If you’ve plateaued in your career, it’s easy to blame external sources: the economy, Covid-19, or your jerk of a boss. The one thing they all have in common? They’re beyond your control.
Instead, I’d like you to consider something you may have overlooked: What’s preventing your career progress isn’t external; it’s internal.
The bad news is that you are getting in your own way in the form of self-sabotaging behaviors. The good news is that those are entirely within your control to change.
Here are seven things to stop doing to boost your career immediately:
1. Mindlessly going through the motions
If you’ve reached the point where your career is on autopilot, chances are you’re doing yourself a disservice. Finding your rhythm is great; coasting is not. Worse is being so wrapped up in the minutiae that you seem to be constantly spinning your wheels but ever getting anywhere.
Busy is not the same as productive, and until you pause long enough to use your awareness to gain some clarity on what you want, you won’t progress professionally. You must make a conscious decision to combine your attention with your intention. Having clarity also enables you to align your goals with a plan to achieve them—and stay away from the things that can derail you.
2. Doubting yourself
If you make a habit of telling yourself, “I’m not _____ (good, talented, experienced) enough,” you’re creating a morale-crushing, self-fulfilling prophecy.
Nothing has a greater impact on your career than the stories you tell yourself. Be mindful of your words and replace self-criticism with supportive self-talk. The truth is that everyone has doubts, but the ones who succeed are those who move past their fears and do things before they’re ready. Remember: No one will believe in you unless you do.
3. Believing you know it all
There’s something to be said for the knowledge gained through decades of experience. But in a constantly-evolving workplace and environment, some of that knowledge comes with a shelf life. And if you think you already possess everything you need, you run the risk of quickly becoming an uninformed (and perhaps unnecessary) professional.
Your ability to adapt and learn is essential to the survival and growth of your career, so make a conscious effort to add to your skillset. Use your curiosity to seek out new ideas, information, perspectives, even (and especially) if they differ from your own. Aim to be a lifelong learner, and you’ll up your knowledge base—and value.
4. Putting yourself last
It’s easy to push your needs to the back burner when you’re in charge of others, especially during periods of high stress. (Global pandemic, anyone?) But if all your time is spent on Zoom calls with your team and clients or juggling the demands of homeschooling your children, you’ll never focus on your needs—and could be on your way to burnout.
Here’s the thing: Putting yourself first doesn’t make you selfish. Being proactive and intentional with your self-care means that you prioritize your well-being, and doing so means that you’ll show up fully energized and as the best version of you, ready to tackle challenges without sacrificing your sanity or health in the process.
5. Forgetting that time is your most valuable asset
If your days bleed into weeks and months, or if you feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day, you may need to reassess how and with whom you’re spending your time.
Time is a precious and nonrenewable commodity; it will continue to move forward, and you can never get wasted time back. Become vigilant about protecting your time by creating boundaries and saying no to hanging out with people who drain you or doing things that won’t help you accomplish your goals. Outsource those necessary tasks you dislike, lack the acumen to accomplish, or that would use too much of your valuable asset, so you can focus your time putting your talents to their highest and best use.
6. Assuming everyone knows your value
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if everyone knew exactly why you’re the go-to person in your industry? Better yet, what if you were top-of-mind with potential employers, partners, or clients? Unfortunately, assuming that will happen without any work on your part is highly unlikely.
Don’t make others guess about why you matter; make it easy for your intended audience(s) to quickly understand you, what you offer, your value, what differentiates you, how you can help them, and how they can assist you. Update your LinkedIn profile to clearly articulate your story, highlight your strengths, and sell your destiny, not your history. Amplify your thought leadership by consistently sharing your wisdom, perspective, and insights through social media.
Proactively helping others know, like, and trust you means that they’ll understand the value you bring more easily.
7. Going it alone
It’s tempting to try to be the hero and do everything yourself, but no one succeeds in a vacuum. If you want to get ahead, you need to request the help of others.
At its core, business is powered by people. Your next job, client, or opportunity will likely come from someone you know (or someone who someone else knows), so it makes sense to cultivate your relationships. Focus first on being a great colleague and friend to others, so when you need a favor, introduction, support, or feedback, you can reach out to your tribe for help.
And if there’s a particularly vexing area, don’t hesitate to enlist the help of experts and coaches. Partnering with someone whose skill set is complementary to your own can help you go farther than you could alone.