We all have enough to worry about in the workplace these days. Unemployment rates are still pretty high. Job growth is sluggish. Women in particular face a number of workplace barriers that can stifle their professional growth. Achieving success can be challenging in this environment, so it’s important to proactively address the aspects of your career that are within your control.
Unfortunately, we can become our own worst enemy without even realizing it. There are many subtle, yet substantial, mindset pitfalls that can hinder our career success– so subtle that we likely aren’t even aware of them. As a career and business coach to women around the world, I can admit firsthand that I have yet to find one client who doesn’t suffer from some form of self-sabotage.
Being able to identify these common gaffes and work to avoid them can serve to improve your professional life and keep your career on track. Take back control to optimize your ability to excel.
Asking her husband (or anyone) about investing in herself.
The men in our lives can certainly provide us with valuable career insights and advice, but men and women face different challenges in the workplace. Even having the best of intentions, seeking your man’s advice — or anyone’s advice– about investing in yourself (personally or professionally) can hurt your career. The desire to “ask for permission” or “ask for feedback” is more often than not a form of resistance or a lack of self-trust. Make sure the path you pursue is what is best for you, and try to connect with your own personal wisdom when making investments that relate to your success and well being. Your man — or your friends– might not understand the particular challenges that you face and the specific goals you hope to achieve, so consider his input, but know that it should one of many factors that you take into account.
Wavering on decisions.
Maybe it was your decision not to go for that promotion. Maybe it was the time you chose not to speak your mind to your boss. We all have moments of self-doubt that can be paralyzing, but wavering on decisions that affect your career can result in missed opportunities. In fact, data indicates that the ability to make quick decisions is a trademark of leadership. Don’t be afraid to take the plunge sometimes, and when you make the decision to take a risk, commit to it.As I tell my clarity coaching clients: clarity comes from engagement, not thought. Limbo is a powerless place to be. Make a choice, show up fully, and see what feedback the universe gives you. Even if it doesn’t work out, you’ll have the peace of mind in knowing you tried.
Being a “yes woman.”
Knowing when to say “no” sounds very simple, but isn’t always easy in practice. Remember: a “yes” to one commitment is a “no” to something else. Own your “no’s” so you can love those yesses! Part of being a true professional means knowing your priorities, and learning how to decline requests that don’t make the ranks. Don’t feel guilty. In fact, being the “yes woman” in the office can lead to getting drowned in projects or assignments that aren’t your responsibility and aren’t enhancing your career development and growth. We’re all expected to be team players and step up from time to time for the sake of the team. But that doesn’t mean you should be saying “yes” every time. And this leads to the next item…
Never joining in the team effort.
Flying solo on a project can be tremendously rewarding. The pride of finishing up a big project you’ve been working on by yourself or single-handedly solving a problem that didn’t seem to have a solution can be a huge confidence boost. But make it a point to reengage with your team on a regular basis. Collaboration in the workplace can serve not only to brighten your day, but can help to make employees more creative and productive. You never know what one of your co-workers might have to offer you, or, conversely, how you might be able to help out a colleague.
Striving for perfection.
Attention to detail is one thing, but attempting to polish off every task on your to-do list with pure perfection is not realistic. When I launched my coaching business, I’d create a to-do list that even unicorns couldn’t complete. In fact, it’s guaranteed to lead to failure. Set achievable goals for yourself, and reward yourself when you reach them. If you do make a mistake, be easy on yourself. Take responsibility for it, and do what you can to rectify the error. Learn from your trip-up, and promptly move on.
Getting stuck in a rut.
Consistency in the workplace can be a good thing. That said, yearning for “job security” is a goal of the past: ever since the recession, the notion of “job security” has evaporated. We learned first hand that a company’s numbers take precedent over their ability to retain employees. For this reason, make sure you’re not sinking into a rut that will be difficult to get out of. Albert Einstein once said “you cannot solve problems from the same level of thinking that created them,” and he has a point: there’s a certain level of thinking that got you into your rut. Do something different to access a new level of thinking– this could be hiring a coach like me, or it could mean taking a course at a local university… Don’t let yourself get pigeonholed into a career that doesn’t speak for your skill set. Go for that promotion. Ask your boss if you can spearhead a new project. Take advantage of your employer’s job training programs. Strive to learn new skills along the way that will take you out of your daily routine and keep you engaged.
If you’ve fallen victim to any of these seemingly trivial blunders, know that you’re not alone. Getting lost in the day-to-day shuffle is something we all succumb to at some point. Fortunately, none of these habits are terribly difficult to address. Making some minor adjustments on your approach to these issues will put you back in control and get you back on the right back on the right course. As long as you make a conscience effort to be cognizant of these pitfalls in the future, you won’t waiver from your course again.
This first appeared in Forbes.