate or Ask For What You Want
Very rarely are employees just given raises or extra benefits or perks out of nowhere — you have to ask for these things.
“Even if your boss notices you, they won’t pay you more unless you ask,” Sethi said. “Same goes for getting a bonus, a title change, the flexibility to work from home or any other benefit that means a rich life and career growth for you. To see career growth and life improvements, people need to start negotiating instead of just waiting for someone to recognize their genius and hand them money.”
Always Doing the Bare Minimum
You might be completing all of your work tasks, but if you’re just doing the bare minimum to get by without much thought or care, you won’t get ahead.
“Passion drives performance and performance drives promotion,” said Declan Edwards, founder of BU Coaching. “If you’re treating your work as nothing more than something that pays the bills, not only are you less likely to enjoy it, you’re also far less likely to progress in your career path. If you can’t see yourself getting passionate about your current role, maybe it’s time for a career change.”
“To silo yourself means to cut yourself off from the team around you and focus only on your own tasks,” Edwards said. “Although you may be slightly more productive doing this, you’ll also be less innovative, less connected and less likely to be recommended for career progression opportunities. Whether we like it or not, the fact of the matter is sometimes it really is about who you know rather than simply what you know.”
Focusing On Perfection Rather Than Progress
You’ll never get ahead if you yourself don’t think you are worthy of it. And it’s easy to question your worth if you’re constantly striving for perfection — which is unattainable.
“The issue with perfectionism is that it’s neverending,” said Irene McConnell, managing director at Arielle Executive. “A rigid focus on perfection stops you from being compassionate with yourself, and increases your anxiety when things aren’t going your way. When you’re constantly thinking that what you’re producing isn’t good enough, you’re in fact hindering your productivity as well as your chances of success. This can become truly self-sabotaging when you’re finding it difficult to meet deadlines and achieve your goals.”
Not Being Self-Aware About Your Shortcomings
“One of the top reasons people sabotage their career growth is their lack of self-awareness,” said career coach Michelle Enjoli. “Career growth is highly dependent on the ability to consistently develop yourself professionally. If you are not cognizant of the areas in which you must develop or refuse to acknowledge and work on them, the chances of achieving your career goals are reduced significantly.
“An example could be your communication style,” she continued. “Do you effectively communicate with your colleagues and members of your team? Communication is the key to successful teams or projects. If you are not self-aware that your communication style needs to be worked on, acknowledge it and work on improving it, you can sabotage the success of your team or project.”
Turning Down Big Opportunities
“You don’t have to take on every project that comes up, but if you are not managing up and putting yourself at the forefront to take on challenging opportunities, you will be invisible to the decision-makers and stall your career growth,” said Paul French, managing director at Intrinsic Executive Search. “Set yourself on the fast track to a higher position by taking on bigger projects that make your strengths, skills and competencies shine.”
Not Taking Advantage of Networking Opportunities
You should actively be networking, no matter what phase of your career you are in.
“Networking is not just for entry-level trainees looking to get a foot in the door — this is a perception I see among many professionals,” French said. “It might take you twice as long to achieve certain career goals when you don’t network. To grow and open yourself up to opportunities beyond your wildest imagination, you must invest in networking — both internally and externally.”
Staying Loyal to a Company That Isn’t Invested In Your Success
Many of us stay in jobs because we are complacent, even if it’s unlikely that we will grow within our current company.
“Some employees get too comfortable in their job, accepting early salary and benefits, even as their responsibility grows,” said Branka Vuleta, founder and general manager at LegalJobs.io. “Many believe that because they only stick to one company, their value has gone up in the eyes of the management and that they will be undoubtedly promoted. Unfortunately, in this day and age, fresh perspectives are as sought-after as company veterans. When you feel that your company is not interested in investing in you, it’s time to look for greener pastures — no matter how scary that may sound.”
Not Speaking Out in Public Settings
If you’re not sharing your ideas at team or company-wide meetings, you may be overlooked when it comes time for promotions.
“Limiting your ideas to private conversations deprives you of being publicly acknowledged,” said Dr. Hamid Kazeroony, faculty member in Walden University’s Ph.D. in Management program. “As a result, someone else can use your ideas, leaving you with nothing to show as a contribution to the organization. Share your ideas in a public forum where they’ll be witnesses to your contributions.”